2 Timothy 4:6-8 Life in the Local Church: Faithfulness is more important than success

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Life in the Local Church

Paul looks at His death

 

                Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 4. Today, we are almost finished with our series through 1 & 2 Timothy. So, with all that is going on around us today, with the spread of Covid-19, with it creeping closer and closer to us here at Bangor Community Church, we are not currently meeting physically together on Sunday morning right now. I figured I would provide, write and record a couple of devotionals for you all. However, as we got closer to Sunday morning, Butte County received its first confirmed case and Yuba county received two confirmed cases and it looks like this “shelter-in-place” will continue further than we originally anticipated. So, it just makes sense to continue our teachings until we know what is going to happen. Ultimately, as I will say later on in this sermon, our job is to be faithful, trusting God to take care of what’s going on around us.

So, 2 timothy, chapter 4. The Apostle Paul finishes his letter to Timothy as his life and his ministry are winding down. Paul has come to the end of his life. He has fulfilled his ministry as he just finished encouraging Timothy to do. He has written much to Timothy; encouraging him, exhorting him, challenging him. He has been showing Timothy to follow the example that Paul ahs laid down, the foundation that Paul ahs built, Preaching the Word, sharing the Truth, no matter the circumstances, sharing our hope in and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Paul is imprisoned in Rome, scheduled to appear before Caesar Nero and correctly expects to lose his life afterwards. And so, here Paul begins closing his letter to Timothy, the last letter that he would write, the last letter we have record of.

So, this morning we are going to read 2 Timothy, Chapter 4, verses 6-8. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Paul, in the last words of his we have record of, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing Holy Scripture, tells Timothy:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

 

May God Bless the reading of His Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.

 

 

Paul tells Timothy, more clearly than he has up to this point, that he is coming to the end of his life. He is being poured out as a drink offering. A drink offering is a metaphor for death. And this is not the first time that Paul has used this metaphor. Over in Philippians 2, verses 17&18, Paul writes:

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

But there is also more to it than just death. It is purposefully in the language of sacrifice or offerings. It makes me think back to where Paul writes in Romans chapter 12, verse 1 that our bodies are to be presented to God as living sacrifices.

Paul knows that his life belongs to Christ. He has been purposeful in making sure that he lives up to that responsibility. He knows he is coming to the end, and he is not afraid. He knows where he is going. And he was looking forward to being with Christ.

When he wrote to the Philippians, he addresses this. Chapter 1, verses 19-24:

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

 

                Paul knew then that he wasn’t going to die. He knew that Christ still had more for him to do, more Gospel for him to preach. More Christ for him to share. Now, he knows different.

He changes from present tense to past tense going from verse 6 to verse 7. He will change again from past tense to future tense when he goes to verse 8. Here in verse 7 though, he knows that he has indeed fulfilled his ministry. He knows that his life is coming to an end. And Paul knows that once God was done with Paul’s mission here  in this world, He would bring him to the next. As he recounts in Acts 20:24, But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

And Paul gives us 3 metaphors that show that he has been faithful up until the very end. He has fought the Good Fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith. How we live is important. It shows the fruit of our faith and can, along with theWord of God that we share, be an important part of witnessing to non-believers.

But even more than that, how we finish, how we continue through up until the end can be an even more credible testimony. One of the things that scripture is clear on is that Our faithfulness is greater than success. Being faithful is more important than being successful. Our success is out of our hands. We have no control over that. But our faithfulness, that is completely in our hands.

Now, the Bible teaches a natural tension, where man’s responsibility and Gods sovereignty co-exist right next to each other, with Gods sovereignty being above all things. God is clear than once we are saved, once the Holy Spirit has changed our heart, once that has occurred, we will be faithful in the end. God will keep us faithful. This teaching is called the Perseverance of the Saints.

I take this from the Reformation Study bible, by Ligonier Ministries to describe this doctrine:

In declaring the eternal security of God’s people, it is perhaps clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is usually done, of their perseverance. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. The reason that believers persevere in faith and obedience, however, is not the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ thought the Holy Spirit preserves them….

 

 

The regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb 3:6, 6:11, 10:35-39) as God preserves them.

This doctrine does not mean that all who ever professed to be Christians will be saved. Those who try to live a Christian life in their own abilities will fall away (Matt 13:20-22). The False Profession of many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will not be acknowledged. (Matt 7:21-23)

The regenerate may backslide and fall into in sin. In doing so, they oppose their own new nature and the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin and compels them to repent and be restored to righteousness.  

 

 

But the Bible also teaches that we are responsible for our actions. It teaches that a life without repentance, a life without change, a life without fruit is life that has no evidence of salvation. We are responsible for our actions. And after he are saved, we are to follow his commands. In fact, we will have a desire to follow and obey the command of God. Without that desire there is no salvation.

Both of these sides of the coin are actually on congruence with each other. They are not at odds with each other. In fact, they work together to ultimately do the most important thing, bring Glory to God.

Our faithfulness is more important than our success. This should ease the burden that we often put on ourselves. We think that success, bringing people to Christ, growing the church, stopping the spread of a virus, we put the burden on ourselves that its all up to us to do. Ultimately, its in Gods hands instead. We sow the seed; he brings the increase. Acts 2:47, the LORD added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  God is in control over everything, especially the outcome of all things. Our job is to be faithful.

 

 

As I said, Paul then turns to the future in verse 8, looking at what is going to happen as he enters into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

 

There is much debate over what this Crown of Righteousness actually is. Could they be some sort of literal, physical crown? Maybe, many people think so. Could they be a metaphor, such as for perfect righteousness? Perfect righteousness that is not actually ours, but is His that is given to us to begin with? Nobody actually knows, though I heavily lean towards the latter.

Paul is saying, however, that this is given by the LORD at judgment day. A perfect righteousness, given by THE righteous judge.  It is given to all who are declared righteous or justified. Meaning it is given to all who have, by the grace of God alone, faith alone in Christ alone, reveal through the scriptures alone, and of course, all things done to the Glory of God alone.

Ultimately, what the crown is, we lay it down at the feet of Jesus. I think if the encouragement that this is to the New Testament church. Both Peter and James also mention a crown in their letters. Look first at 1 Peter 5:4, he writes:

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

                And James writes in chapter 1, verse 12:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

 

This crown, I believe is symbolic of the gift of Christs righteousness and eternal life. It is the gift that God gave us at our moment of salvation. And once that happens, our life belongs to Jesus. Completely, fully and eternally. With our life belonging to Him, we give him all of our selves. We are not partial Christians. Our lives don’t belong to him, sometimes. But we take our lives and lay them down on his behalf. All that we do, we do for and because of him. All that we do, we do simply and solely for his glory.

Paul knows that he is about to see the Glory of God. He knows that he is about to receive that crown of life, that unfading crown of glory. And he knows that though they are given to him by Christ, they do not belong to him, but to Christ. If Christ has given you eternal life and perfect righteousness, though they were given to you, they do not belong to you, but to Christ.

I mentioned it earlier, but I want to leave you with Romans 12:1 & 2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

 

 

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