Last night, I had the privilege of studying the second chapter of the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to his beloved disciple, Timothy. The previous lesson was from chapter one and the theme was about retaining the standard of the Gospel. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are challenged to reach out to others and help them up to the standard of the Gospel. We live in a society that encourages us to lower the standard to the lowest common denominator. This is a disastrous ideology because it kills incentive. Instead, we are to attain the standard of the Gospel and give a hand up to others so that they can attain the standard as well. In this lesson, we are going to discover the secret to entrusting the Gospel to faithful people who will also retain the standard of the Gospel as they teach others to do the same. Here is just a quick testimony from one of the students who attended last night’s lesson.
The older I get the more I realize the impact you all had on my life. I miss it fiercely and have tried hard to take what I learned from you and apply it in my life everyday. It is hard in America. My people need God so desperately and they don’t even see it nor want it. It breaks my heart. Thank you for including me in this study. This is helping me to kindle afresh. I can feel the Lord working on me and waking me up. I didn’t realize how I had fallen asleep. I’m sure being pregnant during Covid has a lot to do with it but more than that, the church has just shut down and it feels like we’ve been in the desert spiritually. This study is refreshing and motivating to get back to work. So thank you for not being an obstacle and letting Him work through you. You both are such a blessing and I’m so thankful for Facebook and that we could keep in touch like this.
Praise the Lord for the power of His Holy Word!
I. Be prepared to endure suffering
As we live out the message of the Gospel and seek to entrust that message to others, we have to realize that difficult times will come. I must be prepared to endure that suffering and continue living out the high calling of following Christ.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (II Timothy 2:1)
In order to endure the suffering that comes with entrusting the Gospel to faithful people, you must BE STRONG. The key to success is the grace of God. God has to extend His strength to you through your faith in Jesus Christ. He has promised His strength. Our job is to walk in that strength and not try to do it all on our own. This has nothing to do with will power. This has everything to do with dependence on the grace of God. Seek people who are willing to surrender to the Lord. Entrust the Gospel to them and teach them how to walk in the Lord’s grace and strength.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:2)
Teach to others what you have been taught. The Apostle Paul taught Timothy the Word of God. When I entrust the Gospel to faithful people, I am not teaching them what I think, feel, or believe, instead, I am to teach the Word of God to them. There is a big difference between teaching my opinion about the Word of God and teaching the pure Word of God. The power of God is not in my ability to communicate to others. The power of God is in His Word. I simply need to unleash that power by teaching others who to read, understand, and apply the Word of God to their daily lives. This is so simple yet many feel like this is too easy. It is not enough. I have to add to it to make it relevant.
3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. (II Timothy 2)
The Apostle Paul lays out three distinct examples for Timothy to understand what a faithful person is like. In other words, he describes the characteristics of a faithful person.
- A good soldier – This is not just any soldier, this is a good soldier who understands that he is always to be on active duty. This kind of soldier is focused. His goal in life is to please the one who enlisted him in service. That is what he gets out of bed to do every single morning. This faithful person will have to deal with the affairs of every day life yet, he does not get sidetracked by them. He remains focused on his ultimate calling. Do you know what the Lord desires for you to do every single day? If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, He desires that you retain the standard of the Gospel and seek out faithful people to entrust the Gospel to them. Are you doing that on a daily basis or have you become entangled in the affairs of every day life? Are you too busy with daily activities that you do not have time to invest in others?
- An athlete – The first thing that we learn about the athlete is that he is competitive. Is is not sitting idly on the sidelines. He is not one of the spectators. He is in the competition. How many Christians today have resolved themselves to be simple spectators? Christianity is not a spectator sport. We are in a spiritual race and we should be competitive, seeking to win. Any good athlete work his salt has to know the rules and compete according to the rules. He has to remain focused on what he is called to do. Training is what he does with the majority of his time until the competition begins. There are things that he has to cut out of his daily life so that he can focus on training and be ready to compete when the competition date is set. He orients his lifestyle around these principles. How many Christians are too busy to be trained and too busy to serve when opportunities arise?
- A farmer – The first thing that we learn about the farmer is that he is hard working. As a follower of Christ, do you work hard at entrusting the Gospel to faithful people or is that something that you do as a hobby, when you have time? The hard working farmer also works with a goal in mind. He wants to see the fruits of his labor. As followers of Christ, we do not work just to stay busy. We work with a goal in mind, to see the fruit of our labor. If we retain the standard and entrust the Gospel to faithful people daily, we should expect to see fruit from that labor. If there is no fruit, we cannot blame God. Instead, we have to take a long hard look in the mirror and examine ourselves to see what the problem is. There is a heretical teaching today that claims that if there is no fruit from your labor, “that must just be God’s will”. That is an excuse to shift the blame from yourself to God. Please don’t do that.
Walking with the Lord is not a spectator sport. We are called to labor as we follow Him. I think back over the dreadful year of 2020. How many followers of Christ just shut it down? How many churches just simply closed the doors and went dark? I know of Bible study teachers who simply abandoned their students and did not seek another way to continue investing the Word of God in them. I know of many churches that closed the doors and offered no teaching at all to the people. What does that say about us? Are we really good soldiers on active duty? Can a good soldier on active duty simply shut it all down? What about an athlete, can he simply stop training and hope to be able to compete and win? What about the farmer, can he stop in the middle of planting season and expect a harvest when it’s harvest time? All of us need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “where was I wrong in my thinking and actions and what do I need to do about it?” This is not a pleasant thought or assignment but it is necessary!
II. The Word of God is no stopped by circumstances
Many times, we are our own worst enemies. Circumstances cause us to jump to conclusions and assume things to be worse than they really are. I remember one time, I was waiting to go into a public restroom. I had tried the door and it seemed to be locked. I pushed instead of pulled. I just assumed it was locked. As I was waiting, a line began to form behind me. People were getting anxious and impatient. Finally, the line dispersed. I continued to stand there and wait. Finally, it dawned on me to try and pull the door. It opened up easily. My assumption made me look foolish. The good part was that the line had dispersed and only I knew how foolish I looked. That is a story from my own life that you may be able to relate to. We often do the same with circumstances. Things seem bleak and we assume the worst. That assumption causes us to freeze up and not act correctly. The Apostle Paul was in a similar situation. He was a missionary, taking the Gospel to the known world. He had seen some amazing things happen. Now, because of his missionary work, he finds himself in prison. He could have excused himself from preaching the Gospel because he was locked up. He understood a profound truth that he wanted to share with Timothy. We have much to learn from this teaching today.
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,
9 for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. (II Timothy 2)
The Word of God is never imprisoned. Circumstances may seem to hinder me but, in reality, when I see an obstacle, that is really just an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. The first thing that we see is that while Paul is in prison, he has an opportunity to invest the Word of God in Timothy. We have his second epistle to Timothy today because of this imprisonment. The Word of God broke through the prison walls and traveled down the centuries to us today. We may be hindered by circumstances but, the Gospel is never hindered. A great portion of the New Testament exists today because Paul was imprisoned so many different times. In some of Paul’s others epistles, we learn that prison is a good place for the Gospel because it creates a captive audience.
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,
13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. (Philippians 1)
Paul was chained to a guard day and night. Those guards would work twelve hour shifts. Every twelve hours, Paul had a new “captive” who was guarding him. He shared the Gospel with every single one of the guards. Because of this imprisonment, Paul was able to share the Gospel with the entire praetorian, one person at a time. Not only that, the followers of Christ who had their freedom were encouraged by Paul’s example to preach the Gospel to others.
16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
17 After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren *, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 “And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.
19 “But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.
20 “For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.”
21 They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you.
22 “But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.
24 Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.
25 And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers,
26 saying, ‘GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, “YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
27 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.”‘
28 “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”
29 [When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]
30 And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him,
31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28)
While on house arrest in Rome, Paul was able to preach the Gospel to many, many people over a two year period. He was in chains but the Word of God was not imprisoned. In fact, the only thing that stops the Gospel from spreading in my life is if I do not open my mouth and share the good news of the Gospel with the people around me. Do you seek to share the Gospel in every circumstance of life, or, do you allow the circumstances of life to stop you from proclaiming the Gospel?
III. The call to live a life of fruitful labor
A faithful person is a person who orients his daily life around faithful service to the Lord, no matter the circumstances. Timothy is to look for people like this and invest in them. He is also to train others to become like this. What is the key to success? I am glad that you asked because Paul gives us the answer.
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; (II Timothy 2:11)
In order to live a life of fruitful labor, I must die to myself and live for Christ. This is the same calling that Jesus extended to the crowds while He was ministering on this earth.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)
I have to die to myself in order to follow Jesus. I cannot live for myself and follow Jesus at the same time. I cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. I have to deny myself which is another way of saying die to myself. Once I give up the reigns of my life and dedicate myself to following Jesus, I am now in a place where Christ can work in me and through me to produce fruit based on my faithful labor. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever come to the place where you have said, “that’s it, I surrender all to Jesus, including the leadership of my daily life“? This is where it all begins. These are the kinds of people Timothy is to seek out and entrust the Gospel to, training them to retain the standard of the Gospel, and challenging them to teach others the same high calling. Are you one of those faithful people who is ready to endure suffering for the Gospel, view every obstacle as an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, and live a life of fruitful labor for the Lord? The Bible teaches us that today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to make a decision. How are you going to respond when the next world disaster like Covid hits? Difficult days are always either just around the corner or upon us. Are you going to shut down like many did in 2020 or, are you going to continue on active duty, training to win, and laboring to produce fruit?
May the Lord help us understand and apply what His amazing Word teaches us in this passage!
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