Lectionary Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Timothy 1:1-14 An intimate letter

God calls us all into a relationship. There are some people God calls to give their lives to serving the people of God. We say that such individuals are called to ministry. I am one of those people. Paul was one of those people and so was Timothy. To be called to such service is both privilege and pain. Paul, the writer of this letter to Timothy says, “of which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,

which is why I suffer as I do.  (2 Tim. 1:11-12 ESV) Paul did suffer for his faith in the Lord and was eventually killed because of it. Of those who are called, (not those who have found religion to be a nice career or side gig) by God into service I am sure could verify how hard it is.

The truth is, the Christian life in this world is a hard life for many, many followers of Jesus. Why, why is this? First, this world is not how it is supposed to be. This is a world that is in pain and travail.  The Scripture tells us, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Rom. 8:22 ESV) In such a world we will not find much mercy or grace. Secondly, we have a mortal enemy who hates God and hates us. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8 ESV) This enemy will use lies, deceptions, illusions, and anything else that can be used to hurt, tear down, and destroy. If you ignore this enemy’s existence, you set yourself up for tragedy.

The third reason this life is so hard is that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 ESV) We have a natural tendency to contribute to the evil and corruption of this world. We are often our own worst enemy. Everyone here struggles with this. You know this. How many times have you committed the same thing you know is wrong? In both the book of Proverbs and the writings of Peter we are told we are like a dog. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Pet. 2:22 ESV) We continually either by omission or by commission sin. Sin has consequences. Sin produces suffering.

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Pet. 4:16 ESV) It is not if we will suffer but when. How we respond to our suffering and pain determines the power it has in our lives. If we believe, really believe, what the Scripture says then we know our destiny is beyond situations and circumstances of pain, suffering, and death. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Rom. 8:38-39 ESV)

This is a promise that should fill the faithful with joy and assurance. God’s love is with us, and this will not change unless we ourselves reject it. Paul had confidence that God had and would bless Timothy in his service.

There are two factors that Paul says have powerfully influenced Timothy’s faith. First, Paul makes it clear that Timothy’s family helps strengthen his faith. Secondly, God gave Timothy a gift, a gift of a spirit of power, love, and self-control.

Paul, in praising Timothy’s mother and Grandmother, speaks of the example they had set for Timothy. Paul states, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” (2 Tim. 1:5 NRS) Notice the phrase, “a faith the lived (lives) in you.”  The word translated lived or lives is a word meaning, dwelling with, literally dwelling in this family.

Oh, it is so easy to miss this. Saving faith, sanctifying faith, renewal faith takes up dwelling in us. The faith is always there, always ready to strengthen and empower us as God’s called people. This faith isn’t dwelling some of the time, part of the time, but all of the time. It has started and it continues. When will we come to realize everything, we do, we include God in it. And when God is part of everything, then we will succeed even if the world thinks we have failed.

Paul tells Timothy to fan the flame of this faith. The fire of this faith is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that takes the faith we have and works to shape it into the faith Jesus had. This Holy Spirit, Paul tells Timothy and us in verse fourteen, this Holy Spirit will, “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” (2 Tim. 1:14 NRS)

The Holy Spirit will bring the power of God to us in our time of need, the power to persevere, the power of patience, and the power of promise. This brings up the second factor that supported Timothy’s faith. The gift of God.

Paul says the gift God gave to Timothy was a Spirit. First, Paul brings up the spirit that would and at times does, cripple our faith. This would be a spirit of cowardice, in the face of challenges to believing or living. No, the Spirit God gives is one of a fearless, confident faith, a faith to be trusted in difficult times, a faith of power, love, and self-control. A faith to stand against all the forces, material and spiritual, trying to stop the Good News of Jesus Christ from being proclaimed and lived by all who would listen. God’s spirit, God’s gift are always given to guide all who will listen to the truth. This is the truth as, “it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10 NRS)

Jesus entered our world fully human and fully God. Jesus died fully human and fully God. Jesus rose from the grave fully human and fully God. Jesus offers us his death on the cross to forgive us of all that has wronged God and others. Jesus gives us a purpose in life, a direction, and hope that can and will sustain the faithful when we need it. In this most intimate letter of a mentor to a student, Paul truly loved with the love only God can give. This same Jesus called Paul and now Paul understands.

In this bond, this time of confession and struggle, Paul shows us the source of his strength, his hope, “for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” (2 Tim. 1:12 NRS).

There is an old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” in which there is a stanza that goes, “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!” I believe these word capture what Paul is sharing. I think such intimacy, such caring, such love, such disciple in the face of the enemy.

This Epistle, letter, is offered to us as a witness to where faith can take us. We can learn and be mentored ourselves. We can find help in our community of faith and be of help ourselves. We can begin living the Kingdom now.

We close with these words Paul shares from his heart with Timothy, “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 1:13 NRS) This is our challenge. This is an opportunity. We must decide.

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