An Invitation to Suffer with Power

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:8-14)

Our world is changing. Our world is changing rapidly. One of the greatest fears that people have is a fear of change. I was talking with someone a couple of weeks ago, and this man was explaining to me the plight of Christianity in France. France is so secular now that Christianity can hardly be mentioned or discussed in public, and really even privately, without negative consequences. It is not just a matter of indifference or lack of interest, it is an open hostility to Christianity. Europe is mostly that way.

We have enjoyed many years of openness in America regarding the Christian faith. Those days seem to be drawing down as well. As we look at what is happening and a growing disinterest and even hostility toward our faith, it is good that we can look to examples of others who have traveled the same road and gain strength from their faithfulness in hard times. It is good for us to see what others have endured and to consider not really their faithfulness, but God’s faithfulness in them. It is not just that we need to be strong, it is that God is strong, in fact all powerful, and He is able to lead us in the way we should go, He is the one who opens our path and gives us a foundation so that we can stand firmly in the face of adversity.

We don’t have to shrink back from speaking and living the truth, we don’t have to be timid with the gospel, we don’t have to live in fear of what others may say or think. We may not be naturally bold, but we all as Christians can be bold in Christ. We can be bold living in the Spirit of Christ.

We hosted three Christmas parties at our house, and most of you attended one of those parties. If you didn’t, we missed you! At the end of each party everyone had an opportunity to share what Christ has meant to them over the last year. It was an encouraging time to hear testimony of God’s sustaining work in the lives of His people. That was a safe, comfortable environment to share such things. For many of us a challenge is to go beyond a small church group to a wider audience of people, or just a person, who may not share our faith, and there tell of the glories of Christ, of the gospel, of our faith. Sometimes we may do that and sometimes we may take a pass. Sometimes we may open up and speak and sometimes we may remain silent. The question is why? Why do we feel free to speak of Christ in some environments and not in others?

Maybe because there are consequences involved either way, no matter who we speak to about Christ and the gospel. Our passage this morning is about living not in fear but in power. Or more specifically, living not in fear of people but in the power of God.

Think about this: what would it be like to never again live in the fear of people, of people’s responses, of people’s opinions, of people’s rejection? And those fears being replaced by the power of the Almighty, Sovereign, All–Knowing God? This is where our verse takes us today.

7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2 Timothy 1:7-9)

I went back to verse 7 because it is so important to the context of verses 8 and following. Without verse 7 we cannot understand the particular meaning of verse 8 and beyond. This is because verse 8 begins with the word “therefore.” Therefore is like saying “because of,” or like, “Because of verse 7, do verse 8.” It is because God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control that we can not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.

In other words, it is only because God has given us a spirit not to fear people that we can not be ashamed of Him. It takes His power in us for us not to fear people and stand for Him. If we don’t have His power, we will fear people and we will not stand for Him.

What this tells me is that the draw and temptation to fear people’s opinions is so great that we are helpless to resist being controlled by people on our own — helpless to.

When we fear people and their responses and opinions, then we allow them to control us. Allow them to control us instead of being controlled by the Spirit of God.

It is not a simple matter of saying we need to be stronger, more bold, not so swayed by people. It is not that we just need to tough it up a little and do better. No, it is way more than that. We need the very power of God.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:8)

Paul says don’t be ashamed. Again, being ashamed in this sense is being ashamed in the eyes of people. Ashamed at taking a stand because someone will not like us or may persecute us in some way.

When this letter was written, in that time period, being a Christian certainly brought criticism, but frequently brought much worse, like imprisonment, loss of job, or even death. It was not a small thing to stand for Christ. And yet Paul says, don’t be ashamed, don’t fear people or what they can do, don’t be ashamed of me, Paul, who is in prison. Instead he is extending an invitation of sorts, saying “share in suffering with me.” It is an invitation to suffer for the sake of Christ. This is foreign to many of us. What do we do most in life? Avoid suffering. Paul says no, share in it.

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

It is important to see here that Paul was not encouraging Timothy to live in the power of God in a way that he would be delivered from suffering, or that he would live above or without suffering, but that he would have the power of God to help him endure suffering. This is what was happening in Paul’s life.

Don’t we often pray that God deliver us from suffering? How often do we pray that God will give us the power to endure suffering? Often times the power of God is at work to help us endure, not to deliver us from!

God is glorified when we suffer well, and suffering well can only be done in the power of God. When God’s power is seen in our lives as we suffer well, then God is seen as great, the worth of God is seen as great, and many will glorify Him.

I mean, don’t you stand in awe of how God used His power to work in Paul? The attitude that we read of in Philippians 1:12-14.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

This is the power of God on display! This is not about a strong man, Paul; it is about a powerful God who does His work in a lowly man like Paul!

We need this power to live life in such a way that we are not swayed and then controlled by other people, but instead swayed and controlled by the Spirit of God.

And when this happens, we become those who speak words of truth, gospel truth with great freedom, with great love for Christ.

Jesus said in John 16:33 – “in the world you will have tribulation.” And Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

It is clear that suffering is in store for Christans. However, let’s not see that apart from the power that He gives to help us endure for His glory and for our good. Paul is saying, “Join with me in this, join with me in suffering, for God’s power will carry you through.”

Verse 9 takes us even further…

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Timothy 1:9)

Who is this One who gives us power to endure, power to speak gospel truth, power to stand in the face of opposition and persecution? He is the One who saved us and called us to a holy calling. We owe everything to God. He is the One who has rescued us. He is the One who has promised us eternal life in His loving favor. He is the One who has promised to spare us from eternal punishment, from His wrath. He is the One who has given us clear purpose in life, peace for all the ages, a place as His adopted child. He saved us and gave us this holy calling.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Our holy calling includes being like Christ and enjoying Him forever in a capacity that we do not yet understand, but it will be so glorious, more so than anything we have yet experienced. That is our calling.

He has given this to us, it is a gift. It is not deserved. “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,”

There is a great mystery involved in our salvation. If you are truly saved, you are because God has given you salvation and it was yours in God’s plan even before you were born, even before the ages began. If you are saved, if you will be saved, then it was sealed before time began. You were in His mind before time as we know it began. He had you in mind. He set His love on you in eternity past. Just as it says in Ephesians 1, you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. It was not a fluke that one day you believed and received Christ as Lord and Savior. No, it was planned by God. He wanted that to happen, and He planned that to happen, even though you in no way deserved it. He chose to love you while we hated Him.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we understand how much God loves us and how deep and lasting that love is, and how undeserving we are of it, then we can put aside our fears of people and we can, by His power, embrace whatever suffering comes our way for the sake of His great name.

It is a big picture mentality, it is looking beyond the moment, it is seeing our Lord at the center of all things and believing that He has got us in His mind and in His hand and will carry us through.

We need to get this and to live in this. But let me say, we are not prone to think this way, nor live this way in our flesh. These are hard things because they go against our normal thinking. Paul knew of the struggle to embrace gospel truths and to live in them.

We have been talking about needing God’s power to be willing to endure suffering, and to not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. But we even need God’s power to believe any of this is even true! We need God to tell us it is true, His Spirit to convince us it is true — we are so dependent on Him in every aspect of the Christian life. Paul knew this, and so listen to how he prayed for the church after conveying truth to them. Listen to his prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

This is what we need, we need God’s ever working hand in us. We need Him!

Let’s be those who are praying for His work to be completed in us for His name’s sake, that we will be those who look to do what is pleasing to Him, not what will please everyone around us. Let’s pray for His power to help us suffer well, not to just avoid or escape suffering. Let’s pray that when we do suffer well, out of a love and trust in Him, that He will be the One who is seen as great, and not us!

7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2 Timothy 1:7-9)