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. 

 

 

2 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Singleminded focus on Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
This age and the age to come

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, we invite you to grab one off the back table as our gift to you. We are continuing our series today through 1 & 2 Timothy entitled Life in the Local Church.
This would end up being Paul’s last letter that he would write that we have recorded in the scriptures and he knows his time is coming to an end. He is writing to his friend, his spiritual son and his disciple Timothy, who is pastoring and leading the church at Ephesus.
Paul, in the section of the letter we looked at last week, told Timothy that he was not to be ashamed, either of Paul and his ministry, for being in jail, or of the Gospel itself. He exhorted Timothy to be steadfast, loyal and faithful. And he reminded Timothy that Character both matters and is seen by others, both good and bad.
Here, Paul is going to, among other things, give Timothy three analogies of faith. These analogies are going to be examples and they are going to model wholehearted, single minded devotion such as we are called to have for Christ.
So, lets go ahead and read this mornings text, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1 through 7. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to bring your preferred translation and follow along in our readings with your bible in your hands. Read for yourself what the Word of God says. 2 Timothy 2:1-7. Paul, being inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

May God bless the reading of his Holy, sufficient and inerrant Word.
All right, so Paul here, because of all that I just wrote, because of all that you just read, You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Gods grace alone is where our salvation comes from. But the grace of God not only saves us, it strengthens us. It gives us the strength to do what God has indeed called us to do.
Paul brings these themes together, the themes of Gods grace, the strength it gives us and the works that we are to be doing, he brings them together in other letters as well. In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8-10, he writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This theme that Grace leads to salvation leads to the ability to do the good works that God has called us to is woven throughout scriptures and always in that order. Paul talks about the importance of the order just as much. That the good works that we do cannot and will not do anything to save us. They contribute nothing to our righteousness. They are, in the tame translations, like dirty rags in Gods eyes.
And yet, after we are saved, after we are clothed in Christs righteousness, we are commanded, and not only commanded but inwardly, by the Holy Spirit, compelled to do good works, to produce good fruit.
Paul teaches all this clearly throughout his letters. And he tells Timothy to take what he has learn from Paul, what he has heard from Paul, he is to take all of that. And not just what Paul has personally told him, but what Paul has publicly taught, in his letters, in his public teaching, in front of many witnesses, take it all and what do you have? You have the very words of God. You have what is being understood, even in those days as scripture. Peter himself, in his letters likens Paul’s writing on the same authoritative level as the Old Testament scriptures.
So, the Gospel, the teachings, the scriptures, take these things that Timothy has heard from Paul and heard from others and others have heard from Paul, and teach it to others. Not only teach it to others but entrust it to others who are able to teach it to others.
Part of the mission of the local church part of what God has commission us to do teach and make disciples who then go on to teach others and make disciples. Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus tells his disciples right before he ascends into heaven, Matthew writes:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, that’s the general application. We make disciples who make disciples. We share our faith, share the Gospel and share the Good News that Christ died for our sins. The sins that we commit that deserve eternal death. That it is only through Christs death and resurrection that we have any righteousness and that we can gain access to the Father. Not our works, but the works of Christ. We share that so that others may believe and may be reconciled to God.

Paul here gives both that general application and a more specific application. This is applying to elders and those in leadership in the local church. They are to be able to teach. That’s one of the qualifications of an elder laid out back in 1 Timothy. They must be able to teach, and they are to be entrusted with the Gospel. The elders must be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and of the scriptures. They must be faithful to the sound doctrine of the Word of God.

Paul then give the first of three analogies that point to the importance faithfulness and single minded focus. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Now, Paul has already told Timothy that he is to share in the suffering instead of being ashamed, back in chapter 1 verse 8. While the Old Covenant promised prosperity for faithfulness, Jesus was quite clear that the New Covenant promises that there will be adversity if you are faithful to the teachings of Christ and to the confession that he is God.
This adversity can be the consequences of sin in our life, it could be the repercussions of our choices and life decision. It could also be the spiritual warfare that is being waged by powers and principalities in the spiritual realm. The enemy does not want the Good News of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us and the love that the father has for us to be known and shared. So those who are faithful, will face adversity in some way, shape or form.
And Paul tells Timothy to share in that suffering like a good soldier. Remember, the Bible does not say that God won’t give us more than we can handle. That’s actually the opposite of what it says. But what God does promise is that he will be with us always and he will bring us through what we go through.
We are to be like a good soldier, focused on one thing. We are to follow the orders of our superior and to do so fully and completely. We strive to accomplish the mission given to us. We have a loyalty to the one who gives the orders.
Our loyalty is to Christ, no matter what else there is. No matter our circumstances. When something else grabs our loyalty, that is the definition of idolatry. Within the analogy, that is treason. Our loyalty lies with Christ, with the Word of God, the Word became flesh.
We are given a mission. The Great Commission, as it were. Which we just read. We have been given a mission and we are to do everything we can to accomplish that mission.

Paul then brings out the second analogy. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. Paul often uses athletic language. Run the good race. The benefits of bodily training, even if not as much as spiritual training. But this training, whether physical or spiritual, they both take similar attributes and characteristics. Faithfulness. Discipline. Focus. Determination. Single Minded Focus. Clear Vision. One purpose, one goal.

That Goal is the crown that Paul mentions, Eternal Life with Christ. But to get that crown, we must complete by the rules. Now, we know that it is not the act of following the rules that earns us the crown. The would be the equivalent of us behaving well enough or being good enough to earn salvation. Salvation is received by Grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But we look at what Jesus says after people come to trust in him.
Now, go and do as I have commanded you. Obey my commands. Repent and believe. If you love me, feed my sheep. Just a small collection of what Jesus says for us to go do. I saw a good illustration this week that I shared on Facebook, some of you might have seen.
A cup isn’t a cup because it holds coffee. It holds coffee because it’s a cup. Likewise, we aren’t Christians because of our good works, but we do good works because we are Christians.
Those are the rules that we compete by, and we do so because we have laid hold of the crown, the eternal rewards.

The third analogy that Paul gives is that of a farmer. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Farming, of course, is hard work. Its not easy. It can be a struggle. Jesus does tell us to take up our cross and follow him. He does not say that this will be easy. He tells us, in fact that it will be hard.
However, he also tells us in Matthew 11, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Again, Jesus gets us through the adversity that we should be expecting to encounter. Farming is hard work. Sowing seed is hard work. Its not easy. Its not always comfortable. Its not always immediately fruitful.
But the one who puts in the world should get first share of the outcome. Now, I don’t believe that first here equals the number. I don’t think that this is that the farmer will be first in line. From the context, it looks like first is more of a promise, a guarantee that the worker will receive what he earned.
IF you know anyone that farms, this illustration should come easy. What do farmers think of? From plowing and sowing, and weeding and pruning, all the way up through harvest, what is going through that farmers mind? Just one single, solitary thing. The crop that’s is coming in. And as soon as the harvest is done, he is already thinking of the next one.
Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Our focus should be on planting seeds and looking forward to that harvest. Thankfully we don’t have to have the worry and the stress that real life farmers have. If the harvest doesn’t come in, that is their livelihood. But we know that we go out and sow the seed, but the watering, the growth and the harvest are out of our hands. Those are in Christs hands. He brings the increase. All we must do is share the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Because its in Christs hands, the burden is off us to produce results, we just have to be and stay faithful.
Like a soldier fighting the battle. Like an athlete running the race. Like a farmer growing his crops.

Now, Illustrations, metaphors, parables, and the like, they can sometimes be hard to understand. They can sometimes be unclear. And so, after give three real quick analogies, Paul tells Timothy, think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Christianity, following the Bible, believing in Christ. This is not a blind faith. There’s the old saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” There is some truth in there, but not nearly enough. Christianity, Jesus tells us that we need to have a simple, child like faith.
But that doesn’t mean blind, unthinking faith. We believe what the Bible says, and if the Bible says it, we believe it. But we also see that the Bible is believable. God says what he says, and he says it for a reason. He often, though not always, tells us why.
He tells us, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. In Revelation Jesus says that it takes wisdom and understanding and shows that those are things to seek. So, Paul is saying that these are things that we should think about, study and dive into. We believe it but we are called to know what we believe and why we believe it.

God gives us his Word; He has revealed his word to us so that we could know. He revealed the things that happened so that we could see the evidence of the works and wonders of Jesus Christ. As John writes in his Gospel, chapter 20, verse 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In his word, we have record of his death, burial and resurrection. We have record of his perfect life. We have record of our sin nature, our inability to do good. We have record of Gods promises and faithfulness. We have the promise of everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth with Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus says Seek and you shall find. The LORD will give you wisdom and understanding if that is what you are truly seeking, but it won’t always be the way that you are looking for it, or in the way that you expect.
Remember that it is not our wisdom, not our intelligence, just like its not our works, goodness or righteousness. Let’s finish with the reminder of Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let’s Pray.