Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, November 15, 2019
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Holding On

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Second Timothy is the last letter of Paul, and it has a dark tone to it. Paul seems to know his death is close at hand.

In 1 Timothy, Paul was also “in prison,” but in that case, he was living under house arrest. It all went back to that incident in the book of Acts where Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, allegedly for violating Temple law. He appealed his case to Caesar when he was not given a trial, and he was sent off to Rome. Acts 28 ends with Paul living under house arrest for two years in Rome. According to Roman law, if no accuser showed up to press charges within two years, the accused was released.

Early Christian writings tell of Paul being released and going on to travel to Spain, and possibly other places, as he intended to do. But then he was arrested again, either in Rome, or he was sent to Rome. This arrest happened during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero, who blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome. Paul was executed, most likely in 66 or 67 AD.

This second imprisonment was not as easy as the first. He was in a cold and dank jail cell, not under house arrest. And he pretty much knew how things were going to turn out. And this was a hard time for the Church in general. There was widespread persecution from outside the Church, and there was also an abundance of false teaching inside the Church.

Paul said in response, “I have served God with a clear conscience. I am not ashamed to suffer in prison. I know whom I have trusted and he will be faithful.”

Second Timothy is Paul’s final message to Timothy, his “son” in the faith. Timothy was from the city of Lystra, in modern day Turkey. He was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. It seems his father never came to share the Christian faith, but his mother and grandmother did. Timothy was apparently gifted for evangelism, so he was ordained, that is the elders of the Church laid hands on him and set him aside for holy work. He joined Paul on his second missionary journey. He and his family may have been converted on Paul’s first journey, since Paul went to Lystra both times. Paul sent him to Ephesus, also in modern Turkey, to lead the church there.

Paul’s message is that Timothy is to “fan into flames the gift God has given him.” God gives the gifts to us, but it’s up to us to put them into action.

Paul goes on, “Don’t be timid or ashamed.” This would certainly be a time to feel timid as a Christian. Being known as a Christian could get you arrested, even killed. And Timothy may have been tempted to be ashamed because of his connection to Paul. After all, Paul is in prison. Who would want to be associated with a person in prison? “They must not be a good person. Why else would they be in jail?” Certainly there were some who would say, “Don’t have anything to do with that Timothy. He worked with Paul, and we know what happened to Paul.”

He continues, “Be ready to suffer for your faith.” If it can happen to Paul, then it can happen to Timothy. No reason to think otherwise.

Verses 9 to 11 are a short summary of the gospel message. Paul says, “This message is why I’m in prison. So hold tightly to the right teaching you received from me.” If the gospel is truth, then we must hold onto it at all costs.

A couple months ago, there were some in the Church who were disturbed to hear about some well known Christians who announced that they were leaving the Christian faith. One was Joshua Harris, who had been a pastor and author. He renounced the Christian faith in July. Another was Marty Sampson, who had written for the praise and worship band, Hillsong, who announced he was leaving the faith shortly after.

I read a piece about the situation in the weeks afterwards. The author said the problem is that too many people are building their faith on emotion. It was all about how one felt. It’s not wrong to have emotion in our faith. We are, after all, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But emotion is a poor foundation. It changes too often to be a sure footing. The proper foundation for our faith is truth. Do we hold onto things that are true? If so, then we dare not let them go, not even when it feels like we should. We don’t let them go when the world pressures us to deny them or hide them. And the world certainly will. If the gospel is true, then we must hold onto it no matter what.

And we must live in the faith and love we have in Christ. It’s not enough just to believe it; it must also be lived out in our lives.

And we must rely on God’s Spirit to keep what has been entrusted to us. We can’t just rely on our own strength. We need God to help us hold onto the truth, because there will be a million voices telling us to believe otherwise.

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