2 Timothy 2 has a powerful message to those who feel weak – you’re to be strong in Christ.
- When the world thinks one way and you think another because you’re a Christian, you can be strong in Christ
- When you want to see amazing things happen for God but we’re few in number and weak, be strong in Christ.
Because when Christ demands something of you it’s to his glory and for his purposes – so do you think he’ll leave you to do it in your own strength?
- And yet, how often do you try to do things in your own strength (and then keel over)?
- Or how how often do you feel weak and overwhelmed?
- Timothy was the same as us; this letter is encouraging!
Be strong in Christ’s grace (1-3)
Read 2 Timothy 2:1.
Notice that word grace. It’s in our motto text for the year: Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. [NIV]
We looked carefully at the word grace in January, and found two main meanings in the New Testament:
- Most often, it describes the unmerited favour of God – his free kindness towards people who don’t deserve it.
- But often, grace describes the active divine assistance of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life (always unmerited).
Paul is writing to young pastor Timothy. He’s encouraging Timothy to step up and be faithful to his calling. But he doesn’t ‘guilt’ Timothy into anything. He rather explains to Timothy that Christ will help his people to do his work.
Doing things for Christ is likely to put you at odds with the world. They see things differently, and don’t welcome being told that something they hold dear is actually offensive to God. But Timothy is to serve Jesus, confident that Christ will provide grace – the active divine assistance of the Holy Spirit. And, as our motto text reminds us, all you need to do to receive that grace is ask: The Lord will provide.
Application of strength
Now, how is Timothy to apply that strength? Two ways: In teaching others and enduring suffering.
First, teaching others: Read 2 Timothy 2:2.
- Paul has committed the Good News of Christ to many other people, including Timothy.
- And Timothy is to do the same. Certainly, he is to nurture future leaders and preachers and pastors. But remember where Timothy first learnt about the Lord: From his mother and grandmother. “Teaching the Good News” isn’t only the responsibility of the Pastor; it’s for us all – parents, grandparents, older people in church to children etc
- And where do they get the strength? Grace from Christ.
The second application of Christ’s strength is in suffering: Read 2 Timothy 2:3.
- If suffering for Christ is to be expected as part of God’s plan to save people, you can expect strength from Christ.
- Not escape (though sometimes), but strength (always).
So, to do Christ’s work, draw on Christ’s strength in grace.
Keep the goal in mind (4-7)
Paul gives Timothy three example people as pictures / role models to think about: Soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Read 2 Timothy 2:4-7.
What’s he getting at? Why does he give these examples to Timothy? There are some obvious similarities that go with doing gospel work for Christ.
All 3 roles demand some discipline and order. Things have to be done in a certain way, and if someone cheats or cuts corners they can’t expect to succeed.
All 3 roles demand hard work! They’re active. And not just hard work for a short time. Planning, preparing, working, waiting. Patience and perseverance are required.
But above all, each of the 3 roles has a goal in mind.
- The soldier’s goal is to please his commanding officer.
- The athlete’s goal is to win the prize, the crown.
- The farmer’s goal is to enjoy the harvest.
Each one is motivated over a long period of time to be disciplined and patient – because they keep the goal in mind. Timothy – and every Christian – is to see Christian work in the same way:
- Your goal is to please Christ, to see him smile over you.
- Your goal is to win a crown of life, life in Christ.
- And your goal is to enjoy a harvest – of righteousness in your own life, but also as others come to Christ too.
“Think about what I am saying,” he says. And you need to; because often we just drift, and don’t set goals.
You might have goals for your family, or your income, or your retirement: But what about your Christian life? Church is a place to find and follow Jesus. Whatever else is on your mind, your ultimate Christian goals are to become like Jesus and to tell others about him.
- You might have goals to be well, or to beat illness, be debt-free, or escape depression.
- But what if you are where you are by God’s plan?
- You need ultimate goals. You’re to be like Christ and tell others about him.
And like the soldier, athlete, and farmer, these things take time. Serve and please your commanding officer, Christ. Be in for the long haul; commit to the church, to yourself; pray. Expect to need some discipling – none of us is there yet.
And do everything in the strength Christ gives by grace.
Endure for others to be saved (8-10)
Would it help to have an example to follow? Would it help to have a crystal clear goal? Read 2 Timothy 2:8-10.
Christ himself left eternal glory to become human, to suffer and die. His suffering was no mistake – it was the plan.
- Descended from David – born into obscurity, but born in the royal line as promised.
- Then raised from the dead and returned to glory and splendour.
- He lives. Jesus is your living commanding officer.
- And he is the goal, the prize, the life.
Paul could see in Christ an example to follow. If Christ would do that for his chosen people, his elect, then surely anyone who follows Christ can’t complain at some suffering – especially in light of the glories to come. And especially when doing gospel work has the potential to “bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen” (v10).
- “Someone might disagree with me” – or be saved.
- “Someone might report me” – or be saved.
- “They might never speak to me again” – or be saved.
Paul was willing to endure shame, hardship, prison and suffering if it might mean that someone became a Christian.
- Many Christians won’t give up an evening.
- Many Christians are happy if someone else is doing all the evangelising, thinking they’re part of an outgoing church.
- Do you put yourself out in any way so that someone else might become a Christian?
- Put like that, our inaction seems weird, don’t you think?
But again: If you try to do things in your own strength you will burn up and fail. Maybe you already did.
But in Christ there is good news for you:
Your union with Christ enables you (11-13)
Verses 11-13 seem to be lines from a hymn or poem.
11 This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him.
- Your union with Christ means union in suffering and glory.
- When you become a Christian, your old self is dead. Crucified with Christ. The old has gone.
- And, if you are united with Christ in death you will certainly be united with him in life – the life he gives now and eternally.
12 If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
- Christ humbled himself and endured even the cross, and is now glorified and reigning.
- So too will his people. You will reign over a new earth in perfection with Jesus.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
- Exactly the warning Jesus himself gave in Matthew 10:33 “…everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
- It’s the opposite of union with Christ. Actually denying his existence, or life, or salvation.
- It’s a stern, true warning. You must take it seriously.
- But what if we don’t exactly disown Jesus, but we’re pretty rubbish all the same? Well:
13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.
- Here, in these verses, being unfaithful is clearly not the same as denying Christ.
- The person who denies Christ says, “I do not and will not believe in your Jesus.”
- But some of us do trust him, just not very well.
- You feel you ought to do something for him, but you lack the faith to trust him that he’ll actually help.
- But if you’re a child of God, Jesus will remain faithful: He will forgive you, strengthen you, encourage you. He will help you to go again.
These poetic verses do for you what they did for Timothy.
- They’re not here to ‘guilt’ you into anything.
- They’re here to enable you. To remind you.
- As a Christian, you have union with Christ.
- Trouble is expected; but so is glory.
- Death is expected; but so if life.
- Even your failure is expected; but Jesus won’t give up on you.
- He calls you to go back to him, and then go again.
Last week we saw how we’re enabled to do things God has prepared for us:
- You can, because the Holy Spirit is in you.
- You can, because it’s God’s plan for you – and for those who will believe that you speak to
- And so you will, because you will plan and act and do.
Today we’ve seen Paul encouraging you along the same lines.
He’s reminded you that the work you’re doing may well involve some difficulty or suffering, but surely that’s worth it if people come to enjoy glory with Christ?
He’s reminded you that doing things for Christ can be like a soldier, athlete, or farmer – work that keeps the goal in mind and is motivated to discipline, hard work, and patience.
And we’ve seen that the goal in mind is Christ himself – to be like him, to make him known.
Who is up to such tasks?
- Not Paul or Timothy. Not you or me. At least, not alone.
- You are united to Jesus. He works through you and in you to do his will. His life is in you, and he’ll never let you down even when you feel weak and let him down over and over.
- “Be strong through the grace [the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit] that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”