161002 2 Timothy 1:3-7

Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: 2 Timothy 1:3-7
Theme: Keep The Flame Of Faith Burning Brightly

Paul was in prison again, but this time he was not expecting to be released. Over thirty years had passed since tongues of fire had come to rest on the disciples' heads, and from the day of Pentecost on they had been faithful to their Lord. They proclaimed the good news about Jesus. They carried the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and Paul had taken it from there to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire.

But things were different now. The Christians weren't just being harassed. They were being persecuted and even executed. Many of Paul's congregations were struggling. Many of Paul's companions had abandoned him. And he knew that his end was near.

So was Paul pessimistic? When he wrote to Timothy, did he say: "You know, Timothy, we had a good run, but all good things come to an end?" Did he entertain the thought that when he died the light of the gospel would die out with him?

Not at all! In spite of his situation, in spite of his circumstances, Paul was optimistic. He was even more than optimistic. He was grateful. He gave thanks to God for his co-worker and close friend Timothy. And in his last will and testament (as 2 Timothy is sometimes called) Paul passed on the torch to his son in the faith.

Two thousand years have passed since Paul wrote this little letter, but the apostle's words are just as relevant and just as important today. The torch has been passed again, and it is in our hands. And as we give thanks for the gift of God's grace, our gracious God gives us this charge...

KEEP THE FLAME OF FAITH BURNING BRIGHTLY

I. The faith that has been passed down to us
II. The faith that we are to pass on to others

Instead of complaining about the deplorable conditions in his dungeon cell, instead of cursing his so-called friends who had deserted him, instead of wondering how God could be treating him like this after he had dedicated his entire life to God's service, the first words of Paul's last letter were words of thanksgiving. He wrote to Timothy: "I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience" (3).

Paul recognized that it was a privilege to serve God. He realized that he was not the first person to be mistreated for serving God. He remembered his spiritual forefathers, the people who had passed the faith down to him. He doesn't mention anyone by name, but I wonder if he was thinking of some of the great heroes of faith of the Old Testament, people like Moses and David and Isaiah.

Paul had been accused of spreading a new (and therefore illegal) religion throughout the Roman Empire, but what he was preaching wasn't really anything new at all. For hundreds of years God's prophets had been speaking about a Savior who was to come. Paul simply carried their message to its logical conclusion by proclaiming that all of those Old Testament prophecies, all of God's ancient promises, had been fulfilled in Jesus.

And it was Jesus who created such a special bond between Timothy and Paul. Recall that Paul had never married, and so he had no children. He dedicated his entire life to mission work, and it was on his first missionary journey that he met Timothy. Paul must have seen something special in this young man because he recruited Timothy to join him on his second missionary journey. And from that time on the two of them were almost inseparable. They traveled together. They worked together. They prayed together. At the beginning of this letter Paul called Timothy "my dear son" (2). And in another letter he even went so far as to say: "I have no one else like him" (Philippians 2:20).

All of this background information helps us appreciate what Paul says next: "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" (3,4). Why were these grown men so emotional? Why were they even brought to tears? Because they loved the Lord. Because they loved each other. Because they had a bond that was thicker than blood. Because they shared a faith that kept them together even when they were hundreds of miles apart.

Paul considered himself to be Timothy's spiritual father, but he didn't take all the credit for his spiritual formation. He was quick to point out that Timothy's spiritual foundation had been laid long before he came on the scene: "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" (5).

Timothy had been given the greatest gift a child can get. He was born into a God-fearing family. He learned Bible stories as he sat on his grandma's lap. His mom said prayers with him before he went to bed at night. And the living faith of these two women was also alive and well in him.

It doesn't make the headlines when a mom works on memory work with her child. It isn't breaking news when a father works overtime or picks up a second job so that his kids can have a Christian education. There were no reporters at church last Sunday when a young couple brought their baby girl up to the font to be baptized.

Christian training may not be the most glamorous work, but there is no more important work. We all have Loises and Eunices in our lives, people who shared with us the simple truths of God's Word, family members who taught us that God so loved the world and that we are Jesus' little lambs. And today we remember them. Today we say "thank you." We thank God for those people who passed their faith on to us.

How can we show them our appreciation? How can we give them the honor they deserve? How can we give glory to God for the precious gift that we have been given? By keeping the flame of faith burning brightly and by passing that faith on to others.

Paul told Timothy: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God" (6). This is one of those places where the English translation could be a bit more clear. Paul's reminder to "fan into flame" the gift of God might give the reader the impression that Timothy had let the flames cool down, or even worse, that the fire of his faith was about to go out. But that was not the case. Instead Paul was encouraging Timothy to keep on doing what he was doing, to keep the flame of faith burning brightly. And from what Paul says in the following verse, it appears that Timothy needed the encouragement.

The text concludes: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (7). Why did Paul have to remind Timothy that God had not given him a spirit of timidity? Perhaps it was because Timothy was by nature somewhat timid. Maybe he didn't feel comfortable exercising authority over people who were twice his age. Maybe he was much more comfortable serving in a supportive role. Maybe he was much more inclined to follow than to lead.

And so when Timothy looked at the daunting task ahead of him, when he thought about the false teachings that threatened the church and the growing persecution that threatened its members, if he began to question his ability to meet these challenges (especially when his mentor and friend was about to leave him), I think we can understand how a person who was shy by nature would have been tempted to retract into his little shell.

Paul knew Timothy. He knew his strengths and weaknesses, and he knew exactly what he needed to hear. Paul declared: "Timothy, don't tell me that you aren't up to the task. Don't tell me that you don't have the gifts or the guts to lead. I know better. I know that you have the power of God that is the gospel. I know that you have a love for God and a love for lost souls."

God doesn't give his people a spirit of timidity, but there are many believers who have it anyway. God opens the door for us to shares our faith with someone we just met, but we don't want to say the wrong thing. We don't want to be rejected either. And so we say nothing.

We overhear some upper graders or some upperclassmen saying some very unkind things about one of the teachers at school, but we don't want to cause trouble. We don't want to get beat up either. And so we say nothing.

We have a friend who is making some choices in her life that are, to put it mildly, very self-destructive. We know that we should confront her, but we don't want to make waves. We don't want to be told to mind our own business either. And so we say nothing.

Maybe Timothy wasn't the only one who needed the reminder. The bad things people say and do are often easy to identify, but we are just as guilty and just as deserving of condemnation when fail to speak or act. Every one of us, even the most outgoing person among us, needs the Holy Spirit to instill in us a new spirit. And thanks be to God that he has.

God has given us a spirit of power. God has given us the gospel, which is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). God has given us a spirit of love. Even better, God has given us the greatest demonstration of love this world will ever know.

The supreme Ruler of heaven and earth sacrificed his Son, his only Son, to save the world from sin. That means Jesus came to earth for you. Jesus lived a perfect life for you. Jesus gave up his life for you. Jesus died for your sins, for every bad thing you have done and for all the good things you have left undone, for every mistake and every missed opportunity. Because of Jesus you are forgiven. Because of Jesus you have a new lease on life AND the hope of eternal life.

God doesn't demand anything in return, but he does want you to share the wealth. He wants you to pass your faith on to others. Because God's Word is so powerful, because God's love is so personal, you don't have to be afraid. So don't be. Don't be afraid to talk about your Savior. Don't be afraid to tell people that Jesus is their Savior.

You may or may not be aware that October is Clergy Appreciation month. I don't mention this because I am looking for gifts, but because this annual observance fits in perfectly with the sermon text for today. Today we give thanks to God for the people who have passed the faith on to us. Today we honor Pastor Paul and Pastor Timothy. But it's not just pastors who deserve our appreciation. We give thanks for the Loises and the Eunices in our lives, and for all the Christian men and women who faithfully passed their faith on to the next generation.

We could give these saints no greater honor, we could give our God no higher praise than by passing their faith on to others. And we could find no better way to celebrate God's grace than by resolving to keep the flame of faith burning brightly. Amen.

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