2 Timothy 1
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.
We make it back this morning to where we left off in 2 Timothy just as Paul speaks of his undying love for and commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. What a great place to pick up in this book. Paul’s love and commitment to Jesus Christ is real and undying because of his great faith in the keeping power of Jesus in his life. He was a man that we would observe and say, “Wow, this man’s life is falling apart!” He had so much going for him, he was a leader among the Jews, a respected Pharisee, he had a brilliant mind and such great potential, you know, to live the easy life with fame and fortune. That is what he could have had, he could have had people waiting on him, serving him. He was in line to receive honor and praise. And yet, look at where he is now. He was poor, a prisoner, a rejected man even by some of his closest friends. He often went hungry and depended on others for his food, he lacked medical care. He was headed toward soon death at the hands of his enemies. His life, by human standards, was falling apart!
Now, we have all known people who have had hard times. Some have due to some really bad choices, and others seem to because of no fault of their own. But that is usually the two ways someone ends up in hard times. But neither is true for Paul. Paul didn’t make bad choices to get where he was, nor was it all no fault of his own. He was where he was by choice in a sense, I mean God chose this for him but he also chose this.
Whatever extreme situations he found himself in, he was always quick to tell those who would listen, “It is worth it!” That is suffering was worth it. He didn’t just come through suffering and look back and see its worth, no, he knew in the middle of suffering that it was worth it, he could see God at work in it, he could see the gospel spread because of it, he could see righteous goals coming to fruition through his personal suffering, and so it was all worth it.
This is what we see this morning. How God works and what He sees as good is often times very counter to our fleshly human thinking. Our challenge is to conform our thoughts to be more like His. Our challenge is to see the world as He does and have great faith in the One who sees the beginning and the end and all that is in between. This is faith.
Now let’s see how this all works out in Paul’s life, and I pray that we will be encouraged to live by faith as we see how and why he did.
I mentioned that Paul chose this path for himself. He did choose this path, but only after God had appointed him to it. God didn’t drag Paul along kicking and screaming in ministry. Though God chose him for this, Paul dogmatically embraced it. Every day he chose to live this way for Christ. Every day he had a renewed commitment to continue on with Christ. In this sense, he willingly chose this way. He embraced his appointment.
After summarizing the gospel and the appearing of Christ, he says this in verse 11:
11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,
Paul was appointed to be a preacher and apostle and teacher of Christ for the sake of the gospel. Paul had received an incredible divine commission by Christ on the road to Damascus one day. Christ clearly called him to the task. Later the Lord told Ananias that Paul is “a Chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” That is what the Lord Himself told Ananias.
Paul’s appointment included preaching, apostleship, and teaching. A preacher is a proclaimer and a herald. We don’t talk about heralds much, but in days past a herald was one who publicly and loudly spoke a message to the people on behalf of the ruler. So a herald would publicly convey the message of a king. He was not, the herald was not to speak his own message, but only the message of the king. In our modern day this would be, I think, expository preaching. That is, taking God’s Word as it is and carefully proclaiming it to listeners.
Paul was also an apostle. The fact that Paul was an apostle points to his authority as a proclaimer of truth. An apostle is the title restricted to the close followers of Jesus which would include the twelve and Paul who was specially commissioned.
He was also a teacher. Teaching has to do with explaining the message. We should all be teachers in some sense, explaining the message of truth that we believe. These are the things that Paul was appointed to and the things that Paul embraced in his new life in Christ.
There were consequences for Paul’s obedience. We usually think of consequences for doing bad things, and there are, but there are also consequences for obedience. We get the wrong idea that obedience leads to an easy life. The truth is that obedience for the Christian can lead to things much harder than we can imagine. We see that with Paul. Now, let me be clear, there is a sense in which obedience leads to an easier life. Here is what I mean. Obedience does not necessarily make our circumstances light. For instance, Christians still get cancer, are still robbed, still have car troubles, still have troubled relationships, may have financial difficulties, and so on. Christians are not immune from such things, though some false teachers may try to convince them otherwise. The “easier” for the Christian comes in that we should be able, because of the strength of Christ in us and our great faith in Him, to handle circumstances much differently than the rest of the world does. We don’t have to be devastated by cancer, being robbed, car troubles, relational challenges, financial problems, and so on. We don’t have to be devastated because none of these things changes our sure foundation that is built on Christ Jesus. He is still on the throne, still interceding for us, still for us, still loves us, still is coming to get us, still preparing paradise for us, still promises that trials and tribulations are temporary and short, and that what is to come is real and will be perfect. So yes, hard things will happen, but we are equipped to handle them by faith much differently than those who are not in Christ.
So back to the point: Paul’s consequences for obedience led to very hard things, but in those he still had Christ. Christ who was his all, his pearl of great price, his treasure hidden in the field, his all in all. Hard with Christ is not the same as hard without Christ!
Paul drives this home when he says in verse 12 that his walk with Christ and his calling to be an instrument in His hand is why he suffers as he does. There is a direct correlation between his walk in obedience to Christ and his suffering. This blows the health and wealth and easy life teachers out of the water.
I want to read you a passage that may seem scary to us, but then I will follow it with an illustration from Charles Spurgeon that will help us put it into perspective. Here is a passage of hard things for Paul:
2 Corinthians 11
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Those are hard things. We may be frightened by them thinking, “Okay, is this going to be my life as a committed Christian?” But listen to how this works out. Spurgeon shares an illustration: “A man shall carry a bucket of water on his head and be very tired with the burden; but the same man when he dives into the sea shall have a thousand buckets on his head without perceiving their weight, because he is in the element and it entirely surrounds him. The duties of holiness are very irksome to men who are not in the element of holiness; but when once those men are case into the element of grace, then they bear ten times more, and feel no weight, but are refreshed thereby with joy unspeakable.”
Living in the realm of Christ and for His glory changes how we respond to hard.
1 Peter 4
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Now there is more.
2 Timothy 1
12 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.
That is faith exercised. Paul was not ashamed by his suffering. Suffering often leads to shame. Think about it. Why was he suffering? What was happening to him as he walked faithfully? People were attacking him. It is like they were saying, “Paul you are a fool, an idiot. Paul you don’t know what you say. Paul, your message is a lie and you are a liar for preaching it. Paul, you have become irrelevant among us, no one believes you or likes you. Paul, just go away, you are less than a person and deserving of pain and death.” All of this coming at him, all the people trying to put him down and write him off. At what point will a person start to believe this pounding of insult?
And then shame can set in. When everyone is beating on you verbally or otherwise, there becomes this pressure to conform to those around to be more accepted, more liked, one of the crowd, and shame is a part of that. We are shamed into conformity at times.
But Paul stands with Christ and for Christ and says, “I am not ashamed. Do what you will to me, I will not be ashamed of my Lord, of His calling on my life, nor of the gospel.” He says, “I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed.” He is not standing because of something trivial. He is not standing on something that he can take or leave, something unimportant. Nor is he standing on something that will betray him.
There are battles we fight all the time. In the workplace we can battle over questions like, “What is best practice in this case?” Or, “Should we sell this product or that product?” In the home we can take sides over what color to paint the house or which car to purchase. Kids argue over which superhero is stronger than the other – well, not just kids. We can take sides and we can argue and fight, but in the end there are not many things that really matter, such as those. And so if we lose those things, well then we lose, and we move on. They are trivial in a sense, at least trivial to standing for Christ and the gospel.
Paul staked his life on that of Christ, and that was never negotiable, no matter what hardship arose. If he was rejected, well so be it. If he was imprisoned, okay. If he was beaten, then he would take the beating. And even if killed, what was most important to him and what drove his life still didn’t change, and so he would not be ashamed, he would not cave in. He was convinced of the truthfulness of his Lord.
2 Timothy 1
12 and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.
He knew that God was powerful enough – that is what able means here, powerful enough. God was powerful enough to guard him, to guard his life. To guard was a military term used of a soldier on watch who would be accountable to guard what had been trusted to him. He was convinced of God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. And so Paul lived under the confidence of that umbrella.
The question for us is always, do we believe that God will keep His promises to us? Do we believe that glory to come will dwarf any trial in this life? Do we believe that God will work out all things for our good, making us more like Christ? Do we believe that God will always be faithful, always care for us, will always love us, will never reject us?
Do we believe 2 Corinthians 4:17?
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Are we willing to live in light of 2 Corinthians 4:18-19, which requires faith not sight?
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
What about 2 Corinthians 5:1-2? Do we believe what the Bible tells us about our future?
1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
What an incredible life we are called to live in Christ! What a relief and a joy that we are not on our own! What a privilege to live for Him and in Him. What an amazing truth that Christ would die for us, sinners, and stay with us, keep us today and forever!
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.