2 Timothy, Suffering, Witness
As we look at the book of 2 Timothy, Paul’s final letter before his death, we are looking at the incredible legacy of Paul in the hope that we can learn how to develop a godly legacy as well.
Last week we noted that any legacy is built on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Our goal is to build on what others have passed even as we invest our lives in those who will come after us. We are also to use the spiritual gifts that God has given us boldly and confidently but also tempered with love and self-control.
This morning we see that a godly legacy is one built on true conviction. What we stand for is also what we would be willing to die for. People note someone who has that kind of passion for anything. The goal is to have that kind of passion for the things of God.
As we look at 2 Timothy 1:8-12 Paul gives two commands to Timothy that I think we can also take for our own lives.
8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News (2 Timothy 1:8)
DO NOT BE ASHAMED
The first command to Timothy is not to be ashamed of the gospel or of Paul because he was in jail. There is no suggestion that Timothy was ashamed but Paul understood the times and the pressures that would come to bear on Timothy as he sought to follow the Lord. Paul knew that it could be uncomfortable to be associated with someone who was in prison. Paul wanted Timothy to remember WHY he was in prison.
Not long ago Kim Davis was put in jail for contempt of court because she refused to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple. She was standing up for what she believed to be right and people rallied to her side rather than shunning her because she was in jail. Paul wanted Timothy to view him much the same way.
Every believer faces pressure to conform. Today there are threats of lawsuits, firings, and ridicule if you stand up for Christ. You can talk about all kinds of perverse subjects in a classroom but heaven help the teacher who talks about their faith. Public and legal pressure is being applied to make Christians hide their faith.
Paul told Timothy to stand with Christ no matter what opposition he faced. The person of conviction is the one who stands their ground . . .no matter what! Whether or not you agree with a person, you do respect the fact that they are willing to stand by what they believe.
Jesus warned us,
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
These are sobering words. Our Lord reminds us that trusting Him as our Savior and our Lord means trusting Him in ALL circumstances, not just when it is convenient or popular. Frankly, it is popular to be “religious” or “spiritual” but it is not popular to hold to the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. We have to face the fact that we are much more sensitive to public opinion that we like to admit. We must combat our instinct to compromise or be silent to “get along.”
We act like we are ashamed or embarrassed when we
- Try to hide or disguise the fact that we are Christians and fail to speak of Him when we are given the opportunity.
- Refuse to stand up for what is right.
- Bend to the culture’s non-Christian values.
- When we tell people we believe in Jesus but we don’t believe in the church.
Does that seem harsh? Do you think your child would believe you loved them if you hid the fact that they were your child in public? Would they think you loved them if you didn’t stand up for them when they were being taken advantage of? Or how about if you said, “I love being a parent, it’s being part of my family that I don’t like!”
We have no trouble standing up for a political position that we hold. We are eager to start a conversation about our favorite team or musical artist. We tell everyone about a great experience that we had or the new diet that has made us feel “fantastic” — even if others think we are goofy. Why then would we be ashamed to talk about the One who has brought us forgiveness, new life, and has promised to lead us to Heaven to live with Him forever?
We stand with Christ when we:
- Live moral, upright, Christ-honoring lives even if it is out of step with contemporary culture.
- Look for opportunities to share our faith with others in a loving way.
- Love others in Jesus’ name by helping others who are in need.
- Take a stand for justice.
- Love others even when they disagree with us.
- Extend grace even though someone has failed miserably.
- Acknowledge our loyalty to Christ without qualification.
Paul also wanted to make sure that Timothy was not ashamed of him. It appears from verse 15 that when Paul was re-arrested nearly all his former supporters abandoned him. Paul asked Timothy not to do the same. John Stott wrote,
It is possible to be proud of Christ, but ashamed of his people and embarrassed to be associated with them. (Guard the Gospel IVP p. 32)
Like our biological brothers and sisters, we should stand by our fellow believers because we are family . . . even if the world is saying horrible things about them.
BE READY TO SUFFER
The second command is to be ready to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Peter told us that suffering because we deserve it is not something God honors. However, when we suffer for the sake of Christ; when we suffer because we are a Christian, we are standing up for the Lord and honoring Him.
If you stand for Christ, there are going to be people who don’t like the message. People do not want to hear:
- They are sinful and in need of a Savior
- They cannot save themselves
- There is only one way to salvation: through Christ
- To trust Christ is not merely to say a prayer, it is to trust Christ enough to follow Him in this life.
These are unpopular truths. They are unpopular with other religions and they are even unpopular with some who are in the church! And when people do not like the message they will most often attack the messenger! However, it is not our message to alter!
These are tough commands. However, Paul tells us why we should be willing to stand up for Christ and for His people,
9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. (2 Timothy 1:9-12)
Notice some things. First, the gospel is about more than having sin forgiven so we can go to Heaven. “God saved us and called us to live a holy life”. Christ has come to save us RIGHT NOW not just in the future. He has come to save us from the futility, the loneliness, and the confusion of this life. He came to lead us back to the Lord. He gave us the Holy Spirit so we could live a brand new life!
Second, the gospel is not something we earn. We are saved not because we are good. We are saved because God in His mercy wanted to “show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
It is so important to understand this. We are not forgiven because we are better than other people. We are not. Sin is deeply rooted in us. We may express it differently but it is there. It is like the difference between a thief and an embezzler. The embezzler may look better on the outside but they are the same on the inside. The gossip may be more socially acceptable than the person who assaults someone but the heart is the same and sometimes the damage is worse! We are all sinners who deserve the wrath of God!
Third, the salvation we need is found in Christ. He “broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.” Jesus paid our debt. When He died for our sin death no longer had any claim on us. It is like financial debt. Once you pay that debt your creditor no longer has any hold on you. Jesus paid our debt. The power of death was broken.
We may still be uncomfortable with the idea of dying (because it is something new and different that is outside of our experience) but being dead should no longer be a concern for us. If we truly trust Christ we know that we will live even though we die. The resurrection of Jesus puts an exclamation behind that. Death for the believer is just the transfer point for the next part of the journey of life.
When Jesus rose from the dead He not only abolished the fear of death, he opened the door to a brand new life. He showed us that there is life beyond the grave and He gave us His Spirit to guide and empower us in a new life right here and now. We are a new creation now! He has replaced our heart of stone with a heart that is sensitive to the things of God.
Fourth, we must take hold of all of this by faith. Faith is “being willing to bet your life on Jesus.” It is more than getting emotional and saying a prayer. It is bowing before Him and acknowledging Him as our Savior and our King. It is holding on to Him as our only hope for life abundant and eternal. He is the ONLY way not because WE say so but because God says so! Christ is the one who has made salvation and new life possible. Only He does so.
Have you expressed THAT kind of faith? If you want to leave a godly legacy, you have to start by turning from your sin and turning TO Jesus.
A good way to begin is to tell God just this very thing. Admit your sin. Admit your helplessness and then surrender to the work of Christ. Tell God that you will rely on the work of Christ for your salvation. Imagine relaxing into His arms. Imagine walking with Him through life. This is what faith is. This is the gospel.
True faith is not an experience; it is a change of direction. It is a new orientation. It is a new focus and direction for living. Do you have this kind of faith?
Paul’s argument is this: if you understand and receive the message of salvation and new life you know that there is nothing more important; nothing that is more valuable than your relationship with Him.
- Not public approval
- Not an easy life
- Not even escaping the threat of death
We are willing to suffer for Christ because he suffered for us. We are willing to suffer for Christ because to deny Him is to turn away from everything that matters.
Paul sums it up this way: “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” In other words, there is nothing that I will give up in this life for the gospel that will not be returned to me in the next life one hundredfold. When we entrust our life, our dreams, our future to Him we know it is the best investment we can make.
What does this have to do with legacy? There is no greater legacy to leave than that of a person who is completely sold out to Jesus. We marvel and admire people who are committed. They stand for something. And even if we disagree with them we can’t help but admire such a passion.
A good question for us is this: What are we passionate about? What would we sacrifice for? What would we maybe even give our lives for? THAT is the thing that will be our primary legacy. For some people that is their citizenship, their children, their political party or some social cause. It may be a job, a hobby, a religious doctrine or the money you have invested somewhere. What is it that energizes you? What is it that you are “not ashamed of” and eager to share with others?
Paul urges us to have this kind of passion for the gospel. He urges us to stand with the Lord without wavering even though the world around us pushes us with all its might.
If we understand the gospel we will anchor ourselves to these truths. They will be more precious to us than anything else in the world. We will not merely have a religious dimension to our lives it will be the very fabric of who we are.
It will be inevitable that you will leave a legacy that includes,
- Humility because you will never forget that you were a sin addicted person who received a grace you did not deserve. You will not be hard and judgmental, you will be soft, compassionate and understanding.
- Gratitude because you know that you did not deserve what has been given to you.
- A zeal for evangelism because you will know that the most important thing you can do for anyone is to introduce them to Jesus. After the impact He has made in our lives we should want to introduce him to others. You can’t change someone’s life. The Lord must do it. Your children, your friends, and even strangers will know that you believe Jesus is the only way to a life of significance because they have heard you say it a million times.
- Your legacy will be one of unwavering reliance on the Word of God for a definition of truth. You will choose the Bible over the courts, over public opinion, over science, and even over your own “feelings”. You will trust the Word of God because Jesus trusted the Word. You will trust it because you have discovered the power of Scripture in your daily life.
- Heavenly mindedness. By this I don’t mean you are a person who is “so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” What I mean is you will have an eternal perspective that will see even suffering as a way to honor the Lord who saved you. You will see death as a transition rather than an ending. You will see the future as residing in God’s gracious hands.
We get excited about a new diet or an exercise plan because of the impact it has had on our lives. Is it possible that we aren’t more excited about the gospel because the message of the gospel has not impacted your life any? If the gospel has not impacted you, you need to consider that you may not actually be His follower. And if that is the case, you need to make a change.
My prayer is that we will be known as people who refuse to shrink back from the truth of the gospel. May we be known as people who are unreservedly committed to the gospel. May this be the legacy that we leave as a church and as individuals.