Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
October 6, 2013, Pentecost XX
Lamentations 3:19-26, Psalm 37:1-19, II Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
From the Old Testament:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
From the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy:
Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Over the years, I am sure all of us have heard someone, perhaps a preacher, say that we should witness our Christian faith. This could be as simple as: going to church; having a smile on your face; always having a positive attitude. It could also be verbally sharing your faith with another person. That might take a little more courage. Sometimes it’s the person who has had a “born again” experience that has a compelling desire and courageous enthusiasm to share his faith and experience with everyone he meets. However, if the person is too aggressive, it could have the opposite effect. The question is: Are we too afraid or are we comfortable to witness our Christian faith with other people?
Yes, it is important that we believe in God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but God also calls all of us to share our faith with others. Why is this so difficult? Perhaps we are afraid of what people might think of us. Perhaps we are afraid that if they were to ask us questions, we may not be able to answer them, so let’s just avoid this whole scenario. We lack the courage to face the unknown.
Unbelief and uncertainty causes us to look at God through our circumstances, and this creates hopelessness and fear; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God, and this gives us hope. Our circumstances change, and so do our feelings about them, but God is always good, loving, merciful, and kind, and He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
In these difficult days, it is important that we stand true to Christ and have courageous enthusiasm and not be ashamed. When a church or church organization goes liberal, it usually starts with a weakening of their leaders’ convictions about the Word of God.
We forget that God is always with us; that He will give us the words, if we only trust Him. We may look at the “born again” person with a questioning eye, but we may also admire and envy his self-confidence and courageous enthusiasm.
There was an advertisement that appeared in a London newspaper and thousands of men responded! It read: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, and safe return doubtful.” This advertisement was signed by the noted Arctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and that made all the difference.
If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: “Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.”
Timothy was one young man who responded to Christ’s call to help build His church. He was one of the Apostle Paul’s special assistants. Along with Titus, Timothy tackled some of the tough assignments in the churches that Paul had founded. Timothy was brought up in a religious home (2 Tim. 1:5) and had been led to faith in Christ by Paul himself. This is why Paul called Timothy “my own [genuine] son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2).
Timothy was born of mixed parentage: his mother was a Jew, and his father a Greek. He was so devoted to Christ that his local church leaders recommended him to Paul, and Paul added him to his “missionary staff” (Acts 16:1-5). Paul often reminded Timothy that he was chosen for this ministry (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). Timothy was faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17) and had a deep concern for God’s people (Phil. 2:20-22).
When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was a prisoner in Rome and was facing certain death (2 Tim. 4:6). For one reason or another, almost all of Paul’s associates in the ministry were gone and only Luke, the physician, was at the apostle’s side to assist him (2 Tim. 4:11).
But Paul’s great concern was not for himself; it was for Timothy and the success of the Gospel ministry. As in his First Letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged his beloved colleague to be faithful. As we have learned, Timothy was timid, suffered from physical ailments, and was tempted to let other people take advantage of him and not assert his authority as a pastor.
Paul sent Tychicus to replace Timothy at Ephesus so that Timothy might join Paul at Rome (2 Tim. 4:9). God would soon move Paul off the scene, and Timothy would take his place and continue to give spiritual leadership to the churches. It would not be an easy task, but Timothy could succeed with the Lord’s help.
The ministry of the Gospel is no place for a “timid soul” who lacks enthusiasm. In fact, courageous enthusiasm is essential for success in any kind of work. Paul compared this attitude to stirring up a fire into full flame (2 Tim. 1:6). We must not conclude that Timothy was backslidden or lacked spiritual fire. Rather, Paul was encouraging his associate to keep the fire burning brightly so that it might generate spiritual power in his life.
As Paul’s life drew to a close, he realized in a deeper way how dear Timothy was to him. Paul’s own circumstances were difficult, and yet he was greatly encouraged. For one thing he was Christ’s ambassador (“apostle”); and he knew that his Master would care for him. Whatever happened to him was in the hands of God, so there was no need to fear. Furthermore, Paul had “the promise of life” in Jesus Christ, and Christ had defeated death (2 Tim. 1:10). No wonder Paul was able to extend to Timothy “grace, mercy, and peace.”
Paul knew Timothy’s weaknesses and problems, but was able to pray definitely and with a real burden on his heart. His praying was not routine; it was done with compassion and concern. Knowing that he would soon die, Paul was anxious that Timothy join him at Rome for those last days of fellowship and ministry.
Paul had known God from his earliest years. His ancestors had given him the orthodox Jewish faith. But when he met Jesus Christ, Paul realized that his Jewish faith was but preparation for the fulfillment Christ gave him in Christianity. He realized that Jesus was the Messiah!
Paul was sure that Timothy’s faith was genuine, and that this faith would see him through in spite of the troubles he was facing. He had watched Timothy’s life and service during those years they were together. Timothy’s heritage was a great one; for he was reared in a godly home, trained by a wonderful apostle, and given marvelous opportunities for serving the Lord.
Paul reminded Timothy of the time God called him into service and the local church ordained him. Paul had laid his hands on Timothy (1 Tim. 4:14). Through Paul, God had imparted to Timothy the spiritual gift he needed for his ministry.
It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to serve God, and through Him we can overcome fear and weakness. The Holy Spirit gives us power for witness and for service (Acts 1:8). It is futile for us to try to serve God without the power of the Holy Spirit. Talent, training, and experience cannot take the place of the power of the Spirit.
Timothy did not need any new spiritual ingredients in his life; all he had to do was “stir up” what he already had. The Holy Spirit does not leave us when we fail (John 14:16); but He cannot fill us, empower us, and use us if we neglect our spiritual lives.
Timothy had every reason to be encouraged and to have courageous enthusiasm in his ministry. Paul loved him and prayed for him. His experiences in life had been preparation for his ministry, and Paul was confident of the genuineness of Timothy’s faith.
God has called us by His grace. We are part of a great eternal plan that God determines “before the world began.” God knows the end from the beginning. He has purposes for His people to accomplish for His glory. It is His purposes that we are to fulfill. All of this grace was given to us in Jesus Christ. We could not earn it; we did not merit it. This is the grace of God!
When we are timid it is because we are afraid. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of suffering and possible death? Probably not. But Paul himself was facing death as he dictated this second letter to Timothy. Jesus Christ has defeated our last enemy, death! By His own death and resurrection, Christ has “abolished death.” “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55)
Paul was confident in Christ. Paul was not ashamed. Why? Because he knew that Christ was faithful and would keep him. Salvation is not the result of believing certain doctrines, though doctrines are important. A sinner is saved because he believes in Jesus Christ the Saviour.
As we come to His most Sacred Table, let us come with courageous enthusiasm and conviction: that the bread and wine be to you witnesses and signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve; Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.