Paul’s young understudy had proven a faithful, diligent partner, assistant and agent for the aging apostle – his “dear son” in this letter, his “true son in the faith” in his earlier letter (2 Tim. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2 NIV). About his esteem for his dedicated associate, Paul wrote: “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Phil. 2:20-22). Timothy’s heart and soul were committed to God and to His people, the objects and beneficiaries of his service. He was true to his spiritual heritage; both his mother and grandmother were women of strong faith, who had taught him well by both precept and example. Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16:1) and possibly not a believer. Paul never mentions that father’s influence on this dedicated young man, but in Paul himself Timothy had a spiritual father who “night and day ... constantly” remembered him in his prayers. This faithful son learned well from the instruction and example of his spiritual father. It was truly “like father, like son.”
SPIRIT OF POWER
In this second letter, Paul sought to stimulate this timid soul, and today the Holy Spirit intends it for our instruction as well: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 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, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace” (1:6-9).
That Timothy was gifted was evident to the elders of the local church; they had already recognized it and, together with Paul, had commended him to God’s work (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). His gift may have become a low-burning “pilot light” in his soul that needed to be “fanned into flame” by practice and exercise, and made available to the flow of the Spirit in order to be fruitful. Though naturally shy, maybe even hesitant, Paul reminded Timothy that his new-born nature as God’s child was one “of power, of love and of self-discipline” – the nature and personality of God alive and active in His child.
Today, we too ought not to be shy regarding God’s work and its challenges, nor afraid to testify for our Lord, nor to fear the enemy and his furious opposition, nor to identify with His messengers. Like Paul, we ought not to be ashamed to spread the message, which is “the power of God” (Rom. 1:16), but rather willing to brave the suffering and the opposition to God through that very “power of God” (1:8). The Spirit of God Himself lives within us. Can any power resist or overcome Him?
Of Stephen, “a man full of God’s grace and power,” we read that his opponents “could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” (Acts 6:10). They could martyr him, but could not suppress his powerful spirit. Even as he was dying he said, “Look … I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God … Lord Jesus, receive my spirit … Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54-60).
BIGGER THAN TIME AND DEATH
Paul challenged Timothy’s courage by reminding him of two awesome dimensions of our message: “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time … revealed through … our Savior … who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light” (1:9-10). First, as we proclaim the gospel, we share in the most amazing enterprise ever: God – by His power, purpose (Eph. 1:11), and grace – saved us and called us to a holy life, lived out in His energy! Further, this gospel is about the most life-transforming, life-assuring feat ever accomplished: Jesus Christ has abolished death, eliminating the Ultimate Threat!
Paul said this about God’s message: “Do not be ashamed … I am suffering … yet I am not ashamed” (1:8,12). We’ll suffer for this message; it’s not popular in spite of its awesome power and promise. This ministry – that is bigger than time and a project of omnipotent good will and beneficent planning – does bring suffering, but never shame. It’s worth it. We can trust God with everything. What a powerful stimulus for serving Christ in the midst of a hostile society!
But not all stay true to the truth nor to those who bear it. So Paul told Timothy that it is imperative that “you then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (1:13-2:2). And today God wants us to get the trans-generational process rolling that will perpetuate the message far into this 21st century.
Then Paul wrote, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead” (2:8), another reminder that our message and mission are founded immutably on that life-affirming rock of truth that Jesus has cancelled death; therefore we should not be timid nor ashamed, but should stay the course for the good of those to come. They may imprison the messenger but they can never chain the message. Yes, it’s all about the message! Do your utmost to pass on this Word from God, your only goal being to win His ultimate approval without shame (2:15).
There will always be those who will distort or pervert the message. Let God take care of that. He knows who’s real. We should be sure that we keep ourselves clear of untruth and pure, pursuing godly objectives in fellowship with all who also serve Him with pure motives, available for the Master’s use (2:19-22).
WHERE THERE IS NO REVELATION …
Things were bad, but Paul warned of “terrible times” yet to come in “the last days” (3:1). When we consider the traits cited, there can be no doubt that those days are here. The first item listed is really the cornerstone of the whole ugly structure: “people will be lovers of themselves” (3:2). Self-centeredness, self-confidence, self-gratification, self-absorption – the essence of creatures in denial of their Creator. This list describes the motivations of the society Romans 1 described by its behaviors. When God is abandoned and there is no regard nor sense of accountability to Him, chaos reigns (Prov. 29:18). There may still be a “form of godliness” but there is no practical energy in a false religion. “Have nothing to do with them” (3:5), says the apostle. Whatever the illusion of godliness, God is not in it. Christians can have no fellowship with Belial (1 Cor. 6:15).
And it will grow worse: “Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse” thriving on deception, and “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12). Persecution is assured when the believer lives his faith in the midst of a faithless, self-absorbed generation.
THE WORD IS THE REVELATION
But we have a foundation in what we have been taught of Christ and of God’s always-timely Word. We should not be alarmed or influenced by evil. We should stay with what we have been taught, the Word that has always been our solid support and resource, the Word that brought us to Christ, that brought us His salvation and a right perspective on all things.
Those holy Scriptures, the written Word of God, are our solid foundation as well as our resource for every need in life; they will render us complete, well-rounded and competent to face every challenge and defeat every enemy. They will see us through the battles and leave us standing firm and strong, ready to carry on with the “good” work of God in this rebel world. Let’s stay in the Word, and let God “breathe” vitality and energy into our lives!
Again the apostle passionately urged his disciple/son to “preach the Word.” Timothy couldn’t afford to slip into carelessness or inactivity in this most vital endeavor. “Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (4:2); people are always looking for a softer message, less commitment. But that’s not the gospel of Jesus.
Paul culminates his earlier instruction to Timothy by again citing his example of having “fought the good fight” (a goal twice urged in 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12), and “finished the race (and) kept the faith” (4:6-8). Without boasting, Paul speaks of his diligent service and triumphant conclusion in the spirit of his Lord Himself who reported to His Father similarly: “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do” (Jn. 17:4).
What a thrill to complete one’s mission on earth and face his Commander with confidence and a clear conscience! May we all also be “confident and unashamed before Him at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28), able to “present ourselves to God as … workmen who do not need to be ashamed” (2 Tim. 2:15).
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org