150712 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5

Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5
Theme: Two Promises From Paul For Preachers Of The Word

This is about the time of year when the church year might get a little old. During the first half of the year, called the festival half of the church year, we move rapidly from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Ascension and Pentecost. But now we are in the non-festival half of the church year. The seasons don't change. The colors don't change. And for about five months or so every Sunday is simply called the so-and-so Sunday after Pentecost.

The seventh Sunday after Pentecost may not sound all that special, but the focus of our worship today fits together perfectly with a very special event at St. Matthew's. I am not an expert on the history of the congregation, but I wonder if there has ever been a day like today at St. Matthew's. This morning we will recognize three members who have completed their training and have received calls into the full-time public ministry.

Aleah Dovnik will be a preschool teacher in North Mankato, Minnesota. Emilee Koltz will be a tutor at Luther Prep just down the road in Watertown. And Jacob Ziel will be an instructor and dormitory supervisor at Nebraska Lutheran High School in Waco, Nebraska. These young Christians are eager and excited, and maybe just a little bit nervous. And they have quite a bit in common with another young called worker by the name of Timothy.

The apostle Paul wrote 2 Timothy to his young friend and co-worker as his own ministry and his own life were coming to an end. Paul wanted Timothy to carry on this important work. Paul wanted to encourage Timothy to remain faithful to his calling. And so he dedicated his last letter to the man he affectionately referred to as "my dear son" (1:2).

These inspired words were originally addressed to a young pastor, but they also apply to you. In a general way these words were written for all of us because God has called each of us to proclaim his Word. And as we take up this important task, as we carry out this soul saving work, we don't go alone. We go with God's promise, actually two promises...

TWO PROMISES FROM PAUL FOR PREACHERS OF THE WORD

I. You will face great challenges
II. You will receive the greatest reward

Because Paul and Timothy had been mission partners for a couple of decades, there was no need for Paul to describe his mission work in great detail. Instead, he was able to refresh Timothy's memory with just a few carefully chosen words. Paul wrote: "You know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured" (3:10, 11a).

Timothy didn't need Paul to fill in the blanks, but maybe we do. Maybe it's been a while since you read Acts 14. Maybe you can't remember what happened to Paul at Antioch or Iconium or Lystra. Those three cities were stops on Paul's first missionary journey in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). And the results of his mission work were mixed. Some people came out to hear what Paul had to say. Some people came to saving faith. But other people opposed Paul. Some went so far as to expel him from their city. In Lystra it got so bad that an angry mob stoned Paul and left him for dead. But he wasn't dead, and he wasn't about to quit either. The next day Paul traveled to the next city, and as a result many more people heard the good news and believed.

Now here is the kicker. Lystra, the location of Paul's botched execution, was Timothy's hometown. There is a chance that Timothy had seen what Paul's enemies did to him. With his own eyes Timothy had witnessed the many injustices and the persecution Paul faced as a Christian missionary. And Paul brought up the not-so-pleasant past because he wanted to prepare Timothy for the possibility that some of the same challenges could be in his future.

Paul predicted: "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths" (4:3, 4)

Not exactly the most uplifting message, is it? Probably not the kind of passage you will find on the recruitment literature at Martin Luther College or Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. If you set your heart on serving in God's church, you desire a noble task. But sometimes that task can be thankless. At times it can even be dangerous. You might not be appreciated, and there is a good chance that you will be persecuted. If you aspire to serve in the full-time public ministry, you will face great challenges. But it's not just pastors and teachers who face those challenges. Paul's sobering reminder is intended for every Christian. He told Timothy: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (3:12).

If you try to live your life as a Christian in this world, you will be persecuted. That is not a threat. It's a promise. And it might help explain why the Christian church is shrinking even as the population of our country is growing. There was a time, and it wasn't all that long ago, when most Americans were Christians. You grew up in the church. You were married in the church. You took your kids to church. Going to church was considered normal.

The change didn't happen overnight, but we can see the evidence of it all around us today. There are still lots of Christians and lots of Christian churches. But now there are competing voices, loud voices, hostile voices that are challenging what might be called traditional Christian values.

Taking the life of an unborn child is a sin against the fifth commandment. Any kind of sexual activity outside of the framework of marriage is a sin against the sixth commandment. Denying that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven is a sin against the first commandment. There was a time when these Bible truths were almost universally accepted, but today they are rarely even debated because they have been out and out rejected.

You and I have lived to see Paul's prediction come true. The time has come when people will no longer put up with sound doctrine. Many have left the Christian church and are looking to have their itch scratched somewhere else. Others have distorted the basic teachings of the Bible beyond recognition. So where does that leave the rest of us who haven't abandoned the church or the truth? What are our options?

One bad option, but I need to mention it because some have taken it, is to just give up, to say "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," to allow ourselves to get swept up by the tide of popular opinion. The fact that you are here today tells me you haven't chosen that option, and I am grateful for that, but there is another option, which is tempting but not much better.

Instead of leaving the church, we don't leave the church. Ever. We hide behind the walls of the church like it's some kind of fortress and never venture out. We keep only Christians friends. We run in circles with only like minded people. And the more we isolate ourselves from the outside world the more we live up to the unflattering label, "the frozen chosen."

We might try to defend this approach by claiming that we are preserving the truth, but I don't think Paul would buy that. He would call it what it really is, a lack of faith. Yes, the Word of God needs to be preserved, but it also needs to be proclaimed. And we have to confess that our efforts fall short. We don't proclaim the Word because we don't trust its power. We don't proclaim God's Word with zeal because we doubt God's promises. Instead of putting ourselves out there it is much easier to keep to ourselves and avoid the conflicts that will inevitably result.

We need to recognize those tendencies in ourselves. We need to repent of those sins (because that is what they are). We remember why God put us here. We need to re-read 2 Timothy. We need to remember Paul's other promise that the people who proclaim his Word will receive the greatest reward.

Earlier this week I received a letter from Martin Luther College that included a few short excerpts from students, just a couple lines long, in which they thanked God for people who helped them grow in their faith and encouraged them along the path to ministry. For some it was a favorite pastor or teacher. For others it was a coach. Emilee and Jacob, I am guessing that you would give credit to your parents and perhaps to some of your teachers at St. Matthew's.

For Timothy, it was his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). They brought him up in a Christian home. They were the people God used to lay the foundation of Timothy's faith. Paul encouraged Timothy to remember them, to thank God for them, and the best way he could honor them was by continuing what they started: "As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (3:14, 15).

As a pastor it is my privilege (and also part of my job description) to share God's Word with God's people. I know how it feels when a former student comes back years later and thanks you for what you did for them. I know how rewarding it is to have a former student follow in your footsteps and become a pastor.

But as much as I appreciate those special moments I know that the greatest reward is yet to come. The greatest reward for you and me and every Christian will be ours on the Last Day, when Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. And when we hear the trumpet sound we won't be the least bit afraid because our Judge is also our Savior. Because Jesus was willing to endure the ultimate persecution on the cross. Because Jesus willingly made the ultimate sacrifice in your place. To take away your sins. To give you hope. To give you peace.

We don't have to work for God's forgiveness. We don't have to say so many prayers or do so many good deeds to make a down payment on a place in heaven. Salvation is a gift of God's grace. Salvation is a gift we receive through faith. And what do we do when we receive a gift? We say, "Thank you!" And we show our gratitude for God's gift of salvation when the faith that fills up our hearts flows over into our lives, when we see Paul's command to "Preach the Word" (4:2), not as a burden or a duty, but as a precious privilege, when insults and hardships don't weaken our faith, but only strengthen our resolve, when instead of avoiding conflict at all costs we let go of our doubts and fears and let our gospel lights shine.

Today is a special day. Not because it's the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, and not just because we are thanking God for three special gifts to his church. Every day is special for us because we are God's dearly loved children, because we possess God's inspired Word, because we have God's unbreakable promise. Because we are Christians we will face great challenges, but we will not give up. We will not give in. We are willing to endure hardships. We are eager to live our faith and share our faith because in the end we will receive the greatest reward. Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

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818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
262-912-6060

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