By Simon ManchesterSunday 22 Dec 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Not Afraid – 2 Timothy 4
Our Father,we ask that you would,in your goodness,in your kindness,shed light in these next minutes that we would see you more clearly,love you more dearly and follow you more nearly.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.
For those of you who have seen “The King’s Speech” there is a great moment,you may remember,where the King’s Speech Therapist says to him quite provocatively – says to the King – “Why should I listen to you”? He is trying to provoke the King to be a little more confident and bold and forceful in his speaking. And the King in a moment of passion calls out in a voice that rings all around the building – “BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE” and the Speech Therapist says very quietly “yes you do!”
The King goes on,if you have seen the movie,to speak a message through to the nation which steadies them even as World War II is getting underway.
Now I don’t need to tell you as we come to the end of 2 Timothy that the King of Kings has a voice and believe it or not,the voice is not one that you hear through the PA as much as you will through your Bibles. It’s been recorded for us and the world and this is the way that God speaks to us.
And the final appeal of the Apostle Paul in this Letter of 2 Timothy of which we have been looking at for these Sundays is that Timothy and everybody who has opportunity would “tell it,would declare it,would herald it,would preach it” and I have sincerely prayed for you who have come here this morning that this voice in 2 Timothy 4 would steady you and strengthen you and encourage you and fortify you because the word of God is able to do that in this chapter 2 Timothy 4 and it is a remarkable final chapter from the Apostle Paul.
This is the 5th of my 5 sermons on 2 Timothy – I believe the Letter is so important that the Series has been of unusual significance. This short Letter has told us over the last weeks what God wants for his people and what God wants for his world. I agree with the people who have said to me over the last few Sundays “a sobered way,this is extremely important”.
And if you have missed the last 4 it’s possible that you have too easy a life or perhaps you’ve been unable to be here but I do want to recommend getting hold of the Series if you possibly can. These are the last words today of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy and there is a theme in the chapter (which I don’t know if you picked it up as it was being read for us) but it changes everything we do and it affects everything we do and this is the theme –
Chapter 4 verse 1 – Christ will appear
Chapter 4 verse 8 – Christ will appear
Chapter 4 verse 14 – Christ will appear and will repay
Chapter 4 verse 18 – Christ will appear and rescue
In other words,if you fall into the trap of thinking that your life is lived in a little shoebox,that is a very great tragedy.
In you fall into the tragedy of thinking that you are in a godless world and that the God who you have heard about has no voice and has said nothing and therefore there is nothing to listen to and there is nothing to take notice of and there is nothing to change or care about – that is a tragedy.
If you are living your life as if you are on a desert island and there is nobody around and you have nobody to report to,somehow tragically you’ve missed the message of God – you’ve missed every signpost,you’ve missed every newsflash because He has made it perfectly clear that we have a beginning and we have an end – there is a Maker and there is a Judge,there is someone at the start of our life and there will be someone at the finish of our life. If you live your life as though you are just walking on a small little span and not in eternity,it is a tragedy. Jesus said everybody will report to him – you will,I will and Paul said the resurrection is proof that we will meet Christ.
And this perspective makes all the difference to our lives. It makes the difference in whether we pray,whether we send up our voice to God for help and mercy and relationship and life and survival. And it effects the way we think about priorities,how we use our life,how we use our money,how we use our time,how we use our gifts – this perspective thinks about everything. So I want to think about it this morning under these 3 headings:
1. Our Priorities in the light of Christ’s coming
2. Our Expectations in the light of Christ’s coming
3. Our Troubles in the light of Christ’s coming
I can’t tell you how helpful this is if we get it because life without the perspective of God’s love and eternity can be quite unbearable and aimless and tragic and desperate. Let’s think about these 3 things together for a few minutes.
Firstly,Our Priorities in the light of Christ’s coming – chapter 4 verse 1. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,who will judge the living and the dead,and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction”.
Here is the solemn and final word of the Apostle Paul in prison awaiting his execution to young Timothy,whom he loves,to preach a Word from a loving God to a needy world and that is to be the priority of God’s people – to see the Word go out.
We saw in chapter 3 verse 15 that the Word is good for reading – now we see in chapter 4 verse 2 that the Word needs to be preached. You need,friends,to read the word. You don’t need special classes to read the Bible although special classes can help you. You don’t need special glasses to read the Bible but apart from just reading the Bible and meeting in a small group which can be wonderfully helpful,somebody needs to declare it,someone needs to preach it and someone needs to say “Thus says the Lord”.
I need somebody to say that to me. I’m happy to read the Bible and I’m happy to discuss the Bible but I do need somebody to say “Thus says the Lord”. It needs to be preached to me in an objective,definite and categorical way. One of the problems,I think,with many of the churches that have just gone to the House Church Movement is that they have sat and discussed the Word and they have missed out on the authority where somebody says “Thus says the Lord”.
And so a human personality has risen up as their authority and that of course has been a recipe for danger,if not disaster.
Well we’ve been following this 2 Timothy and we’ve seen that the Scriptures
Chapter 1 – are healthy words
Chapter 2 – they are to be correctly handled
Chapter 3 – they point people to Jesus for salvation and
Chapter 3 – they equip us for our service and
Chapter 4 – they should be preached.
Well what’s the problem? Well verse 2 – “you may be tempted” says Paul to Timothy “to give the word a miss”. It may not feel like the season,maybe you are not in the mood or the people are not in the mood. “No” says Paul “don’t give the Word a miss,preach it in season and out of season”.
Well the other problem of course is that this word if it’s going to be properly preached will sometimes correct the people of God,it will rebuke the people of God,not just encourage the people of God. And that of course is a costly thing and an unhappy thing sometimes but Paul says to Timothy “keep preaching the word”. The family of God,the church of God needs to be encouraged but it also needs occasionally to be correctly and rebuked – preach the word.
Well what’s the other problem for Timothy? The other problem is that he will be occasionally impatient with people who don’t “get it” and he will be lazy and cut corners and so Paul says (verse 2) “be patient,give careful instruction”. The work of the word needs to be done most patiently and with carefulness.
And then (verse 3) perhaps the biggest problem of all as we are in the 21st Century but this would have been true in every Century,is that there is going to be a small market for the Bible and there is going to be a huge market for personal satisfaction and gratification. You see what he says in verse 3 “the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead,to suit their own desires,their own tastes,they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and they will turn aside to myths”.
And the Apostle Paul says to young Timothy “I don’t want you to be a market-driven preacher. Do not treat patients as if they know the best medicine,and do not treat the people of God as if they can work out their need for their souls – Preach the Word”.
And so in the face of many pressures and temptations to say it’s not the right time,to say it’s too hard,to say it’s too costly or to say it’s not what people want,Paul says to Timothy “Preach the Word”.
And the verse which follows (verse 5) is cross-stitched on the wall of my office and has been there for 25 years – cross-stitched by Kathy when I was inducted in my first church and it says as you can read verse 5 “Keep your head in all situations,endure hardship,do the work of an evangelist,discharge all the duties of your ministry” and almost every minute of every hour of every day I need one of those 4 ‘staccato comments’.
I need to keep my head because I am about to lose it
I need to ensure suffering and not be a winger
I need to do the work of an evangelist and remember people who are lost
I need to keep going and not look for a job driving one of the trucks down the road that just sucks the leaves in which appeals to be on a huge level!!
And if you are involved in Ministry and you have a Bible Study or you have a Sunday school class or if you have a family to care for,this verse 5 is for you as well.
So you see,we followed this theme in all of 2 Timothy –
What is he to do? He’s to make sure the Word (the weapon of God) goes out.
How is he to do it? He’s to do it most lovingly,most patiently,most carefully and most perseveringly
Friends,do I need to tell you the devil has a thousand ways of making sure this just doesn’t happen. The devil really has a thousand ways. Do you not find in your own life you can think of 100 things to do rather than read your Bible? I do. I have my Bible there and just suddenly think of 28 things to do.
Do you not think it is easy to avoid preaching an unpopular part of the Scripture and just go looking for series which are easy,popular and comforting?
Do you think it is a common thing to find people who really love the Word? It’s quite rare to find people who love the Word. How easy it is to just say something else to deal in pop psychology or something which will just tickle people’s fancies rather than to keep declaring the Word of God.
What’s going to keep Timothy going when there are so many little pressures just to do something else and I think the main thing that Paul is asking Timothy to remember is that you live before Christ who is coming. And he will make all ministry worthwhile. The labour that you spend reading your Bible,passing on the Word,helping others to hear it,sending the letter,sending the CD,sending the booklet,teaching the class,running your Bible Study group and reaching your friends,the labour will be infinitely rewarded when Christ comes. He will appear and he will show that it has been infinitely worthwhile.
Now if Christ is not coming,if we are just in a shoebox and there is no eternity and we might as well make the most of it because ‘let’s eat,drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’. If the appearing of Christ is nonsense or “gobbledegook” or if it’s la-la-land well just do something else. But if it is true,stay with it.
And aren’t we under pressure from a very clever world to stop believing in eternity and eternal things and to just concentrate on ourselves and having a really soft retirement and making sure that we indulge ourselves – is that not great pressure on us.
I was hearing someone the other day say “you know,people need something to believe in”. It’s such an unsettling sentence isn’t it and I immediately thought to myself ‘maybe I’m an idiot,maybe I’ve just decided to believe in Jesus because I am a desperate person and I need something to believe in’. It’s an unsettling sentence isn’t it?
Then I thought to myself ‘hold on – I didn’t go around inventing Jesus,he invaded the place’. The more I look at him I realise that he is huge and great and wonderful and you only turn away from him if you are a fool.
Imagine standing with your back to Ayres Rock and saying ‘people need a rock to believe in’. There is a rock behind you – look around – it’s there – Christ is there.
And then there are those other people who say ‘well perhaps you are just hanging on to your invisible friend’. And that’s another unsettling sentence isn’t it that you have an invisible friend? That normally is the voice of the ant on the ant-hill calling out ‘please would the God of the universe stand in front of me and prove himself. “I call” says the ant on the ant-hill “the God of the universe to come and stand in front of me”. What arrogance. – (a) because he came and (b) how do you really expect the God of the universe to stand before you and not totally destroy you?
No friends,you and I have got every reason in creation and in the Scriptures,especially in the Words of the Lord Jesus who spoke so lovingly and so clearly and so persuasively – eternity is real,life is short and make sure the Word keeps going out to your children,to the schools,to your neighbours and everywhere possible,the priorities in the light of Christ’s coming.
Now the second point this morning (and the next two are much briefer) Expectations in the light of Christ’s coming. The Apostle Paul is on death row – what is he expecting (verse 6)? I am being poured out like a drink offering,the time for my loosing has come. I’ve fought the fight,I’ve finished the race,I’ve kept the faith and now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness,which the Lord,the righteous Judge,will give to me on that day — and not only to me,but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
How does the Apostle Paul die? Even seen a believer die? Even seen an unbeliever die?
Feelings don’t have a lot to do with it really. The believer may be in great distress and utterly safe,the unbeliever may be really at peace and in terrible danger but the Apostle Paul is very safe and very much at peace. He says “I am about to be poured out like a drink and I am about to be released – either the tent rope is about to be as it were taken down,or the ship/boat is about to be released from the wharf and I am about to move across into the harbour. That’s the sort of idea he is talking about.
But you know,we could read these verses and misread these verses because we see the Apostle Paul say “I’ve fought the fight,I’ve finished the race,I’ve kept the faith and now I am about to get my trophy”. And then of course we say to ourselves – that doesn’t help me at all because I am nowhere like the Apostle Paul and I’ve done nothing like the Apostle Paul and I am an ordinary believer and I am not that faithful and I am not that great in the fight and I am not that great in mission and I guess I am just going to have to hope that God is extremely merciful on the day that he sees me.
And if you think like that,you completely misunderstand the New Testament and you completely misunderstand what the Apostle Paul is saying here because he is saying that a crown of righteousness is a gift. It’s very unhelpful that our Bible says “it will be awarded to him” – that sounds like a trophy – “it will be given to him” – it’s a gift.
The way it works is this: that righteousness is given to you at Jesus’ expense the day that you asked for it. In this world you get down on your knees as most people in this building have,and you say “O Lord Jesus,here are my sins,please forgive me” and as you give him your sins,he gives you his righteousness. Like a coat or a cloak,the righteousness of Christ is placed on you and that’s how God sees you forever. It’s got nothing to do with your performance or your feelings. It’s got to do with your asking and his giving. The righteousness is given to you and you go through this world in the righteousness of Christ. You suddenly find yourself before God in the righteousness of Christ and God looks at you and he says “it’s great to see you perfect,welcome in the righteousness of Christ” and then you receive the crown as the gift at the end.
I can’t imagine what the crown of righteousness is but I suspect that behind that little phrase is a reward so wonderful it makes everything in this world look ordinary. Somehow God who has given to the believer righteousness will give him the crown of righteousness when he sees him face to face. And that’s what the Apostle Paul looks forward to.
If you find this hard to believe and you think I am twisting,look at the end of verse 8 where Paul specifically says “the crown of righteousness is not going to be given to the person who has just been an apostle or just performed wonders or just lived a great life of just achieved greatness – it’s going to be given to the person who looks forward to seeing Jesus.
The crown is for the person who knows Jesus is great and wonderful and saviour so if you have trusted him,if you look forward to seeing him,look forward to the crown. It’s a gift and the righteousness is a gift and the crown is a gift.
Now Paul does say “I’ve fought the fight,I’ve finished the race,I’ve kept the faith” but if you were to interview him up the front of the service this morning,he would say to you “I’m in the race because Christ saved me,I’m on the race because Christ has kept me,I’m in the fight because he saved me,I’ve kept the fight going because he sustained me – it’s all about Jesus”.
And he looks on his departure with this tremendous sense of release – out of the shackles,out of the rope – out of the tent.
C.S. Lewis wrote to a lady once on the subject of death and he said to her and he was in the last weeks of his own life and he said “death is like taking off a hair shirt or getting out of a dungeon with better things ahead than we ever leave behind,we are in the land of dreams – cockcrow is coming”.
How is Timothy going to face his ministry? The Apostle Paul says – keep doing your ministry in the light of the appearing of Jesus,that will make everything worthwhile and how is Timothy going to face his death as Paul is facing his death? Paul says to Timothy – do it in the light of Christ’s coming – everything is in the backdrop of eternity.
Lastly this morning Our Troubles in the light of Christ’s coming. What to do with these 14 verses from 9 to 22 which have a lot of personal detail? Well they show us something of the way the Apostle Paul thinks as he lives in the ordinary world of people coming and going,of needing warm clothes,of wishing he a Bible to read,of being under pressure from certain difficult people – he is a normal man in the normal world.
And if I might just gather a few of things together as we close,first of all he has a heart for people and doesn’t like separation. He especially doesn’t like separation when a person walks away from Christ like Demas seems to have done. He grieves – I hope you grieve too. It grieves me when people walk away from Christ,especially people close.
And he misses the ones who are serving elsewhere – it a price you pay when people move on to other fields,when missionaries leave us and we don’t get to mix with some of our most lovely people.
He longs for people to visit him,he longs for Timothy to come and bring Mark and there will be Paul and Luke and Timothy and Mark – what a four-some. Just Paul,Luke and Mark have written about ¾ of the New Testament – what a group to be with in dungeon land! – unbelievable. And he’s not asking you see that he’ll just get out and have a holiday – he wants the basics,the really important basics which are fellowship,clothes and Bible.
Secondly he leaves the injuries to God,especially injustices. If I was to ask you around this building today,one by one,whether you have been greatly hurt by somebody,I imagine everybody has been hurt,hurt,hurt and we have done some hurting and often we don’t really know how to repair and we don’t know how to fix things and we don’t know how to respond to things.
Well this man,Alexander the metal worker,has done great harm to the Apostle Paul. He doesn’t go into details,he just says he has done many evils. He’s so dangerous he needs to be careful as well and in the face of the fight which is sometimes against apathy,sometimes against worldliness and sometimes against doubt and unbelief and difficult people,there are certain times where the fight involves a hostile person. Someone who doesn’t really care what they say or what they do.
And the temptation is to respond in kind and to say something back which will be vengeful. The Apostle Paul says very importantly ‘when the Lord comes he will repay’. I will trust him to fix this up,I will trust him.
And the final thing the Apostle Paul has great confidence in is that the Lord will deliver him. You say to yourself ‘how can he’ll deliver me – he’s in prison’. And yet the Apostle is absolutely confident that he will be ultimately and eternally delivered. He says (verse 16) at his first defence which is Part 1 of the Roman court case,nobody supported him. There he was in the court room and he looked around hoping that somebody would turn up to say a word in his defence and all the people who could have been there to defend him had strangely slinked over to opposition or negligence.
But,says the Apostle Paul,the Lord helped me. He enable me to tell the gospel in the very middle of the court room – I was enabled to tell the gospel to the Gentiles,I was delivered from the lion’s mouth,probably I was delivered from general danger.
And he goes on to say,he will deliver. It’s absolutely certain that he will ultimately and eternally deliver me and bring me into his heavenly kingdom. Why will he do that? Well because he has promised to and because he is faithful and because he doesn’t let his own sheep disappear – he’ll do it.
And so you see,all through this wonderful chapter and the Letter and the Apostle’s own mind and heart is this sense that the final day will see everything eternally put right.
So the mind of the Apostle is on the appearing of Christ. All the ministry done will be worthwhile,all the hoping and the waiting and the wandering and the doubting will be answered and fulfilled and all the troubles and all the difficulties and all the hostilities will be dealt with perfectly and so he can finish (verse 22) “May God’s grace be with you (pleural)” “May God’s grace be with you all”
Let’s pray and bow our heads –
Our Father we thank you so much for communicating to people like us who are little and temporary the greatness of your eternal plans. We thank you for bringing through the Lord Jesus,eternal life that we might relate to you,that we might belong to you and that we might ultimately be with you.
We pray that as you have given us time in this world for priorities,our expectations and even our troubles,that you would help us to think and live as those who believe in you and your reward and your eternal kingdom. We pray this so that many who are lost in the little box of life would be helped and set free,the church encouraged and you greatly praised.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen