Passing the Torch, 2 Timothy Series (2)
“Not Ashamed” 2 Timothy 1:7-12
A mother called her son on Sunday morning to make sure he got out of bed & was ready for church. “I’m not going,” he replied. “Yes, you are going, so get out of that bed!” his mother demanded. “Give me one good reason why I should go,” said her son. “I’ll give you 3 good reasons. One, I’m your mother, & I say you’re going. Two, you’re forty years old, so you are old enough to know better. And three, you’re the pastor, so you need to be there.”
I am glad to say I have never had such a problem on Sunday morning. Sundays are the best day of the week for me. Elizabeth & I love church – meeting with the Lord, sharing His Word & meeting so many wonderful brothers & sisters! However, sadly there are times when pastors & Christian workers do get discouraged for one reason or another. Some even feel like giving up. Feeling inadequate, facing opposition & criticism, seeing people fall away from the Lord – all these things can lead to discouragement.
Serving as pastor in Ephesus young Timothy certainly felt overwhelmed at times. In writing 2 Timothy Paul wanted to encourage him not to give up. What he writes is not only helpful for pastors & Christian workers – it is applicable to all Christians. So today our first heading is:
1. Serving Effectively (v.7)
There were some strong characters in the church in Ephesus, including Hymenaeus & Philetus who Paul says in 2:18, “…have wandered away from the truth.” These two guys were denying certain basic Gospel truths & Paul says of them “…they destroy the faith of some.” No wonder Timothy felt overwhelmed. How could he cope?
Maybe you are dealing with difficult people or situations. Maybe you are finding it difficult to witness to a non-Christian friend or family member. Maybe things in everyday life are getting on top of you. Well then, listen to what Paul says to Timothy in v.7. He says, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love & of self-discipline.” Paul reminds Timothy of 4 things that the Holy Spirit can give him. The first thing is courage. Timothy need not be timid. He need not be afraid.
We too must not be afraid of having to deal with difficult people or issues, or of witnessing for Jesus, or of standing up for what is right. Remember, the Lord is with us – therefore it doesn’t matter what other people think or say about us. If our conscience is clear, as we spoke about last week, then we need not be timid or afraid. The Holy Spirit will give us the courage we need, when we need it.
The second thing Paul tells Timothy the Holy Spirit gives is “power”. The word he uses is ‘dunamis’, from which we get the English word dynamite. The Holy Spirit gives us power, dynamite. This is what Jesus Himself told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; & you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, & in all Judea & Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.” Are you trying to serve or to witness in your own strength? Are you trying to live the Christian life in your own strength? To live for Jesus & witness for Him we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The third thing Paul says the Holy Spirit can give Timothy is “love”. There must have been times when Timothy wondered how he could love some people – especially those who looked down on him, those who attacked him or gave him a hard time. The word used here for love is that strong Bible word, agape. It is the love Jesus has for us. It is supernatural love, & the Holy Spirit will pour this love into our hearts as we allow Him to do so. By the way, love is a wonderful balance to power. Power & love must go hand in hand.
Love is the great motive of mission. It is also the quality that most characterises God Himself, for God is love – and love is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to give you His love for that difficult person. Ask Him to help you forgive others as He has forgiven you.
The fourth thing the Holy Spirit gives is “self-discipline” or as an older English version translates it, “a sound mind”. This means being sensible, realistic & reasonable. It is having self-control, being self-disciplined, being discerning & wise, being focussed. It is like tuning our radio to the correct wave-length so that we hear clearly, without distortion or interference. The Holy Spirit helps us to tune our lives to the right wave-length, the wave-length of God’s Word. In a world full of confusing & conflicting voices, we can know for sure what to believe. In a world that has lost its way, we have the moral compass of truth, given to us in the Bible. The Holy Spirit gives us a sound mind. He enables us to stay focussed & to exercise self-discipline. Self-discipline is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
Having courage, power, love & self-discipline in our lives we can begin to serve effectively. Secondly:
2. Standing Bravely (v.8)
Thinking about all that the Holy Spirit has given him, Paul tells Timothy in v.8, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” Paul urges Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about the Lord even if it got him into trouble with the authorities. He urged him not to be ashamed of him [i.e. Paul], but to join him in suffering. Both Paul & Timothy were well aware of the danger they & all Christians faced in a growingly hostile world. We know from Church history that Paul was executed under the Emperor Nero in about AD67, not long after he wrote this letter to Timothy.
We know that Timothy too spent some time in prison for Hebrews 13:23 tells us, “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.” Like his spiritual father & mentor Paul, Timothy knew what it was to suffer for the name of Christ. Like Paul, he was able to endure & even rejoice in his sufferings because he did so “…by the power of God.”
If you have to suffer criticism or misunderstanding or abuse because of your faith, do not lose heart. You are in good company. Some of the greatest saints through church history, including Paul & Timothy, have suffered far worse. And as Paul says a little later in 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Sad to say, sometimes the world hates us because we are not living a godly life. We sometimes say & do things that are not very Christ-like. We turn non-Christians away from Christ rather than attract them to Him. When we suffer because of our own foolishness, hypocrisy, insensitivity or lack of integrity or honesty, we alone are to blame, & we bring shame to the name of our Lord.
However we must not be surprised if the world hates us simply because we are Christians seeking to live a godly life. Just as the darkness hates the light, the world will hate us. Even in western nations which were built upon Christian principles & values, there are more & more attacks on Christians. Strong forces in society try to silence the Church & exclude Christians from the public square.
One report stated that between 2006 & 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination in an incredible 139 nations, which is about ¾ of all the countries on earth. Of course what Christians living in secular western nations sometimes have to suffer cannot be compared with what believers in nations like Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Iran, Burma, North Korea, etc have to suffer. An average of 11 Christians are killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Centuries ago Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” As we think about the situation in our world today, what Paul says to Timothy still speaks with powerful relevance. We must then stand bravely for our faith. Finally:
2. Sharing Confidently (vrs 9-12)
Paul has told Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about the Lord even if he has to suffer as a result. He goes on to describe the gospel, the Good News, which is the focus of our witness as Christians. The gospel is so wonderful it is certainly worth suffering for & worth sharing confidently.
Paul writes in v.9, “He has saved us & called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose & grace.” The gospel is all about being saved, about being rescued, about being delivered from sin, being liberated from both the penalty & the power of sin. There is power in the gospel to break every chain & set us free. The gospel makes people new. No wonder Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel. Because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
Not only is the gospel about being saved from sin, it is also about being made holy. As Paul writes, “He has saved us & called us to a holy life.” The gospel not only proclaims forgiveness for those who believe, but it calls us to a life of holiness.
Many years ago when I was a student in London, UK, I heard Japanese evangelist, Pastor Koji Honda preaching. He himself had a wonderful testimony of how Jesus saved & changed him. During his life God used him to bring many thousands of Japanese people to faith in Jesus. Here is just one example mentioned by Ps Koji Honda. “While I was in Kobe one of the worst drunkards came to see me. He inquired, ‘If I believe on Christ, can I stop my drinking?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Christ can save you & change you.’ We prayed together & he made his decision for Christ. The neighbours were surprised to see his changed life. Formerly he had gone about as a crazy person hitting people. His wife, who had wanted to commit suicide, came to church & got saved. He became a pillar in the church & his 3 children became Christians.”
You may not have been a drunkard like the Japanese man, but many of you can also testify that the Lord has saved you & begun to change you. One sign of the genuineness of our faith is a desire to grow in holiness – for the Lord has “called us to a holy life.” If there is no change, not even gradual change, & no desire to grow in holiness, then we may in fact not be saved. Being saved & growing in holiness go together.
The second half of this verse, “…not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose & grace” emphasizes the fact our salvation is not the result of our self-effort. It is not something we work for or earn or deserve. It is the result of God’s purpose, His plan, & His grace.
Paul now brings out something remarkable, something awesome about the grace of God. He writes, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (v.9b) Can you get your mind around that? – “before the beginning of time!” God planned our salvation ages before we were even born. In fact He planned it before He created time & space, before the universe came into existence. That is mind boggling to me. And notice God’s grace is “given us in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the only way. Salvation is found in Him alone. It is only in Him that we find & receive God’s grace.
So then, the plan of salvation was already in the mind of God before He created the world. It was not an after-thought, a last minute rescue plan when things went wrong because of Adam & Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. No, God knows everything. He is outside of time. And He planned our salvation in eternity.
But time & history are also important in God’s plan. Paul goes on in v.10, “…but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ, the Saviour, entered history. He entered time & space. God’s plan has been revealed, made known. God our Saviour has appeared in human form. This is where Christianity is so different to other religions. It is not a man-made philosophy based on myths & legends. It is grounded in history. The appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus happened in time & space. He was born in Bethlehem & His birth divides time into BC (Before Christ) & AD (Anno Domino, Latin for ‘In the year of our Lord’). There is solid, reliable historical evidence for the life, death & resurrection of Jesus.
Paul goes on to say that Jesus “…has destroyed death & has brought life & immortality to light through the gospel.” (v.10b) Death is very real – I have attended 2 funerals this week! Most people are afraid of death. Those who do not believe in God may try to comfort themselves by saying that death is simply the end. Those who believe in reincarnation think when they die they are reborn as something or someone else. The Bible, however, tells us clearly that “people are destined to die once, & after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) We all will die but the good news is Jesus has conquered death & has brought “…life & immortality to light through the gospel.”
This wonderful message is desperately needed by our lost & dying world. Paul rejoices in being able to share it. He tells Timothy, “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald & an apostle & a teacher.” (v.11) Even though he was suffering for the sake of the Gospel, Paul had an assurance & a confidence for the future. He knew his ministry would bear fruit. He knew he would be leaving a legacy of blessing in the lives of others.
Paul had no regrets & so could write in v.12, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, & am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” Paul was someone who stressed the importance of truth & what we believe, yet notice in this verse that he stresses not what he believed but who he believed. His faith was focussed upon the Person of Jesus Christ. No matter what happened, no matter what he was facing, his faith was not shaken because his faith was in Jesus, the One who never fails, the One who is in control, the One who is all-loving & all-knowing. Paul had an intimate relationship with the Lord. He was convinced all he had entrusted to the Lord would be kept safe till the day of Christ’s return. I think Paul is referring to himself & to his ministry & the people, like Timothy, into whose lives he had poured so much. As he faced martyrdom, & the end of his life & ministry, Paul knew his life had been lived to the full. He had not wasted any time or opportunity given to him. He could safely leave everything in God’s hands. No regrets. No doubts. Paul knew, on the day of Christ’s return, his Master would give him the: “Well done, good & faithful servant.” That was all he wanted to hear.
We have thought today about serving effectively, standing bravely & sharing confidently. Like young Timothy let us take these things to heart as we too commit our lives & our futures into the hands of our Lord & Master.
 John L. Allen, The War on Christianity, The Spectator, Oct 2013.