Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:3-14
In the name of Jesus, who has conquered death for us, dear fellow faithful ones,
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” so John the Baptist had the privilege of proclaiming. That same John spent his last days on earth locked in a prison cell and met his death as he was beheaded and his head was presented to Herodias – King Herod’s brother’s wife, who had become Herod’s wife in a sinful arrangement that John had continued to preach against in prison until he breathed his last breath under the executioner’s ax. John gave his all to proclaim the grace of Christ and he was happy to do it. In a similar way, Paul writes this letter to Timothy as a sort of farewell address. Paul was wasting away in a Roman prison, waiting the day when he would meet a fate similar to John’s. The time for Paul’s departure was growing close. So it was time to say good-bye to his son in the faith, Timothy. One would expect this to be an emotionally charged message that would border on depressing. Instead, we are blown away by what Paul writes. After all the preliminaries and greetings, the first thing he writes is, “I thank God …” Wow! What confidence in the promise of God! What joy he expressed even in a sad situation! Today on the basis of these words of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are encouraged: Serve your Savior with cheerful hearts!
What could cause Paul to thank God in a situation in which he was helpless and the outcome seemed so hopeless? God’s grace. Paul writes, I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. Paul is thankful for the privilege to serve the Lord Jesus and the Christian church, which he once persecuted. Paul is thankful that he could serve with a clear conscience of sins forgiven by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Paul is thankful for the deep friendship and fellowship he enjoyed with Timothy, his son in the faith and his co-worker in gospel ministry. Paul is overflowing with thankfulness for all the precious privileges God had so graciously given him. Paul was also thankful for Timothy’s unhypocrytical faith.
Paul expounds on his thankfulness for Timothy’s faith. There was nothing false about this faith Timothy had received as a gift from God. It was a faith that had been passed down from previous generations. From grand-mother to mother to Timothy this gift of God has been shared and nurtured. While we certainly must emphasize the importance of fathers teaching their families the faith and nurturing faith through their leadership, we dare not overlook the faithful work of Christian mothers. In this case, Timothy’s father was not a believer – so Christian instruction fell to his faithful mother and grand-mother. How sinful it is and selfish for us to leave religious matters up to chance and the future choice of an uneducated child! Shame on us all if we do not work as diligently as possible to share the gift of the gospel with all future generations! May God forgive us for our failures, move us to repent of them, and to gladly share the gospel in thankfulness to him for his forgiveness! May we take a moment today to thank those who have instructed us in the truths of the faith and shared the gospel with us!
Paul continues with his thankful words of encouragement to Timothy: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Paul writes to Timothy about the privilege he shared with Paul – the privilege of being a public minister of the gospel – to teach the Word and to shepherd souls. Paul wants Timothy to continue to grow in the faith and grow in his service to the saints by using the Word and the Sacraments – which strengthen us and assure us of God’s forgiveness and God’s help. One of the things that stands in the way of the gospel and frustrates people who serve in public ministry is our own weakness and timidity. We see ourselves as weak and unable to do all that is asked of us in our calling. You may feel the same when you consider the things that God calls you to in your everyday life. We need God’s Word and Sacraments to strengthen us and embolden us to carry out the tasks God places before us. Consider the grace of our almighty God. Know that we don’t add anything to his Word. Like Timothy use the God-given spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Be filled with courage as you face the difficulties of life. Be willing to face all things knowing that your gracious God goes with you. You can serve your Savior with a cheerful heart only because of his great grace!
Consider for a moment the many hardships Paul faced as the Lord’s apostle. He was beaten, shipwrecked, had many sleepless nights, suffered from hunger, was imprisoned, suffered from poverty, and was now prepare for his own death. Yet, read through his letters and discover that in spite of all his problems he is always thankful about something. Listen to these Words of God. They clearly teach us to serve our Savior with cheerful hearts in spite of challenges.
Listen closely to this encouragement passed on from the veteran missionary to the younger spiritual leader: So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. No one would have accused Paul of being lazy or hiding behind his call as an apostle. He worked diligently night and day to spread the gospel. Yet he does not point to his power, his personality, or his prestige as the reason for preaching the gospel – it is all about Christ. Paul knew his place. He planted seeds and watered them – but God makes the church grow. Paul knew his lot in this life was one of many unpleasant things – like being in a Roman prison waiting for his own end. Still he remains full of hope – the true, without any doubt kind of hope that is only found in Christ.
Dear friends, don’t be bamboozled by those who claim that success is a measure of faith. Humanly speaking we may look at Paul and consider his life a waste and a failure. We might look at Paul and question his faith – for he was not wealthy and his end looks very humble. But just listen to him! He expresses thankfulness. He confesses faith that looks forward to heaven. He revels in the victory over death that Jesus has won. May the Lord lead us to the same attitude toward and outlook on life. May the Lord move us to work as hard as Paul and to focus only on the blessings given by our gracious God as he sees fit to give them. No matter what things look like our labor in the Lord is not in vain!
Having said that clearly Paul writes, What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Our main focus is not to be innovators but to be faithful. The power is not in us – it comes from the Holy Spirit who works through the means of grace. Our most important task is to guard the Word by teaching it faithfully to all. May we humbly teach the Word as Lois and Eunice did. May we boldly proclaim the gospel as Paul did in every kind of circumstance. We can’t do this on our own but God is with us and he sends his Spirit to us to help us and strengthen us through the gospel.
Please consider this a call from your gracious Lord to focus your attention on the big picture. We get all bogged down in the cares and worries of life. We get so focused on the schedule, the clock, the bank statement that we lose sight of all that our gracious God has accomplished for us in Christ. Today we are urged to look at things from the perspective of eternity. In Christ we have eternal life. In Christ our sins are forgiven. In Christ we have peace with God. The gospel in Word and sacrament connects us to Christ. So our focus is on receiving God’s grace through these means of grace and sharing this powerful, eternal gospel with everyone starting with our own families. God will bless this, for he promises to work through his Word. His Word gives us joy. His Spirit working through the Word causes us to face even the hardships of life with cheerful hearts! Our joy is found in Jesus! To him be the glory! Amen.