For I Know Whom I Have Believed
2 Timothy 1:1-14
October 3, 2010
by Anita Wansley
When I was a little girl, I loved to sit with my grandma during church. Now in my home church all the older ladies sat on one side of the sanctuary, and all the old men sat on the other side. There were probably two or three pews of older ladies that sat with my grandma. She didn’t bring a bag full of snacks and toys. No, the only toys would be a set of tricky dogs and the only snack was a pack of chicklets. I remember the sights and sounds. The sights were my grandma twiddling her thumbs through the entire service as she sat intently listening to the sermon. She was the busiest body, and I think she couldn’t fathom having idle hands. I also remember her light blue Sunday dress and her black Sunday shoes that had a big bump in the side where her bunions were. Don’t we as kids remember the oddest things?
The sounds were the best, though, and this scripture reminded me of them. The hymn we sang this morning came from the scripture today, and when I read verse 12, I thought of hearing those old ladies sing that chorus. Their voices hit those notes, and I had to think of all that these dear women of faith had endured in their lives. This song had meaning to them. They had felt God’s grace. They knew His provision. They experienced his mercy.
This passage is from the second letter that Paul wrote to Timothy, his young student, his follower. Matt’s sermon last Sunday came from 1 Timothy, and this letter follows about 5 years later. Paul is in Rome, in prison, and knowing that his life is coming to an end. Some commentaries suggest that Paul is lonely. Many followers left him because of the shame of having their leader in prison. Having Jesus die such a shameful death as death on the cross and now having Paul in chains was too much for some. There was a real issue of being ashamed of the gospel and people questioning what it was they were following.
These words from Paul are to Timothy, a gifted teacher, evangelist, pastor. Timothy had a clear ministry before him. We all have a ministry before us. Whether it is literally working with the church in ministry such as teaching, preaching, leading, or within our daily lives raising children, relating to co-workers, or doing our vocation with integrity we all have a ministry to carry out. These words are for us today!
Let’s begin with verse 5:
Verse 5: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am now persuaded, now lives in you also”
Paul is recalling Timothy’s rich heritage of faith. Timothy had the gift of a mother and grandmother that believed. His mother was a Jew who became a believer. But his father was a Hellenistic Greek, an unbeliever. In those days, if the parents were of different faith, the mother and children would have gone with the father’s faith. Timothy’s mother did not. She stood courageously on her Christian faith and brought up Timothy to be a believer. It would seem to me that this isn’t a perfect little believing family where it would have seemed easy to be a believer. It seems that there were purposeful choices to follow Christ that may have carried with them some sacrifice. What a rich heritage of faith!
It seems that sometimes folks get caught up in comparing our upbringings. Some might lament the fact that their parents were not believers or that they weren’t brought up with church being a part of our lives. There might be the temptation to say, “Well, I didn’t grow up that way, so how can I be as strong a Christian as this other person who grew up in church every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night?” Oh, Timothy’s experience surely must have not been so neat. There may have been conflict over faith in his family. I am thinking there may have been some faith arguments, some heated fellowship over faith and choices. But his mother heard God’s call and followed. Timothy received the benefit of that choice and is reaping the rich heritage of faith that had been passed to him.
Verse 6 goes on to begin with, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God”
David Stevens in his commentary from the Adult Bible study, our SS lessons, says: “When Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of God that is within him, it is not that Timothy’s faith is dying. Rather faith by its nature is like a fire: its embers require stoking to receive it fully.”
In other words, faith is a living thing. Timothy’s faith may have been born out of his heritage of faith, but it is a burning ember that needs to be stoked. He can’t take this heritage for granted. He first needs to claim his salvation…it is not inherited but each of us choose it. Then it needs to have some action put into it so it burns bright.
This reminds me of a show we watched a couple of weeks ago. This couple was stuck out on the Alaska wilderness. These survival shows always intrigue me and make me laugh…how much of a test is it really with a camera crew with you all the time? I’m still glued to them, ready to see how they survive. Anyway, they had built a fire but had to keep hiking through snow a long way. They didn’t want to have to start a fire again…I guess no matches. The husband took a piece of some particular kind of bark, carved out the inside and placed a smoldering coal in it. He carried all the heavy backpack equipment, and the wife’s job was to carry this bark in her hands, protecting it from falling into the wet snow. There was all kinds of drama when she fell into a wet marsh, but they finally made it to their place to rest for the night and build their fire. All they had to do was clear a place, gather wood, place the coal, and then begin to fan the flame until it burned huge, bright, and warm.
Aren’t we like that in our own lives and ministries? Our faith heritage is like that coal in the bark. We have it within us and sometimes even carry it along, protecting it. But in order for it to burn and have flame we must do something. We must fan it into flame. We must make choices and actions that stoke our faith. Paul referred to Timothy’s heritage and then said, “for this reason I remind you to fan the flame.” We who have a faith heritage have some work to do in order to grow our faith, to build a flame for others to see, to carry on the ministry that is before us. You know every prayer, every Sunday school class, every WNBS, every spiritual conversation, every scripture read, every courageous step of faith fans this flame even more.
Verse 7: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”
In this work that is to be done in order to fan the flame, Paul gives Timothy this powerful promise/reminder.
This has always been a powerful faith promise to me. But I think I didn’t really hear it before. I think I heard it as “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of LOVE and of POWER!” That sounds good, doesn’t it? God didn’t give us fear, but love and power. Love is a good thing, power is useful!! Oh, but the verse isn’t finished. God didn’t give us fear, but a spirit of lover, power, and SELF-DISCIPLINE. At first glance that sounds hard. I like the love and power, but I am not sure of the self-discipline.
Other translations are very similar on the fear, love, and power, but many words are given for this term self-discipline: self-control, good judgment, sound mind, sobriety, wise discretion.
William Barclay in his commentary looks at this concept of self-discipline: “The Greek is hard to translate, but it alludes to the control of oneself in the face of panic or of passion. Christ alone can give us that self-mastery that keeps us from being swept away or running away.”
That is some self-discipline we all could use! We are faced with situations of panic and situations we feel passionate about all the time. Christ can give us the spirit of self-control in order to face those situations. Instead of us acting out of fear and instinct, we can face those situations with good judgment, wise discretion.
Every day we can face what is before us without fear. We can face difficult financial situations, difficult children, difficult relationships, difficult circumstances without fear. You know that fear that keeps us trapped into believing the relationship or circumstance will never change. You know that fear that has us believing there is no hope. You know that fear that keeps us bound up so that we give up and do nothing.
No, that spirit of fear is not from God. Rather, God gives us the spirit of love, power, and self-discipline. He gives us the self-control not to panic. He gives us love when our love runs out. He gives us the power to see beyond the obvious and know that he is able to do more than we can imagine.
Verse 8: “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.”
You see how Paul writes…he connects everything. Timothy, you have a rich heritage, so fan into flame this faith, for God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-discipline, and now….so do not be ashamed.
One morning a week or so ago when I started reading and preparing for this sermon, I went to McDonalds and had my diet coke, spread out my materials, and started reading. I had my Bible sitting there along with other books and papers. I realized I kept putting papers on my Bible, sort of on purpose because I wasn’t sure I was ready to launch into a discussion with someone as to what I was doing. I am not exactly the typical Southern preacher. I remember the moment when it hit me that this verse was talking to me in that particular moment. I didn’t run the risk of going to jail for preparing a sermon. I only ran the risk of an uncomfortable conversation or questioning look.
On the other hand, I imagine that Paul had good reason to write to Timothy about not being ashamed. I imagine conversation and actions that took place to give Paul reason to believe that Timothy might have been falling into the “being ashamed” category. Did it make it back to Paul that Timothy had a conversation with someone saying, “Man, you know I love Jesus and you know that Paul is my mentor, but good grief, Jesus died on the cross and now Paul is in prison, probably going to be put to death. What is going on here??? What are people going to start saying about me???” Maybe his confidence in the cause was shaken.
David Stevens in his Bible study writes, “Paul encourages Timothy to disregard the social shame that goes with being a Christian. God is the cultural standard and ‘court of opinion’ by which we evaluate our character.”
These are strong words for us as well. In whatever ministry we are a part of, whether at home with our children or leading a youth activity or relating to persons in need or preparing a SS lesson or doing our vocation with Christian standards, or standing up to our peers, following the way of Christ makes us different. Following the footsteps of Christ will not be the easy path. Following the footsteps of Christ will lead to being uncomfortable with the social norms of this day. Following the footsteps of Christ will lead to suffering. If we are feeling comfortable, then we might need to examine how closely we are really following the footsteps of Christ.
Verse 12: “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 able to guard what I entrusted to him for that day”
Oh, this powerful verse! Here is Paul, sitting in jail, knowing his death is coming soon, being deserted by so many of his friends. He just recounted the gospel message in verses 9-11. He knows why he is suffering and yet he makes this powerful proclamation. He knows who he believes, and is convinced that God is able to guard what he entrusts to Him.
William Barclay points out, “We must always remember that Paul does not say that he knew WHAT he believed, but rather WHOM he believed. His certainty did not come from the intellectual knowledge of a creed or theology; it came from a personal knowledge of God. He knew God intimately, he knew his love, his power. To Paul it was inconceivable that God could fail him.”
This reminds me of the popular song on KLOVE by Jason Grey that says
“it ought be more like falling in love
than something to believe in.
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance”
Our faith in ministering to others must be out of whom we believe in, not merely what we believe in. The “what” matters, but is not what is convincing. Paul’s faith is about the relationship he has with Christ. This faith is what is providing the comfort, motivation, and passion to keep Paul going in spite of his circumstances. He is totally sure that God he adores and knows is guarding what he has given to him to keep.
Oh, if we can entrust to God what is on our hearts, what is worrying us, what is not making sense, what is discouraging us, what is dangerous to us, what is hurting us. God will guard it, not with a passive action, but with a never-ending protection and care. May we be able to claim this verse with the same conviction as Paul had.
Verse 14: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
It seems that after Paul clarifies with Timothy the attitude that is needed and he wants to pass on, he then gives instruction. He seems to encourage Timothy with all that God has given him. Now he is reminding Timothy of his call.
William Barclay states, “God puts His trust in us….when He wants something done he has to find some instrument to do His work.”
God had work for Timothy to do. He had people who needed to hear His message. He needed Timothy to be his voice, his hands, his feet.
Ahhhhh…Isn’t this a fascinating thought? When God needs someone to teach, someone to provide comfort, someone to preach, someone to bring healing, someone to lead, someone to nurture a child, he entrusts us with his work. He has made a good deposit in us and also gives us the Holy Spirit to help us. We have what we need to in order to serve and do His work.
We are not able to do our ministry because we are holy or great, but we are a changed people. We have the saving power of the gospel, and that makes us a changed people. We, like Timothy, have our ministry to do everyday. We have what God has called us to do for him. We have our students to teach, we have our machines to weld, we have our numbers to crunch, we have our homework to do, we have our friends to care for, we have our tears to wipe. We do this being convinced of the one for whom we do these things. We do this being convinced of who has us in his hands, and we are not ashamed, but rather we are filled with love, power, and self-discipline.