Following Those Who Follow Christ: Part 2

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We began looking last week at this idea of being a follower of Christ as our aim in life, and how sometimes this means following others who are following Christ. If Joe is following hard after Christ in the way he passionately serves widows and orphans, then let’s take note of that and follow him in that. If Linda is following hard after Christ as she reaches out to the hungry, let’s follower her in that. As we observe people around us who are passionate about the Lord in various ways, let’s jump in as well. We can follow others who are following Christ. Timothy had Paul in his life, and as a result he could observe Paul’s life, and as long as Paul was being faithful in his service, Timothy could do as Paul did.

God is gracious to put other believers in our lives who set good examples for us. You can probably think of people like that in your life, either now or in the past. Some people may even say that about you.

I want us to look at and consider ways that Timothy followed Paul. This is really good stuff. As I read this I think, “Lord, help me to be such an example to others, Lord help us all to be such an example to others, help us to live each moment for your glory, that we can not only glorify you, but that we can influence others to glorify you more.” And so I am thankful for Paul and for the example he has set for us.

Last week we looked at the first part of verse 10, where Paul says: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life.” Now let’s continue through this verse. Next he says “my faith.” “You, however, have followed…my faith.”

Faith here is to have complete confidence and trust in God. Paul is saying, “Timothy, you have followed my complete confidence and trust in God.” Isn’t that exceptional? Really, isn’t it? I look at Paul’s life in the pages of Scripture and just think, what stirring faith he had! His life was not ordinary.

He said of himself in 2 Corinthians 11 that he had “far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 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; 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; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

These are not ordinary occurrences for any man. Maybe we will face one such event in our lifetimes, but all of them? Do you ever pray for greater faith? Maybe his faith was so great because he had so many unbelievable circumstances from God that were designed to bring Him in closer to God, to cause him to rely and depend fully on God. Instance after instance of tests, of growth, of difficulties and of trials. With each testing what was being tested? His faith. And as his faith is tested and he believes in the power and goodness and wisdom of his God, then his faith grows and grows even more.

His trials didn’t bring him to doubt God, but to trust more in God, to rely on God more. He wasn’t going to run from God, but toward God, and so in each event he grew.

Timothy got to observe this some up close and some from a distance because he was Paul’s friend. I have been around some of you who have displayed great faith before my eyes. Some of you have been an example for me to follow. I have witnessed some with great illness who have trusted fully in God, some who have lost loved ones who have trusted fully in God’s love, some who have faced just worldly dilemma, challenges, and have believed in God’s wisdom. These acts of faith in a variety of circumstances, seeing this is encouraging and is even faith building by observation.

It’s like, “If he can trust in difficult times, well it must be possible for me too. If God can carry him through, then surely He can carry me as well.” Wouldn’t it be great for others to grow simply by watching your faithfulness?

This is not just a Paul and Timothy thing, that is that our faith grows and proves it is genuine through trials. Peter also speaks of this very thing in 1 Peter.

1 Peter 1
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Do your trials build your faith? If so, Peter indicates here that it is genuine faith. Do your circumstances drive you to God? If so, rejoice in them. There is nothing greater than a deep faith and a close walk with God. He may keep you close with challenges in life. If so, run to Him, never away from Him. Know His comfort, feel His care, rejoice in His presence with you!

Next Paul mentions patience. Patience here is: “a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune, and without complaint or irritation.” (Source: J.P. Loud and E.A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament)

To have this kind of patience is a miracle from God. I mean, really, think about this. This is facing, mostly difficult people, although it could be circumstances too. People provoking you, testing you, treating you badly for any reason, pressing you, and through it all the patient one does not complain nor is he irritated. This kind of patience is a work of God in people’s lives.

Christ modeled this tremendously for us. I want to read from Luke 22:24-30 and then take a few minutes for us to consider what patience looks like in real life.

Luke 22
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus is nearing the end of His earthly ministry. The end for Him meant severe suffering and He knew it. This suffering would include personal savage attacks from His earthly enemies. It will mean betrayal and abandonment from dear loved ones into whom He had poured His life every day for three years. The physical pain will be more than we can possibly imagine: beatings just shy of death, His beard plucked out, a crown of thorns pressed into His scalp, exhaustion due to the pain and loss of blood, nails through His hands and feet, difficulty breathing from the cross, extreme dehydration from fluid loss, and more. The test of all tests, more than any human had endured before, was on His doorstep and He knew it. And while these trials will be beyond comparison, the worst is perhaps the knowledge and eventual instance when God the Father turns His back on Him as His full wrath is poured out on Jesus.

Never before had there been an instance where the Father and the Son had not been in full, satisfying, contented, joyful fellowship. Their relationship was the perfect one (John 17:11). Never had sin come between them, not even once. Sin was about to divide them. The day was approaching very quickly when sin would separate them. Not Jesus’ sin, for He alone was sinless, but the disciples’ sin, our sin, yours and mine committed just this morning, would interrupt perfect harmony and it would be replaced by awful rage. A day of punishment was fast approaching and it would fall on Jesus.

Just prior to Luke 22:24-30, Jesus was preparing His disciples for this event. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Table for His followers. He provided a way for them to remember what would happen and to anticipate His coming again. He was tenderly caring for them in the midst of their bickering, patiently teaching in a way only He could. During this time Jesus also made a horrific announcement. One of the most beloved of His friends would willingly participate in His betrayal. This announcement caused a troubling stir among His friends. They began questioning each other and possibly themselves as to who it could be. The subject at the table had been Jesus’ upcoming betrayal and death, two imminent occurrences.

But in verse 24 there is a shift, which turned the conversation from the most dreaded coming event that any person would ever have to endure into a question concerning which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. Did they not hear what Jesus had been saying? Did they not care about what would soon happen? Could they not, this one night, put off selfishness and think of another? How could the conversation take this turn from the upcoming suffering of the Messiah to “Will I be seen as great?” This seems like a heartless, cold conversational turn. How would we respond to such indifference?

How did Jesus handle this? How did He respond to their callousness? It is in Jesus’ response where we find an incredible act of patience regarding His followers. As the soon to be sufferer, as the one about to face His supreme and most demanding, world altering set of circumstances, as one who is on the eve of facing the wrath of the all-powerful, all-mighty God, all alone, how does He respond to their seemingly petty and self-centered discussion?

He responds with patience, boundless patient words and actions. He speaks to them in the manner in which He so often responds to us today from His Word: in a tender, thoughtful, and helpful manner specifically applicable for them. He does not respond in a way that may seem commensurate with their self-centered discussion. He does not even choose to ignore them, giving them a “deserved” cold shoulder. He instead joins with them, moves toward them, teaches them regarding their questions and gives them insight into what they will need to know when He is gone – about Himself and their own hearts. He teaches them about servant leadership. His patience can also be astounding in that the disciples had earlier argued over this exact issue of greatness surrounding themselves, and Jesus at that time also directed them regarding humility and servant leadership (Luke 9:46-48). He didn’t snap back with “Can’t you remember? We already discussed this!” It is here where we witness the patient one. It is here where we can stand in awe of His love and attention. It is here where we are to learn how to be patient with others in all circumstances regardless of how they conduct themselves.

Jesus did not stand and say, “Wait, have you not all understood what I have been saying?” “Do you not understand the position I am in and what I’m about to face?” “Can you only think about yourselves while I am facing the most tragic suffering that one could ever endure?” “Do you not care at all about my immediate future?” He did not demand that each of them focus on His problems. He did not belittle or attack them for thinking of less important things or themselves. He did not become impatient because they forgot Him and His pain. He met them where they were and led them to a better place, no matter how hard His life was or was about to be. He went where they wanted to go conversationally, not insisting that they focus on what would be His imminent pain and death. This is patience.

Jesus modeled patience, Paul modeled patience, Timothy followed in Paul’s footsteps regarding patience. In Christ, by the power of the Spirit of God, we too can live patiently with one another.

Just two more for today. Next Paul mentions love. Because Christ is loving, so should all of His servants be loving. Ephesians 5:2 says this to us: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This love is fully lacking is selfishness. It is greater than even faith, as we see in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Love is so a part of who the Christian is to be that John said this in 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Love is giving to another, love is living for another, love is putting off oneself in favor of another, love cares, love is concerned, love is not just a feeling but an action, love says, “I am here for you, I am with you, I will walk by you.” These are all the things that God communicates to us. It is amazing. And these are all the things we are to communicate to each other. Is there someone that you are unwilling to love in this self-sacrificing way? Is there someone that you are unwilling to pursue in Christ? If so, that is a very serious matter with God. Love is not optional, nor is it occasional. Love has nothing to do with how we are treated, only how we choose to treat others. Do you believe that God has loved you even though you are a terrible sinner? Do you believe that? If so, what right do any of us have to withhold love from another person? We have no such right, we are to love.

Lastly Paul says “my steadfastness.” Timothy followed Paul’s steadfastness. This is a type of perseverance. It is an unwillingness to give up when things get tough. This is endurance. Enduring while being afflicted, enduring during hard times, enduring when in distress. This too is a matter of trusting God. Can God carry us through, did He carry Paul through? Yes, and He is no less with us. This does not mean things will get easy, only that we don’t endure alone. We don’t endure in our strength. No, we have the power of God in us and we can remain steadfast.

Each of these four characteristics are those that require that we take our focus off of ourselves, put aside our own selfish desires and wants, and focus on Christ who enables us to respond well to others. There is freedom in this kind of living. There is freedom in not having to try to constantly get more for ourselves, or make ourselves look good, but instead to do what is good and best for others in the name of Christ. Paul found such freedom, Timothy followed in his path, and now it is our turn to walk in such a tremendous way.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you too can live for Him. He is a loving Savior, an irreplaceable friend, a strong Lord ready to lead you as you recognize your weakness and call upon Him. Will you call upon Him for your help?

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,