Retain the Standard

raisin10My wife and I are teaching a Bible study on Saint Paul’s second epistle (letter) to his beloved disciple, Timothy. This is Paul’s final letter. He has served the Lord faithfully for many years. He has made many disciples and seen many new churches planted. He has run his race and he is finishing well. Not all of his disciples were faithful to the high calling of following Jesus Christ. Many had turned away from Paul in some of his most difficult times. Timothy, on the other hand, has stood beside his mentor faithfully. The entire epistle teaches followers of Christ how to guard the treasure of the Gospel. Chapter one teaches that part of guarding the treasure of the Gospel is maintaining the standard of the Gospel. We live in an age where we are constantly told to lower the bar to the lowest common denominator. We see this in our public schools with the no child left behind policy. As a result, students are not challenged and end up simply moving down the assembly line. Many students have gone through years of public education and simply have been taught WHAT to think instead of being trained HOW to think. Our society reflects this today like no time before. That mindset has crept into the local church. The apostle Paul saw this almost 2,000 years ago and his warning has traveled through the years to teach us today.

The question that arises is, “how do we retain the standard of the sound words of the Gospel?” Chapter one of second Timothy teaches us how to do it.

I. Kindle afresh the spiritual gift that you received

Timothy needed to be encouraged, as we all do. Paul, the master mentor, spends time encouraging Timothy so that he will be in the right mindset to kindle afresh the spiritual gift that he received from God.

3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,
4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.
5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (II Timothy 1)

What better way to encourage someone than to let that person know that you are praying for him. All of us need prayer warriors in our lives who pray for us daily. This journey of faith that we are on is long and arduous. It is easy to grow weary. When a person calls you up and simply says, “I prayed for you today” that changes the trajectory of your day. I have experienced this many, many times over the past 20 plus years in ministry. I need it. You need it. We all need it. Be that prayer warrior that others need. Pray for people specifically. Inform that person that you are praying for him. Ask him how you can pray for him in a specific manner each day. It will make a world of difference for that person. As you practice this, others will do the same for you. Paul also reminded Timothy of their personal relationship in Christ. Christianity is all about relationships. We develop a relationship with God and that relationship with Him impacts all of our other relationships. God created us to be relational beings. If you want to encourage another person on this journey of faith, develop and maintain a personal relationship with that person. It will cause your prayers for that person to become richer and deeper. The third way that Paul encourages Timothy is by reminding Timothy of his heritage of faith. Timothy had a faithful grandmother who walked with the Lord in sincere faith. Genuine faith seeks the Lord from a pure heart. Sincere faith builds lasting relationships with others. Sincere faith causes you to be a prayer warrior on behalf of others. Sincere faith is also handed down to others. Timothy’s grandmother passed her sincere faith on to her daughter and her daughter, Timothy’s mother, passed that sincere faith on to him. Are you living out genuine faith on a daily basis? Are you passing  that sincere faith on to others? If not, start today by seeking a sincere relationship with the Lord. It will change your life and the lives of many others!

Paul has to challenge Timothy and his does so just after encouraging him.

6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (II Timothy 1)

Timothy received a spiritual gift from the Lord when he placed his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. All followers of Jesus Christ have at least one supernatural spiritual gift that is to be used in serving the local church. Kindle afresh means to stir up by usage. In other words, to keep the fire burning bright, Timothy need to employ his spiritual gift on a daily basis. Do you use the spiritual gift from God by serving others daily? If not used, like a physical muscle, this spiritual gift will atrophy. Is your spiritual gift weak from lack of use? There are no excuses because God not only has equipped us with a spiritual gift, He has also supplied power, love, and discipline. We have the never fading power of God in us to employ our spiritual gift. We have the love of God in us that pushes us to love/serve others. We also have the discipline needed to keep going. We have NO valid excuses for not using our supernatural spiritual gift. How do we retain the standard of sound words? We do so by using our spiritual gift on a daily basis. This is also how we guard the treasure of the Gospel that has been given to us. How are you encouraging others the way that Paul did for Timothy? How are you challenging others to serve according to their spiritual gifts the way that Paul did for Timothy?

II. Know the holy calling of the Gospel

When a person is convinced of something, he is almost unstoppable. Timothy had a holy calling from the Lord, as do all followers of Jesus Christ. He needed to stay focused, as do we today.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. (II Timothy 1)

Timothy was called to take a stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As he proclaimed the Gospel, persecution and suffering were going to be a way of life. Why? Because the message of the Gospel, although it is good news, it pricks mankind’s sin nature. When we are poked, we naturally want to poke back. Timothy’s holy calling was that he was not to be ashamed of the Gospel. In other words, he was not to back down from proclaiming the Gospel, especially when proclaiming the Gospel causes persecution and suffering. The apostle Paul knew his calling. He was called to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Timothy received that same calling. In fact, all followers of Christ are called to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you know your holy calling? Are you living up to that calling the way that Paul did? Are you living up to that calling the way that Timothy did? How do you respond to persecution and suffering? Do those things cause you to stop proclaiming the Gospel? They did not stop Paul. They did not stop Timothy. They should not stop you either. Answering this holy calling is something that you have to do each and every day of your life on this journey of faith. When you know your holy calling and act accordingly, that is guarding the treasure of the Gospel. That is retaining the standard of the Gospel. Are you guarding the treasure of the Gospel? Are you retaining the standard of the Gospel, or do you lower the bar when persecution and suffering arise?

III. Imitate faithful examples

Humans need examples to follow. We are always looking for people to imitate. There is a reason why when assembly is required, there is also an instruction manual included. It’s the example that we need to follow in order to get it right. In our spiritual journey, we need examples to imitate. Timothy needed faithful examples to follow and Paul understood that.

12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.
16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains;
17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me-
18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day -and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus. (II Timothy 1)

Timothy was aware of the negative examples and Paul reminded Timothy not to imitate them. Instead, Paul used his own example for Timothy to imitate. There was another example worthy of following. His name is Onesiphorus. This man guarded the treasure of the Gospel. He retained the standard of the Gospel. He knew his holy calling and lived it daily. He was not ashamed of the Gospel. Even in the midst of persecution and suffering, Onesiphirus continued to kindle afresh the spiritual gift of God by serving Paul and serving others. Do you have faithful examples in your life whom you are able to imitate? Are you a faithful example for others to imitate? We desperately need faithful examples today. Are you ready to do what it takes to be a faithful example worthy of imitation?

May the Lord help us understand how to retain the standard of the Gospel!

2 comments on “Retain the Standard

  1. Pingback: Entrust the Gospel to faithful people | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

  2. Pingback: Fulfill your ministry | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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