One Last Thing
Last words are important words. Books have been written and lists compiled about the last things that famous and influential people have said. This week in our study of 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul will write his last and most important words to Timothy, his protégé. This final charge from a teacher to a beloved student can help us see with laser-focus those things that are most important to living in the abundant life of Jesus.
Well, good morning everyone. So, this is a little different. You’re at home, hopefully comfortable in your PJ’s, hopefully with some coffee, some breakfast. And you know we’re here by ourselves on a stage. And this isn’t what we would normally want. But how incredible is it that we’re living in a time where God has given us the ability to still gather together, even though we can’t be in the same room, through technology. And if you’re visiting our church here because we have a live stream, and maybe your church doesn’t, we’re so glad you’re with us.
We are in the seventh week of a series where we’ve been looking at the book of 2nd Timothy, which is a letter from the Apostle Paul to his protégé,Timothy. And what Paul was doing was he’s essentially looking at the end of his life. Paul is about to be executed. He’s in prison in Rome. He’s awaiting his execution and he’s giving Timothy final words ‘this is my final investment into you’. Paul’s writing these words to Timothy.
Final words are so incredibly important. We put so much meaning into the last things that we want to say to people and we’re going to see that that’s especially true this week, because in this week’s passage we’re really looking at Paul’s final words of advice to Timothy. These are the very last words, the very last investment, that Paul’s ever going to make because he’s drawing his letter to a close and he’s got some things to say to Timothy. And what Paul is going to do is he’s going to look forward into the future of Timothy’s ministry and he’s going to look backward at his own. And all of that is tied up in this idea of the legacy that Paul’s leaving behind, the legacy that he’s entrusting to Timothy of his ministry.
I’m wondering do you ever think about legacy, about the legacy that you’re going to leave behind? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And maybe that’s because I’m in my 40s now and so I’m starting to look at the second half of my life. Maybe it’s because life just feels like it keeps accelerating and moving faster and faster. You know as a pastor I, on a regular basis, am engage in funerals and I see people’s legacy in the middle of a funeral service. You see what they’ve left behind and sometimes it’s amazing. I’ve seen men in their mid-90s who have died with their great grandchildren curled up on a bed next to them in hospice. They lived so well and made such a difference in the lives of those that they’ve touched. And then I’ve seen others where people really don’t even know what to say about how they lived and they’re trying to find the words about the difference in the impact that they made and there’s really nothing sadder than seeing that. But the truth is, and this is the truth that I’ve been thinking about, is one day I’ll be gone. One day my life will be over. One day your life will be over and people will be looking back and I wonder and I’ve been finding myself thinking more and more about what mark am I going to leave? What difference have I made? How will my life matter? How will it matter that I’ve been here? And so I found myself reading books. One of the ones it’s really made a difference lately is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. And I’ve also read The 2nd Mountain by David Brooks. And if you go onto our website and our Sermon Resources, you can find links to those books if you want to check him out yourself. And maybe this sounds morbid to you, you know thinking about legacy and death. I really think it’s healthy. I think it’s healthy to look at our lives and to examine them and say ‘Am I really living a life that matters?’ And in Paul’s advice to Timothy this week in the passage we’re going to look at is all wrapped up in that. Paul’s reflecting on his life and on the investment that he’s made in Timothy. So if you have your bibles and you want to turn to 2nd Timothy: 4, we’re going to be starting in verse 1 and going through verse 8. So we’re just going to read verse one right now so let’s read that together:
I solemnly urge you in the presence of God in Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when He comes to set up his Kingdom…
OK so these are, these are Paul’s opening words “I solemnly urge you”. Other translators say “charge you”. Paul’s giving Timothy a final Commission. This is the handoff where Paul is handing over ministry to Timothy and Paul invokes some serious stuff here. Paul says I urge you in light of God, in light of Jesus Christ, in light of the final judgment and the 2nd coming. Like that is serious stuff. When someone is invoking the final judgment, pay attention. This is kind of the biblical equivalent of your parent using your middle name. Paul is trying to grab Timothy’s attention. But I think there’s another reason that Paul is referencing the final judgment here. I think Paul is telling Timothy if we want to live well, we need to keep these truths in front of us. We need to keep them before our eyes. Paul’s reminding Timothy to live in these two truths. That one, at some time in our future we’re going to be judged based on what we’ve been given and that our life doesn’t end. The things we do move on and follow us into eternity. So what we do with our lives now, what we do with the ministry, and the time we’ve been given, it matters. And so what Paul essentially is saying to Timothy is ‘live with the end in mind’. Live with the end in mind.
And in the gospels Jesus talked about this very idea. He told a parable, it’s known as ‘the parable of the talents’. And what Jesus said was there were three servants that lived in a Kingdom and they were each given something entrusted by their Masters, something to invest in. Two of the servants invested well and they made a profit and one of the servants buried what was given to him. He didn’t use it, didn’t make use of it, didn’t invest it, and as a result he lost everything he had. But the two servants that invested, when they were brought before the master and brought to account for what they had done with what they’ve been given, the master said, “Well done good and faithful servant”. And then they were entrusted with more because of what they had done with what they’ve been given. And Paul is saying to Timothy live with this end in mind. Set this as your destination. This is where we’re heading.
There’s a scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice comes to a fork in the road and she meets the Cheshire cat and she says to the cat she’s looking for advice. She says, “Which way do I go?” And the cat says to her, “Well where do you want to go?” And she says, “I don’t know”. And he says, “Well then, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
And what Paul is saying to Timothy is this is the destination that we should have in mind. And so any road won’t do. If we have a destination in mind, if we have a goal, then any road won’t get us there. The road that we choose matters. Andy Stanley calls this the Principle of the Path. It’s the idea that the path that we’re on leads to a destination regardless of where we want it to take us. So, if we want to be healthy and if we want to maintain weight, we have to exercise and eat right and not just eat whatever you want. Because if we just eat whatever we want that leads somewhere. If we want to stay out of debt, we have to be wise with our money and not spend money that we don’t have. And as a pastor so often I’ll council people and they’ll say things like ‘I never intended to wind up here’, but yet the road that they had chosen that was the destination, and regardless of their intentions, that’s where the road lead. See our intentions have nothing to do with our destination. The road we’re on takes us wherever it goes. And so one of the questions we need to ask ourselves is ‘Is the road that I’m on leading to the destination that I want to go to’? And so the question then is what is that road? What road is going to lead us to the destination that Paul wants to take Timothy into this legacy that’s going to matter? And in verse 2 Paul begins to unpack that. So let’s look at that. Paul tells Timothy:
Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
You know I think one of the challenges of interpreting 2nd Timothy is that, unlike a lot of Paul’s other letters where he’s writing to an entire church, in this case he’s writing to only one person. And so we have to be a little more careful and a little more cautious with how we apply these verses because Paul’s writing specifically to Timothy and he may be addressing some things that maybe don’t apply directly to us. And I think coming right out of the gates he does that. Paul says ‘preach the word of God’ and he’s saying that to Timothy because Timothy’s calling was as a preacher, as a minister of the gospel to preach to the Church at Ephesus. Paul’s writing to Timothy as a pastor and as a teacher. And that may not apply directly to all of us. Not all of us that follow Jesus are called to preach. I still think that there’s application though, because we’re all still called to tell people about Jesus.
Paul’s second word of advice is I think more universal. Paul says ‘be prepared’, be prepared. Be ready. Whatever God has called you to do be ready for that. ‘Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching’. Correct, rebuke, and encourage…all of us can do that. But I want to just pause for a minute and just focus on a word that I think is incredibly important. It’s the word ‘patiently’. As I think often it’s a word that we can easily miss in this passage. Where we’re not thinking, we go right to ‘correct, rebuke, and encourage’ and we don’t think about being patient.
One of the things that my wife notoriously does to me is she will start floating an idea and she’ll just mention it and then she’ll just let it sit. And then a little bit later she’ll mention it and she’ll let it sit. And then inevitably within you know three to six months I’ll come to her and go ‘you know sweetie I got this idea’ and she just kind of smiles and shakes her head, because it was really the idea that she’s been planning the whole time.
You know I think often when we invest in people we can get impatient. We want to see results immediately. I think what Paul is saying is we need to give people room to grow. We need to give ideas time to take root in people’s hearts. We need to give the Holy Spirit room to work in people’s lives. Change doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t, I don’t change overnight. Sometimes I need time. And I think that’s a really important concept that Paul’s telling Timothy here. Be patient when you correct and when you rebuke and when you encourage. And do this with your people. So I think there’s a great question we can ask, “Who are people?” Who are your people? Who are the people that God has put in your lives to correct, to rebuke, and to encourage? Who are your people?
You know, last week Brad talked about the need to find a mentor that someone to invest in us. Well this week I’d like to suggest that Paul is pointing Timothy in a different direction… Someone, we need to find, someone that we can mentor, that we can invest in. A question I think this passage is calling us to ask is ‘Who is our Timothy’? Who are the Timothy’s in our lives, the people that we are investing in? Because, here’s the reality. Paul’s legacy, the legacy that he’s going to be talking about in this passage, is completely wrapped up in his investment in Timothy. The legacy Paul is leaving behind is going to be carried forward in Timothy.
So I want to speak right now specifically to some of the older people that might be listening. People that are a little further down the road. Who are your people? Can you identify Timothy’s in your life? When you look around are there people that you know you’re investing in? Because I think one of the temptations in life is that we’re investing in whats, we’re investing in projects, we’re investing in things, but where Paul saying ‘The real legacy happens is when we invest in who. It’s not what we’re investing in that matters so much as who were investing in. And I think one of the principles of following Jesus always is to be thinking about who are the people that were investing. And who are the people that we’re pouring what God has given us. We’re pouring out and taking that and pouring it into them.
And then Paul is going to move on now and give Timothy more advice about what it looks like to build a legacy. So let’s look at it verses 3 and 4. Paul says:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will rejected the truth and chase after myths.
You know, throughout this entire letter that Paul wrote to Timothy, Paul follows a pattern when he tells Timothy something. What he’ll do is he’ll give some instruction or some encouragement something that Timothy should do, and then he’ll follow that with a warning, and then he’ll follow the warning with instruction. And so Paul’s given the first instruction of preach the word, be prepared, patiently rebuke, and correct, and encourage, and now he’s issuing a warning. A time will come when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. I want to suggest that that time is now. That time has come. It’s here. And I think we see it everywhere in our culture. And it was probably also had already come by the time Timothy was getting these words from Paul. Everywhere in our culture we see this idea, that people no longer listen to sound wholesome teaching. Like in our culture we live by this this idea our culture encourages us to think that we decide what’s true and what’s good and what’s right. We hear things like ‘you do you’ and ‘live your best life’. Well, what makes us think that we determine truth? And I think we even see this come across in the church as well. We’ll hear preachers say things like ‘if you live life with Jesus your life will be pain free and you’ll be wealthy, happy, healthy, and wise.’ And I just don’t see that in the scriptures. I don’t see the people that follow Jesus living a pain free life. And Paul is going to address that in just a little bit. But you know I think the hardest thing to face is that we see this in ourselves. We see this desire to listen to what we want to hear and to avoid the truth and chase after myths.
And one of the things I know that’s true of me is I cannot go to a timeshare presentation. I cannot, I definitely can’t go alone, because I go into a timeshare presentation and they start telling me about the wonderful life of vacation that I’m going to have from that point forward. And it’s just going to be a small investment and it’s not really going to cost me anything. And everything is going to be great and none of it’s true. But I’m the type of person I want to believe it ’cause it sounds good and you know I want vacation. And so I always go and make sure that when something like this happens, and usually when I’m going it’s just to get the free gift certificates at the end, and so I have to have my wife there, Diana, reminding me know this isn’t true and we’re just here to get the gift certificates.
So how do we avoid falling into this trap? How do we avoid falling into a trap of having the itchy ears scratched in and chasing after myths? Well I think there’s a simple test that can be found. People chase after what they want to hear, what’s easy. So a question we can ask that I think is a litmus for this is ‘Am I uncomfortable?’ Because following Jesus should make us uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t scratch itchy ears. He told the truth. He often told hard truths that the people in his audience didn’t want to hear… things that made them uncomfortable things that made them angry. And Jesus wasn’t afraid to do that. He was gentle, he was patient, he was kind, but he always told the truth. In John 15 Jesus says that ‘I am the Vine and you are the branches and if you remain in me you’ll bear fruit’, but he goes on to say that ‘every branch in him that bears fruit His Father will prune. And pruning means to cut away the dead things in a plant so that it can bring greater life. And that’s the love that The Father has for us that He wants to cut away the dead things in our life so that we can have greater life. Because here’s the truth, we’re sinful people. And when we encounter God’s word and when we interact with God’s people, it’s going to make us uncomfortable, because the scene in our lives is at odds with what this book says and with how we’re supposed to live. So as we encounter God’s word, it should make us uncomfortable. We should encounter things that we don’t like about life, and that we don’t like about ourselves.
I remember shortly after I had finished seminary and I was filled with all of these ideas and my head was just full of knowledge. And I was invited to speak to a group of people that were seeking, they were looking for, who Jesus was. And I made a terrible mistake. I went in and basically what I wanted to do was just kind of show off and show them all the things that I learned in seminary. And everything that I said was true and everything that I said was good, but I was really more interested in me. Yah know, thank God one of the pastors here, a guy named Adam Workman, had the wisdom and cared enough about me afterwards to just tell me ‘hey, that wasn’t really good’ like everything you said was true but it didn’t connect with anyone. Because I really felt like you were just trying to show people how smart you were. And you know when I got that feedback, I hated it. I was so mad, but I needed to hear it. I had to listen if I was going to be useful, if God was going to cut the dead things out of my life, so that I could really bear fruit. So that I could really make a difference in the lives of others I had to hear that. And I’m so grateful for the people that God has put in my life to point out hard things.
Here’s the thing, if a mentor in my life, if someone that I know is following Jesus, or if a passage in the Bible is brushing up against me in a way that I don’t like, generally what that means is that I’ve got work to do. When we encounter the things of God that rubs us the wrong way, it almost always means that we have work to do. So here’s the question: What are the things in God’s Word, what are the things that people that you admire that they’re following Jesus are saying to you, what are those things that are rubbing you the wrong way? Because chances are whatever those things are that’s an invitation from God for us to engage. Because what God wants to do is to cut the dead things out of our lives to move us to the legacy that we want to have. So that he can change us into something more than we already are. God uses his Word and he uses his people to show us what needs to change in our lives to prune us and make us better.
So what Paul is saying is we need to live with the end in mind. We need to be open to the uncomfortable shaping work of God in our lives. Now Paul is going to move from this warning to give Timothy more advice about how to keep ourselves open to the work of God in our lives. So let’s look at verse 5:
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News and fully carry out the ministry God has given to you.
So Paul I think is still writing to Timothy here, but the truth that he’s unpacking in the second set of instructions is more universal… ‘keep a clear mind, think carefully, learn to respond instead of react. I’ve learned to be suspicious and cautious whenever strong emotions come across, because they should always give us pause. I found that I almost never respond well when my emotions are strong. Ever get that email that really just makes you so mad at whatever the person wrote and then what you hear or what you are perceiving that they wrote just makes you incredibly angry. And the temptation is just rip off a reply that just calls them out and address whatever slight we think we’ve gotten. I have never regretted not sending that email. And every single time I’ve sent it I’ve regretted it. The best thing that I found to do is to leave the address blank, leave the subject blank. Write whatever I need to write to just kind of purge it and then sit on it for 24 hours before I send it. And almost every single time I’ve done that I come back to what I’ve written and how I’ve responded and realized this is not a good response. This response is not going to take our relationship where I would like it to go. So we need to be cautious with strong emotions. We need to be clear minded.
And then Paul says don’t be afraid of suffering. Now, there’s a teaching that doesn’t scratch an itchy ear. Don’t be afraid of suffering. In fact, I think what Paul would also say is we should expect suffering. If we’re going to follow Jesus, suffering is something that is going to take place in our lives. In fact, I think every person that follows Jesus needs to develop a robust theology of suffering, because suffering is what God uses in our lives to change and transform us. It’s not that he wants us to suffer, but God’s intent for suffering is that it can transform us if we engage with him in it.
And then he goes on to tell Timothy ‘work at telling others good news’. Work at telling others the good news. I think this is absolutely for everyone. It’s not an option. All followers of Jesus are called to make disciples. We’re all called to tell others about the good news of Jesus. No person that calls himself a follower of Jesus is excluded from that. And that’s all part of Paul’s final piece here. Fully carry out the ministry that God has given you. Fully carry out the ministry that God has given you. Here’s an amazing truth of the scriptures is that you have a ministry. God has given you a ministry. If you’re a believer in Jesus, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus for salvation, God has given you a ministry. If you’ve not yet placed your faith in Jesus, God has given you a ministry. I know that sounds weird, but if you look at the gospels, if you look at the good news of Jesus, the disciples were working with Jesus. They were following Jesus. They were working alongside of him before they believed in him. They had a ministry before they believed in Jesus for salvation. That’s how big the call of God is. That he can even use us in his work in his ministry before we even have put our faith in him. You know one of the most amazing truths of the Christian faith is that God has invited us to be part of his plan of rescue and redemption. So what is the ministry that God has called you to? What is your ministry? What is your calling? You know God has called me as a teacher. He’s equipped me and given me a gift for teaching. l love teaching. There’s nothing more that I love doing then telling other people about the good news of God and watching it come alive in their hearts. But what’s your ministry… what has God called you to? Because here’s the truth… God has uniquely gifted an equipped you to reach people that maybe no one else can reach. That is an incredible thing. And I think wisdom in light of this truth. Wisdom would tell us that we need to think seriously. Are we working to fully carry out the ministry God is given us? Are we investing in ourselves in our ministry? Have we identified the gifts that God has giving us, the talents that God has give us? Are we working to develop them? Are there mentors in our lives who are helping us see our blind spots? Are we mentoring others so that we can help them move further along their calling and find their ministry? Are we serving? Are we in community with others so that we can find encouragement? Are we in God’s Word on a regular basis so that we can hear from it? So that he can prune us with it? Are we giving generously of our time, of our talent, of our resources? Because here’s the truth, if we’re not doing these things, we’re failing at following Jesus right now. We’re failing to build a legacy that we want. We’re failing to move our lives towards hearing ‘well done good and faithful servant’. We’re failing to live in the abundant life of Jesus. Belief in Jesus is all that’s required for salvation. Nothing more. It’s one of the amazing things about the Bible is we don’t have to do anything to receive eternal life other than just believe in Jesus. But here’s an uncomfortable truth – when you, when you read the Bible, the Bible doesn’t talk about following Jesus as if it’s optional. There is a distinction between belief for salvation and following Jesus into discipleship. But the Bible doesn’t talk about those two things even though they’re distinct. It doesn’t talk about them as if they’re separate. And I know that that doesn’t scratch itchy ears, but it’s true, and if it makes us uncomfortable, then we have work to do with God. It’s something that God is calling us to think about. See God has given each of us a ministry and we’re going to be judged based on what we do with it. And our legacy, what we leave behind, is determined by what we do with that legacy or with the ministry that God is given us.
And now Paul is going to close and he’s going to show us that even though these are hard truths, even though this is hard to hear, it is incredibly worth it. So let’s look at the final three verses of this passage 2nd Timothy 4:6-8:
As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve remained faithful. …And now the prize awaits me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return and the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
As Paul’s writing this, his life is about to end. He says I’m being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ and within days of Paul’s writing of this passage, he would be beheaded in his life with literally poured out onto the ground. And notice the incredible thing here… Paul sees that as an act of worship. In the ancient world a drink offering was an offering poured out to God. And so Paul is looking back on his life in worship. Even though he’s about to be executed, he’s saying I’ve fought the good fight, I finished the race, I’ve remained faithful. I did it. And Paul’s not boasting here. It’s true, he lived well and there’s no sense in false humility. Paul’s telling the truth and I think that’s an important thing for us to hear. If we are good at something, if God is going to work in our lives, if we’ve made a difference, we can embrace that, because it’s all part of the work of God in our lives. We don’t have to take false humility on. Paul lived faithfully. He followed Jesus faithfully, he used his gifts faithfully, and he fully carried out his ministry, and now a prize awaits him. And he’s looking eagerly for it that he says I am going to receive a crown of righteousness. Hey, what is that, what is the Crown of righteousness that Paul is expecting to receive in the judgment? I think if we look at Jesus’ parable of the talents and go back to that, we see what the crown of righteousness is. It’s to hear our savior say to us ‘well done, good and faithful servant, you’ve been faithful in small things’. Now I’ll entrust you with large things. Everyone who eagerly looks forward to Jesus coming oversees this crown of righteousness. To eagerly look forward to Jesus’ coming means to live with the end in mind. To be open to what God wants to do in our lives. To fully carry out our ministry, because we know that that is the destination that God is set for us. And if we do that, if we live with the end in mind, if we know the destination and we know the path, if we’re willing to fully carry out our ministry, and to work towards that, if we let God do the uncomfortable work in our lives and in our hearts of shaping us, we’ll build the legacy that we want to have. And Paul did all of this. And as he’s looking back on his life, he sees the result. He sees that his faith has come alive in faithfulness. It was his faithfulness that brought his faith to life, living faithfully, following Jesus, choosing to do the things that Paul is just charged Timothy with, being prepared patiently teaching and correcting, rebuking, encouraging others, guarding ourselves against false teaching, and enduring suffering with hope and expectation, working to share the good news with others, and to fully carry out our ministry. What Paul is saying, as he looks back on his life, is this will allow us to live in eternal life now. Paul says I’ve finished the race, but we’re running the race now. And our faith can be alive and active through faithfulness and following Jesus. And it will change us. It will change others. And it’ll make us like Paul, stronger than death. And what Paul’s inviting us into, what Paul is calling Timothy into, is he’s saying when we reach the end of our lives, even that can become an act of worship, a home going. And we can say, along with Paul and along with Timothy, ‘I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I’ve remained faithful, and then we can eagerly expect to receive the prize. To hear our savior say at the end of our lives ‘Well done, good and faithful servant enter now into your rest”. That’s the legacy that Paul had. It’s the one that he dreamed of for Timothy and invested in for Timothy. It’s a legacy that we can have in Jesus. That our faith can come alive in faithfulness, that we can reach the end of our lives and hear ‘well done good and faithful servant’.
Let’s pray together: Lord Jesus you call us to follow you. And you promise that if we follow you that you will prune us, that you will cut away the dead things in our lives so that we can come to life and bear fruit, so that our lives will make a difference and have meaning. Lord, you want to build a legacy in us, so when we look back on our life we will see that we’ve lived a life that really matters. And I pray that we will take these words to heart this morning, that we will learn to follow you, and we’ll choose to bring our faith to life through faithfulness, that we’ll live with the end in mind, that we’ll allow your word to make us uncomfortable, so that we can see what needs to change. So we’ll choose to follow after you and all that we do. And so that at the end of our lives we can look back and say ‘I finished the race, I fought the good fight, I’ve kept the faith’, and a crown of righteousness awaits us, so that we will hear ‘Well done good and faithful servant”. We pray that you would make that true in our lives. We pray that you would lead us down that path. We pray all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What is the legacy that you want to leave behind when you pass on? What do you want to be remembered for? How do you know if you are actually building that legacy?
Read 2 Timothy 4:2 and 5. List the characteristics that Paul urges Timothy to exemplify. What do these verses indicate will be the result?
Read 2 Timothy 4:3, 4. Where do you see these things taking place in the world? In the church? Where have they taken place in your life?
In v. 8 Paul talks about a “crown of righteousness.” What is that? How do we get it?
To what degree could you comfortably apply Paul’s words to your own life were it to end soon? “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What is the reason for the answer you give? Are you content with the answer?
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