August 11, 2010 David Balzer

2 Timothy 2:1-13: Guarding the Gospel

The government is discussing new legislation. Attempting to convert someone to your religion is illegal.

Ministers of the church are on notice. Church publicity is banned. Scripture in schools is outlawed. In fact, I’ve been reported, and served a notice to appear in court.

It’s three weeks to our evangelistic events, four weeks to our guest services. You’ve planned to ask your neighbour, or workmate, or friend, or relative.

But now you’re not so sure.

Do you trust that person? Would they report you? Do you like them enough to risk it?

And what about the gospel message? Do you believe it strongly enough to be fined, or go to prison? Is it WORTH that MUCH to you?

It’s only IMAGINARY. But it’s reality in many countries around the world today. And it might not be too far away in AUSTRALIA.

And it was EXACTLY the situation TIMOTHY was in. Paul was in prison. Chained like a common criminal, awaiting DEATH. All because he was proclaiming the gospel of King Jesus. That he’d defeated sin and death. And promised forgiveness and eternal life to those who followed him.

And many of Paul’s followers had given up. It was all too hard. They’d STARTED off believing, but now they weren’t so sure. They’d counted the cost, and decided to do something easier.

People like Phygelus and Hermogenes. They’d been co-workers with Paul, but when the going got tough, they’d got going – running in the other direction that is!

And then … there’s Timothy. Timid Tim. Another of Paul’s followers. And still hanging in. At least for the moment. Perhaps uncertain about whether it’s all worth it. Can he keep going? Standing up for the gospel? Does he REALLY believe Paul’s message?

After all, look where it’s got PAUL. Prison and a death sentence. If that’s what’s in store for the LEADER, what hope for the FOLLOWER?

1. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus (1-3)

And so with all that background, Paul writes to Timothy. His son in the faith. And his message is clear. “Be STRONG, and ENDURE HARDSHIP, like a good soldier. And you’ll receive the reward”.

Look at how he starts Ch 2. He’s just described Onesiphorus. How VALUABLE he’s been to him. Searched him out in jail. Not been ashamed of Paul’s situation. A helper, comforter and refresher. And Paul is SO GRATEFUL to God for him. And then he turns to Timothy. Ch 2 v1.

(2 Tim 2:1 NIV)  You then, my son, BE STRONG in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

In spite of all the difficulties, and the pressure to conform. In spite of what LOTS OF OTHERS are doing. Here’s someone I want you to be like. Be strong. Stand up. Like Onesiphorus.

And as YOU look around OUR church. Are there people YOU want to highlight. People YOU want to copy. Who are standing up STRONGLY. Who are SERVING, and HELPING. And going above and beyond?

People you can look to, and say, “Be strong. Stand up. Like THEM”.

And Paul goes on. Don’t just do it in your own strength. It’s literally “be strengthened”. For those of you who know anything about grammar, it’s a PASSIVE IMPERATIVE. Which is a strange sort of thing – it’s really saying something like “ALLOW yourself to BE strengthened.”

And we see how that’s possible in the next part of the verse. Be strengthened IN THE GRACE WHICH IS IN Christ Jesus. In other words, The gifts that God gives you through Jesus are the MEANS by which you can be strong. Your forgiveness and new standing in Christ, your hope in heaven. The Holy Spirit living in you and strengthening you. Be STRONG by THE MEANS of THOSE things.

And then Paul puts a DIRECTION on that strength. Gives it A PURPOSE. And he mentions TWO things. Things which REQUIRE the strength to stand firm. And the FIRST one is there in v2. Strength is needed TO ENTRUST THE GOSPEL TO RELIABLE MEN. Look at v2.

(2 Tim 2:2 NIV)  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Tough times make you decide what’s REALLY important, and focus on those things. Other things suddenly don’t seem so crucial. And for Paul, the gospel is SO IMPORTANT that passing it on is Tim’s TOP PRIORITY.

Look at the way he expresses it. He’s not to PREACH, or TRAIN, or TEACH people. But to ENTRUST it. Like a precious treasure.

I just bought a new guitar on Ebay. Lovely Yamaha 12-string. And the guy I bought it from said he would POST it. From Canberra.

And I had visions of some Australia Post worker slapping an address label onto it, throwing the guitar into the back of the truck, and then tossing it in the direction of my letter box as he drove past.

To posties, one package is as PRECIOUS as any other.

I was SO glad it arrived yesterday by COURIER. And because it came from one guitarist to another. It was well-wrapped. He knew it was precious cargo. It came in a cardboard box used to hold a guitar. And it was wrapped up with enough masking tape to wrap an Egyptian mummy. And inside the box was a nice solid guitar case. And inside the case/ WAS MY NEW GUITAR!

I had to sign for the package. Because the courier had been ENTRUSTED with the cargo, and was held accountable to deliver it safely.

And on the receipt it had these comforting words. “Not a COMMON carrier”. Now, I’m not sure exactly what those words mean – they might have some LEGAL meaning. But to ME they meant “We’ll take care of your precious package. Someone’s entrusted it to US, and we’ll make sure we deliver it safely”

And that’s the assurance Paul wants. Timothy is to ENTRUST the precious message of eternal life. Make sure they’ve GOT it. Hammer it home to them. Make them repeat it, live it, memorise it. SIGN for it.

And don’t just give it to ANYONE. Make sure you do it to RELIABLE men. Men who’ll be committed to keep the message GOING.

Select men who are RELIABLE. Who’ve DEMONSTRATED an ability to STICK AT IT. An ability to teach, and witness, and pastor, and lead. Entrust the precious package to them, so they can teach OTHERS.

Four generations there. Paul, Timothy, reliable men, others.

Can we see THAT sort of pedigree around THIS church? Two or three generations?

Are we THINKING with that sort of strategy? Who are WE identifying as being the reliable men who can teach others? How are we training and nurturing them/ so that, in turn, they can teach OTHERS.

It’s SO IMPORTANT, because the church is ONLY EVER ONE GENERATION AWAY FROM EXTINCTION. In general, the church is AGING. Christians are getting older, and the next generation isn’t coming through. Congregations are shrinking, and if we don’t take this strategy of Paul SERIOUSLY, in 20 years we’ll be closing the doors, and selling the buildings.

Paul could see it. He was on death row. He could see how CRUCIAL it was that Timothy stood firm, and entrusted the gospel of life to reliable men. Or else the chain would stop with Paul and Timothy.

And we need to do the same. We need to be training and discipling reliable men AND women who can teach others.

Moving on. Then Paul gives Timothy ANOTHER reason to be strong. He’s to be strong to ENDURE HARDSHIP.

He’s to SHARE in hardship. Paul’s suffering, OTHERS are suffering. And Tim needs to accept HIS share of the load too.

Paul doesn’t have a choice. He’s CHAINED. He HAS to endure hardship. But Tim doesn’t. He has a choice. To share, or NOT to share.

And so do WE. Every day we CHOOSE to stand up for King Jesus. And accept the consequences. Or we choose to hide, and blend in. And accept the EASY LIFE.

All sorts of choices. To join in that conversation. To invite that friend to the outreach event. To risk the friendship. To turn down the invitation to wrong sort of activity. To make an issue about the wrong sort of joke, or poster in the lunchroom. To commit to supporting that missionary. Or to serve in a time-consuming, ministry that’s hard work, with no pay, and little recognition.

Every choice/ is the choice to SHARE in enduring hardship. To follow King Jesus. Or to MISS OUT. To follow the crowd. To take the SOFT OPTION.

And to MISS OUT is what you’re risking, as Paul goes on to say. Because it’s not just HARDSHIP which flows from standing firm, but REWARD.

2. Because those who remain strong receive the reward (4-12a)

That’s Paul’s second point. 1. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. 2. Because those who remain strong RECEIVE THE REWARD.

And to prove his point, he paints four pictures. Three are imaginary. And the fourth is Paul himself. And each one shows us someone STANDING FIRM. COMMITTED TO THE TASK. Who receives A REWARD at the end.

A) The soldier. (v4)

And they’re worth spending some time thinking about them. That’s what Paul himself says. Down in v7.

(2 Tim 2:7 NIV)  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

So let’s DO that. Look at the first picture. A soldier who keeps his focus, and who receives his commander’s commendation. V4.

(2 Tim 2:4 NIV)  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.

You see, Christians AREN’T just accountants, or housewives, or fathers, or team-mates, or neighbours, or cyclists. We’re SOLDIERS. The Christian life is A BATTLEGROUND. We have rules of engagement. And there’s no room for distractions. God has saved us, and called us to a holy life.

And when we SHOULD be having our eye on the target, the commander’s instructions scorched into our brains, a single motivation to fight the fight, and win the battle.

Every fibre of our being straining to that end. Every moment of the day. Every conversation, every book, every dollar, every decision.

Instead, we get DISTRACTED. By paying off the mortgage, keeping up with the Jones. Conversations about the footy. Reading newspapers. Watching TV. Building garden beds.

So often, we get excited by things which won’t last, rather than things which are eternal. That’s a soldier who gets involved in civilian affairs,

If someone was to eavesdrop in on YOUR life for a week – every conversation. Every hour spent at home. Every thought. Every action. Would they see a SOLDIER? Or a CIVILIAN?

The risk is missing out on pleasing his commanding officer.  Because that’s the reward for the FOCUSSED soldier. The commendation of the commanding officer. The well-done good and faithful servant. From Major General Jesus Christ.

b. The athlete who keeps the rules will receive the victor’s crown (5)

The second picture is in v5. The athlete who keeps the rules will receive the victor’s crown.

This is about sticking it out to the end. No short-cuts. That’s the only way to receive the victor’s crown. The laurel wreath. The gold medal.

I remember one year when I ran in the Sydney Half Marathon. And at one point I was running up near Hyde Park. And I cut the corner – ran onto the grass instead of running around the road. I saved myself about 5 m. And a volunteer told me that I should be sticking to the marked track.

If I’d been coming first it might have been significant. But I was coming about 500th. If I’d had the breath, I might have told the guy to get some perspective!

But if I’d done that when I’d been WINNING I might have been disqualified. To wear the winner’s crown, the runner has to compete according to the rules.

And for Timothy that means sticking it out to the end. Even when things are TOUGH. There’s no short-cuts. No wimping-out. No disowning Jesus. No moral lapses. No little holidays from being a Christian.

Because persevering, and preaching, and teaching and discipling. Is the race that has to be run. Right to the end.

c. The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops (6)

And Paul’s THIRD picture is in v6. The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops. What’s the picture here? It’s about hard work. Even when there’s NO EVIDENCE OF ANY HARVEST.

A farmer only HARVESTS for about 2 weeks a year. But does he laze around for the rest of the year? No – he’s always doing SOMETHING. He’s hoeing, or fertilising, or sowing, or weeding, or fencing. EVEN WHEN HE CAN’T SEE ANY ACTION, HE KEEPS WORKING HARD.

And that’s what WE’RE to do, too. Keep working for Jesus, keep working at your own godliness, keep reading the Bible and praying. Even when you can’t see any difference in your own life or attitudes. Keep obeying him, even when it seems like the foolish thing to do.

Keep serving his people, even when no-one notices.

Keep witnessing and sharing the gospel, and praying for people’s salvation. Even when it seems like there’s nothing happening.

Because that’s what the FARMER does. And when he DOES, for the whole year, he gets his share of the harvest. And that’s the reward that God promises to his children. Who keep working hard, even when they can’t see a harvest.

d. Like Paul who endures everything  for the sake of the elect (8-10)

And finally Paul uses HIMSELF as an example. He endures everything for the sake of the elect.

He starts off in v8. Reminding Timothy of who he’s serving. Two PARTICULARLY RELEVANT bits of Paul’s message.

(2 Tim 2:8 NIV)  Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,

This Jesus I’m following, for who’s sake I’m about to be executed. Remember, he ROSE FROM THE DEAD. So why would I worry about MY DEATH?

And this Jesus I’m following. He’s descended from King David. He’s KING Jesus. MY king. I HAVE to follow him.

And with those facts in mind, Paul goes on (v9)

(2 Tim 2:8-10 NIV)  This is my gospel, {9} for which I am SUFFERING even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But GOD’S WORD IS NOT CHAINED. {10} THEREFORE / I endure EVERYTHING for THE SAKE OF THE ELECT, that THEY TOO may obtain the SALVATION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, WITH ETERNAL GLORY.

Paul follows King Jesus, even to chains, enduring EVERYTHING. And the result – his reward – is that the elect will obtain salvation – eternal glory.

And it’s even happening with Paul IN CHAINS. BEcause you can’t hold God’s word back. He’ll use it to achieve exactly what he intends.

What a wonderful motivation that is to US! God’s word is not chained. However limited we think we are. Whatever our chains are.

Chained up by pride, or sin, or lack of knowledge, or ambition, or fear, or disorganisation. However ineffective we think we are. God’s word is not chained. It will still achieve his purpose.

And think about the GOAL. The reward. That the elect will receive the eternal glory of salvation.

Do you know that YOU have someone in YOUR past like that? Someone who’s reward was that YOU would receive the eternal glory of salvation? And so they went out of their comfort zone to share Jesus with YOU? Was it a parent, or a friend, or a workmate? Your salvation is someone’s reward.

Who do YOU long to see come to salvation? Who will be YOUR reward?

Be strong, because those who remain strong receive their reward. And he sums that up with first part of the poem. In v11-12.

(2 Tim 2:11-12 NIV)  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with him.

To die with Jesus is something we do EACH DAY. We CHOOSE to do HIS WILL, rather than ours. We die to SELF, and LIVE to Christ. We choose to share in hardship, rather than ease. And so our reward is to LIVE with him.

And for those who ENDURE. We will reign. Like the athlete.

But the poem finishes with a warning. A sting in the tail. Second half of v12. “If we disown him, he will disown US”

And v13 says the same thing. If we are faithless, he will be faithful – trustworthy, true to himself, JUST. Faithless people wil be judged. Disowned by God.

And so Paul ENCOURAGES Tim. Be strong, and endure hardship. Because there are great rewards. The commendation of the commanding officer. The victor’s crown. The share of the crops.

But he also WARNS him. If you don’t ENDURE. If you give up, take a short-cut, deny or disown Jesus. Then Jesus will disown YOU. And you’ll miss out.

Don’t let that be YOU.

The future of the church DEPENDS on each of US hearing Paul’s plea. His precious cargo must be entrusted to faithful men. We must endure hardship. And live as soldiers who’s focus is on the main game. As athletes who compete by the rules to the end. And as farmers who work hard, even when we can’t see any harvest.

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