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How Can We Face an Uncertain Future?

Date: Jul. 19, 2009

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Timothy 1:1-18

Key Verse: 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times. Our national debt stands today at a staggering $11.5 trillion and it’s expanding by over $1 trillion per year that’s 2.7 billion dollars a day. Or take a look at the evening news where we see rampant violence. Or the growing negativity and attacks upon those who do not agree with living an immoral life style. Or the shrinking numbers of Christians over the past 2 decades. In this situation what should we do? Should we not rock the boat and just go with the flow?

This is the reason why I wanted to take some time over the summer and try to prepare our hearts for the fall ministry. To be recharged and renewed, ready to carry on God’s work once again. And through 2 Timothy, Paul shows that even after 2000 years the times haven’t changed much and people still struggle with similar issues. In chapter one I want to think about four points; first, putting our gifts to work, standing up to our fears, being willing to suffer, and finally trusting God. So as we begin our study of 2 Timothy let’s open our hearts and listen to God’s word this morning.

Since we are starting a new book lets take some time to understand the context and what was going on at the time Paul wrote this letter. As we’ll see, Paul also lived in uncertain times just like us. The world was ruled by Rome and Rome was led by Nero who was famous for persecuting Christians blaming them for the burning of Rome. Not only that around this time period was what was known as the “year of the four emperors,” in which Nero was removed and replaced three times over within a years time.

This was now Paul’s second imprisonment. Unlike his first term in which he stayed in a rented house, now Paul was in a cold, dark, dungeon. If fact he was so out of the way that it took a while for Onesiphorus to find him. (v16) During this imprisonment Paul realizes that he is coming to the end of his life. Because Paul’s first prison term did not end with clear exoneration, the Roman authorities would have found a second arrest sufficient reason to condemn Paul considering him a threat to public order. The Romans were obsessed with public order and were ready to punish anyone who threatened “Pax Romana.” Understanding his situation Paul’s last three letters (1 Tim, Titus, & 2 Tim) begin to reflect upon his life as he prays for, and instructs, those who will carry on the gospel mission after he is gone.

First, Put your gifts to work (1-6) KV:6

Take a look at verses 1-2. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” At first glance we might think that Paul is boasting or exaggerating, but actually he is not magnifiying himself. Rather he is assuring Timothy that he is carrying on a divinely ordained ministry. Which is in striking contrast to the contemporary time because so many religious positions had been purchased. I read a letter from an Egyptian to a Greek consulate wanting to purchase the office of Prophet. However Paul had received his calling from God himself and he was not in it for the money.

Through these verses we can see Paul and Timothy’s relationship which was like a father and son’s. At a time when Paul could have been extremely discouraged from, being locked in prison, having everyone close to him leave, and his future execution, but he found great comfort and joy in Timothy’s faith. Take a look at verses 3-5. “3I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” When Paul thought of Timothy his heart was lifted up and he could find comfort seeing that Timothy carried on the life of faith.

As Paul remembered Timothy he imparted this advice. Take a look at verse 6. “6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

As people get close to death they speak what’s on their heart. And Paul wanted Timothy to take hold of God’s gift and build it up. So what is that gift? His faith in God and the Holy Spirit. And Paul wanted Timothy to put his gift to work, that is to put his faith into action. There is a saying if you don’t use it you lose it. For example if you don’t speak a language for a while it takes time to get it back. And it you don’t use it you will lose it. So Paul wanted Timothy to put his faith to work.

Stand up to your fears. 2 Timothy 1:7

Let’s read verse 7. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” First Paul focuses on what we do not have and the is (what?) timidity. God did not give us a spirit of timidity. Sometimes we confuse timidity with humility. If we are quiet that equates to humility. But it does not. Humility is accepting God’s ways over our own ways.

The root of timidity is fear. God does not give us fear. (Isaiah 41) Satan does. God gives us courage. Alarm companies are like Satan because they play upon our fears. Fear of what will happen in the future, break-ins, fire or something worse. So what do we have to do? We have to stand up to our fears. We can’t break down, we must stand up. And we have to stand up to fear in 3 ways. First, stand up to fear through God’s power. (eph 3:20)

Whether you know it or not we have power. We have God’s power. We need it. This is better than the energizer bunny. This comes by the Holy spirit, not natural to this world. Power equates to ability, gifts given to us to carry out the tasks God wants us to do. Everyone has talent to serve God. We just have to find out what they are. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. (finding our gifts is one area I think we can grow in.)

And secondly we have to stand up to fear through love. (1 John 4:18) God loved us and His love has the power to change a person’s heart. If God loves us, he will be with us. If God called us to live a holy life, will he then abandon us when we need him? That‘s crazy. If he called us he will surely be with us.

And thirdly we have to stand up to fear through self discipline. When a soldier is properly trained they can over come many fearful things. Likewise when we are properly trained through our self discipline we can over come our own fears and not be timid.

Be willing to suffer for the gospel  2 Timothy (8-10) KV 1:8

Take a look at verses 8-10. “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, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Why are we ashamed of the gospel? Sometimes when I am riding in my car and I have Christian music on, and I like my music loud, but sometimes when I stop at a light, I will turn the music down thinking the people in the car next to me will think I am weird. This shame comes back to fear. We fear other people and what they think about us if we talk about Jesus. We are afraid that people will think that we are weird or the Jesus freak. Especially these days because of the political environment. And as we seen on the river and at the camp site these couple of days. (USA Today survey at the end)

As Christians we can not be ashamed of the gospel. The root of this stems from out desire not suffer. We like to take it easy because we don’t want to suffer. I am not saying that we go out and seek out suffering, that would be just plain morbid. But what I am saying is that when suffering comes, or is about to come, we shouldn’t shy away from it. Rather we should take it like a man. For although God may not deliver us from whatever we are fearful, but he will help us to endure it and to prosper through it. He will grant us the power we need to accomplish His mission. And when we suffer together we have a stronger bond together. For example when we struggle together on this trip we grow closer together because we have to depend upon one another to survive.

And this brings me to my final point. We have to

Trust God for the results. 2 Timothy (11-18) KV 1:12

Let’s read verse 12 together. “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Paul was an able man. He was successful. He was a Pharisee, with self discipline, wealth, connections and power. Yet even after all this Paul’s sense of security was not in himself, rather it was in God. He believed in Jesus because he knew Jesus. When we know Jesus we believe in Him. And he was absolutely convinced that Jesus was able to give him eternal life. When we doubt we are in trouble. That is exactly how Eve screwed up, because she doubted God. But Paul’s belief gave him power. Power to stand even though his life was nearing the end. When you die how do you want to go? In weakness or in power? Paul lived his life by faith in Jesus and in the end he trusted God to produce the results God wanted. All we can do is follow God and trust him with the results. We can’t make someone believe in Jesus. We can’t force them. (although sometimes I want to try) The only thing that we can do is deliver the message and trust God with the results. God will open their hearts, God will do His work. And at the end of Paul’s life, he had to trust that God would carry on his good work.

So in closing I would like to say that even in the midst of uncertain times, we can face the future, no matter what it has in store for us with confidence because we have Jesus with us. (Peter gave me a great analogy about the rafting trip that fit the passage so well – you have to ask him about it ) Just as Paul loved Timothy and gave his sound advice, let’s accept his advise as well. Let’s not fall into fear but live by the power of God. Let’s read verse 7. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

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