We are starting a new sermon series this evening. In 2021 our theme has been on hope in hard times. We have been talking about the hope God gives us as we go through trials, suffering, and hardships. Our focus and theme for 2022 is going to be about growing and strengthening our faith. I will have more to say about those things in future lessons as well as in the bulletins over the next few weeks. Our Sunday evening series that will carry us into the new year is about Faith In Uncertain Times which comes from the book of 2 Timothy. Paul’s second letter to Timothy is what we believe to be Paul’s final recorded words. He is a prison and it looks like Paul is not going to be released from this prison but die for the cause of Christ. Paul is writing to Timothy in these difficult and uncertain times about how to have faith and press forward. It is unfortunate that there is a strong belief that 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are books that are only good for preachers and shepherds. But this is really a mistake because these books are more practical than that. Second Timothy teaches how to endure as God’s servant (chapter 1), reveals pictures of God’s servant (chapter 2), the challenges of being God’s servant (chapter 3), and the proclamation God’s servant makes (chapter 4). Let’s read the first eight verses of 2 Timothy 1 and listen to how Paul is stirring up the faith of Timothy.
Uphold the Legacy of Sincere Faith (1:3-5)
You will notice how Paul begins by describing himself to Timothy. He is an apostle by the will of God, which is certainly something that Timothy would have known. But notice the rest of the description in verse 1. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, for the sake of the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” Paul is already speaking about the basis of his faith and work as an apostle of Jesus. It is for the promise of life in Jesus. Paul continues by calling Timothy his dearly loved son. It is clear that Paul and Timothy had a very close relationship. Paul tells Timothy in this letter that he remembers Timothy in his prayers day and night as remembers Timothy’s tears. We do not know what Timothy is going through. But Paul is praying for Timothy and remembers Timothy’s tears. So what is Paul going to tell Timothy to bolster his faith?
Paul begins by recounting the faith of Timothy’s family. Listen to encouragement Paul gives. “I recall your sincere faith.” Timothy, I know you have a sincere faith. It is a sincere faith that lived in your grandmother and in your mother. I am convinced that this same sincere faith is in you also. You have a sincere faith and a legacy of sincere faith to uphold. First, what a blessings to have a sincere faith modeled in your life from your parents and grandparents. I hope that we can appreciate that if we had that modeled for us, what a great benefit that gave us for our own faith journey with God. If you did not have that modeled for you, please think about what a great gift you can give to your children and grandchildren by letting them see a sincere faith in you. Let them see sincere faith. Not a “I go to church faith” or “I am a moral person” faith. Let them see a faith that is sincere and real. Let them see that you have the same faith on Monday through Saturday that is displayed on Sunday. The power of a sincere faith is amazing to future generations. But I also want us to hear what Paul is saying when you are struggling. You have a sincere faith. Paul is saying this to Timothy to encourage him. What does Paul want to encourage Timothy to do with his sincere faith?
Use Your Gifts (1:6-7)
It is interesting to think about what Paul says to Timothy in verse 6. Rekindle the gift of God that is in you. Fan into flame the gift of God. We do not know what gift Paul may be referring to. So I do not want to get lost in that. Rather, I want us to see Paul wanting Timothy to not bury his gift out of fear or timidity, but to use the gift he has. To put this another way, you have what you need to continue in the faith. Use the gifts that have been given to you by God. Do not be afraid to use the things that God has given to you.
Fanning into flame is a powerful picture because God is always calling for his people to be zealous for him. God does not want a lukewarm faith. You may remember Jesus’ words to the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation, condemning the church for being lukewarm in their devotion to him. Do not let your flame go out. Use your gifts and serve the Lord. Here is what is interesting. Fear can be a strong reason that our flame goes out. Fear can dampen our devotion and cause us to no longer use the gifts given to us in a way of glorifying God.
So Paul encourages Timothy in verse 7. God has not given us a spirit of fear. God has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-control. You have the power, love, and discipline you need from God. You have what you need. I hope you will hear that. Sometimes we do not serve and we allow our faith to wane because we think we do not have what we need. We think we are insufficient. Here is the truth: in ourselves we are insufficient. If the power of serving God comes from my own flesh, then we are insufficient. But Paul is telling us that we have what we need from God to use our gifts for him. Paul is calling us to be courageous, but not from ourselves, but from God’s grace. Or to use Paul’s words to the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) You have God, you have faith, and you have gifts. Do not be afraid. You have been enabled to do more for the Lord. I want us to think about this from two perspectives. The first perspective is here as the church in West Palm Beach. What has God given you the faith, power, love, and discipline to do for him here? The second perspective is a kingdom view. What had God given you the faith, power, love, and discipline to do for him in God’s global kingdom?
I want us to think about the parable of the talents for a moment. Do you remember what the person with one talent said when it was time to give an account for what they had done with what the master had given? He said, “I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25). Paul wants Timothy to not step back, but to step up and fan the flame.
Not Ashamed (1:8)
So what keeps us from having this kind of faith? Look at verse 8. “So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner” (1:8 CSB). Let us consider what Paul said as reasons we might pull back in our faith and not use our gifts. There are two reasons given. First, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Why do we not take a stand with our faith? Why do we shrink back in a spirit of fear? Why do we not use our gifts for the glory of God? Paul says because we are ashamed of the message about Jesus. We are ashamed of Jesus. Are we ashamed to talk to our friends? Are we ashamed to talk to the people we know? Are we ashamed to talk to people we do not know? Are we ashamed to say anything at all?
Have you ever experienced when someone has acted ashamed of knowing you or being with you? Did you have that happen in school where you thought you were friends with someone or close to somebody only to have them pretend that they did not know you in other circumstances? They were around some other groups of friends and now they were too popular to be seen with you. They were ashamed of you and ashamed of the relationship that you had with them. Can you imagine if we have done this to our Lord and Savior? Can you imagine that there would be times when we are ashamed to speak about him or identify with him because of who we are around? Who has the right to be ashamed? Should we be ashamed of Jesus or should he be ashamed of us? But listen to what the scriptures say about Jesus and us:
So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11 NIV)
He should be ashamed of us. But he is not. We have no reason to be ashamed of him. But often we are. Jesus also said that whoever is ashamed of him and his words, Jesus himself will be ashamed of them in the final day (Mark 8:38). Why did Peter deny the Lord? Peter denied the Lord because he was ashamed as he was placed in a fearful circumstance. Do not be ashamed of the one who has saved you even if the outcome of our faith will cause problems.
Second, Paul tells Timothy to not be ashamed of him in verse 8. Why would Timothy be ashamed of Paul? Paul is in prison. Paul is being treated like a criminal. Would you say that you know Paul and are close friends with Paul to a bunch of people who know that Paul is in jail for serving the Lord? Here is the other sad thing about our fears. It will cause us to even be ashamed of each other. We will be ashamed that they stood strong in the faith. We will be ashamed that they love the Lord as much as they did. We will be ashamed that they would not break in worshiping God and serving God. Will we turn against each other and be ashamed of each other out of fear? Paul tells Timothy from his prison to not be ashamed of him.
Rather than being ashamed, Paul says to have the courage to share in the suffering. Join in the suffering that will happen to those who are not ashamed of Jesus and not ashamed of Jesus’ followers. Stand on your faith. Do not shrink back. Fan the flame of the gifts God has given you. Don’t be ashamed but embrace what will happen to you for making your life stand on the love and hope of Jesus. Friends, we live in a shame culture. People will shame you for saying things and doing things that are deemed unacceptable in our culture. You can be shamed to the point of be cancelled, ostracized, and maligned. We can be afraid of the shaming that our culture can heap on us. But do not be ashamed of Jesus and do not be ashamed of your fellow servants of God who are trying to live the gospel in their lives. You have not been given a spirit of fear. You have been given a spirit of power, love, and discipline.