Deep inside most of us, there is a desire to hope for better times. Anthropologists tell us that man advanced technologically, largely because he is by nature a hopeful being. It’s what drives people to part with money on the LOTTO – the hope that some alignment of the stars or happy fate of God above will bring riches unearned into their pockets. Hope is the song of optimism that God buried deep inside of man that allows him to endure tough times. Yet, for some, the weight of the world has powerfully pushed down their hope, and they admit to a struggle to get back to renewed hope. Even a well-made MOVIE can help us feel hopeful when we are down, can’t it? Isn’t is funny how we can watch a movie for two hours and be so deeply moved by the courage of the hero or heroine. Did you ever walk out of a movie and feel like you could take on the world, or aliens or zombies or animated Marvel comics characters? I am amazed at the power of the visual medium to awaken deep emotions within us. Did you ever watch a movie in your own living room, and after only an hour you were crying like a baby when a character that died that you only “met” an hour before? How powerful are the last words of a hero as he lay dying near the end of the movie! Some of those scenes stay with us for years in our mind and heart…
I mention that because one of the things I have always admired about the story of the end of the life of the Apostle Paul is that he ended well. Even as Paul was set aside under guard and then later in prison and nearing the end of his life, he knew how to lift, encourage and instruct. He did desire to become a relic, but rather he wanted his hand-chosen men to push the message forward in his place. He was thinking about the days ahead – even though he was not going to be a part of them. He wanted to pass the secrets that God had shown him in his years of serving Jesus. He wanted to unlock the hope trapped inside the younger Timothy. He wanted to encourage him – and his letter still does the same for us. It is true that in the background of the chapter, you can hear thunder. Paul foresaw rising troubles and persecution. He knew people were hurting, and it was going to get tough very quickly. With that in mind, he took his experiences of ministry and told Tim how to face the days ahead. He passed on the key concepts that worked well for him, as he wrote under the influence of God’s spirit.
Key Principle: Our daily choices make the difference in living out hope.
Paul knew that people who are effective for God are known for four things:
• What They Know (2 Timothy 4:1): I belong to Him and I am accountable for this life!
• What They Communicate (2 Timothy 4:2): The truth is found in His Word and I want to live it! I don’t want to run around and dabble from place to place looking for the “hottest truth”. I want to grow under systematic teaching and learn how to use God’s truth in my daily life!
• What They Refuse (2 Timothy 4:3-4) I know my heart will resist truth when it causes discomfort. I refuse to let comfort rule me, and push me to use religion to justify my own wants and desires. I will settle down and stop looking for someone to scratch my ears.
• What They Focus On (2 Timothy 4:5): I will stop avoiding the hard stuff, buckle down and work my gifts to His glory and accomplish God’s list for my life.
Let’s take a few minutes and break down each of these four traits that make a difference:
2 Timothy 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
He charged Timothy (diamarturomai: diá, “thoroughly” and martýromai, “witness, testify”), using a formula that gave the sound of a courtroom testimony before the ultimate judge – God Himself. What does that mean? In short, the standard of judgment is the standard of the judge. He will mark and grade the lives of the living and the dead. He will bring judgment to believers at the Rapture, and to the nations at the Second Coming. When the Judge enters, the judgment follows.
Why begin the charge- before even making it – with a description of Jesus? Because every believer must be constantly drawn back to one simple truth – you and I work for Jesus. We seek His approval for our deeds.
As a Pastor, I know that one of the great traps of ministry is being led by public opinion. It can drive our preaching and teaching, and it can blunt our Biblical counsel. People who work in ministry are very often people pleasers at heart. Some have very “political” orientations – to make people at ease and comfortable. That isn’t a bad thing, unless it becomes a hindrance to telling the truth. If we recall that Jesus is the only one who actually can judge righteously what we are doing – we will be slower to do what pleases men and women – simply because of their approval. We will talk to Him more, and listen to Him more carefully. We will balance the impulse to make another happy against the insult to God when we make a lie into truth.
At the same time, as believers, we are not to TRY to offend people. Very often we will be able to help them and we are certain they will feel better when they surrender to the truth of Jesus and His Word. Yet, sometimes we will be an offense because HE is an offense. Try not to cause the offense – but don’t shrink when you know you have His holy nod to speak.
Here is the simple principle: I must know I am not MINE. If I believe I am in charge of my own destiny, and can run my own life apart, I am destined to fail God’s purpose for me… period.
What They Communicate (2 Timothy 4:2) – Paul called on Tim to communicate the truth of the Word (4:2-4).
4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
The charge was straightforward to the young Pastor – what the world needed was a complete and careful exposure to God’s Word. Nothing else would suiffice. People need nothing more than God’s Word spoken clearly. New methods will rise and fade, gimmicks will dazzle and then flame out – by carefully delivered truths sustain people through all kinds of difficulty and trouble.
How can a believer represent God with boldness? In a word – KNOW the Word. Paul pressed Timothy to be prepared (yoo-kah’-ee-roce: or “in season” is “at an opportune time”) whether people appeared to be interested in knowing God’s Word or not.
The longer I walk this earth, the more I recognize that people do not always know what they need. The bottom line is this: God knows how things work. God shared them, but we are often so easily distracted we don’t really listen to what He said. The point is not how willing people appear to hear, but how ready you are to represent God’s Word in a compelling way. They can chose to reject it, but you dare not choose to withhold it, and you dare not be lazy about understanding it. If you say it, make sure it is because you took the time to consider it carefully. Flippant use of the sword can lead to permanent and terrible wounds. We need careful believers who know the difference between their convictions and God’s Word. You may believe it fervently, but that doesn’t mean God said it clearly. Too often I am finding believers who know what political affiliation God has, and which immigration plan He supports. We muddy the waters when we take our interpretations and make them the text itself. It is easy to do, and we all have to be careful about it.
We do know for sure the process of giving God’s Word to people includes some basic elements:
• Reprove: (el-eng’-kho – to convince with solid, compelling evidence). CONVINCE.
• Rebuke: (epitimáō- epí, “suitably on,” which intensifies timáō, “esteem, place value”) – properly, assign value as is fitting the situation, building on the situation to correct. CORRECT.
• Exhort: parakaléō (from pará, “from close-beside” and kaléō, “to call”) – properly, “make a call” from being “close-up and personal.”; refers to believers offering up evidence that stands up in God’s court. Connect with God’s big plan and therewith offer COMFORT.
Paul also set the stage for later days, and made it clear: the hearer bears profound responsibility in opening their heart to the message of the Word. If people choose to go where the ear is “tickled” they get what they choose. Myths attract attention like the dessert table at the buffet line. Yet, it is meat and potatoes of the Word people will need to endure tough times. Positive thinking and powerful motivational speeches are simply no match to systematically teaching God’s Word. Don’t forget: At the center of the work is the Word – or it isn’t God’s prescribed way of doing things.
Paul didn’t want believers to hide their foundation (4:2):
Because Timothy’s function in the Body of Messiah was to be a teacher but every believer is called to model the truth before the world. The command to “preach the Word” includes the verb “kerudzon”: which is to ‘publicly cry out in order to persuade with’. At the same time, the power of the message is multiplied when believer’s lives model truth and a positive perspective to life – that will draw people to Jesus!
Paul offered a simple principle: If we lift him up properly, Jesus will draw men to Himself. If no one wants what we have, we might begin to ask the question, “Do I have a life that reflects who God really is?”
It is easy for us to become unbalanced and portray only “one facet” of God’s nature. We can become judgmental and share with everyone that they are “getting what they deserve”. Though that may be true, that doesn’t express the GRACE of the Lord. At the same time, we may share the love of God with others and never express a frank comment about their agreement with error that is sowing the seeds of their destruction. That isn’t God’s kind of love – that is sentimentalism that won’t help the person when tragedy strikes and they ask, “Did you see this coming?”
The Word of God includes instruction, correction and encouragement. It houses truth that cuts me, and truth that heals me. My life should reflect truth in all its facets – and not just one or two.
Go back and look again at Paul’s words to Timothy about SEASONS. When Paul said “be ready”, he used the term “ephistemi”, which means ‘to stand upon’. The idea was not simply to make sure he was prepared, but rather that he would TAKE HIS STAND on the Word. It is possible that even a man of God could make his stand on his own preferences and opinions. Never let the turning away from the truth by people affect your commitment to teaching it.
Paul warned that there would be “seasons” of the truth – times when some tantalizing tidbit would become the focus of the masses. Again the Apostle offered a simple principle: The bigger picture is NOT what is HOT today, but standing with the truth taught broadly and systematically delivered over the longer span that will train us to become what we need to be. Fads come and go. They aren’t wrong, but they aren’t necessary if people are learning the whole context of God’s truth. You can chase them, but the temptation will be to become imbalanced.
Don’t just know WHAT the tool is for but HOW to use it: 4:2b: “…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.“
Paul knew that God’s people must communicate the Bible specifically, prophetically, expectantly, patiently and intelligently.
Haddon Robinson, Making A Difference in Preaching p. 93: “In a town many years ago that revolved around the lumber business, the town council decided that they to hire a new pastor for the town church. One day, the new pastor saw some of his church members dragging logs which had floated down the river from another village upstream. Each log was marked with the owner’s stamp on the end of the log, much like a cattle brand. But to his dismay, this pastor saw his church members sawing off the ends of the logs where the owners stamp appeared. That Sunday the pastor preached a sermon on the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” After the sermon people said, “Great sermon pastor” and “mighty fine preaching.” But the next week they were back to stealing logs. So the next Sunday the pastor preached the same sermon, but he ended the sermon by saying, “And thou shalt not cut off the end of thy neighbor’s logs.” When he finished that sermon they ran him out of town. Now I don’t know if that’s a true story or not, but it does illustrate the need to communicate the Bible specifically.”
Paul KNEW where to find truth – but not everyone we know today truly does! We must keep communicating the truth patiently. Paul told Tim to teach “with great patience.” Sometimes we can be tempted to give up on people when they don’t get it the first time. We can get irritated when people don’t respond to a biblical principle the first time they hear about it.
I must be personally careful because too often we in churches are strong in correcting and rebuking, but weak on patience, so we blast people with guilt. I don’t want to use the Bible as a club to push people away – and I want to lead them to GOD not GUILT. At the same time, I admit that I am flabbergasted at the way people flaunt sin and disregard truth, and in that shocked state I should remain quiet… but sometimes I don’t. While I am confessing, I should also admit that I love chocolate and desert – and rebelliously do not want to eat them in moderation.
Don’t forget that we need to communicate the Bible intelligently. We communicate the Bible intelligently when we not only show people what the Bible means and how it applies, but also why the Bible makes the claims that it does. Some people believe that thinking deeply is somehow unspiritual, forgetting that the Bible tells us to not only love God with all our hearts but also with all our minds.
I was shopping for illustrations for a teaching I had to do in the first message on Jehu killing off Ahab’s family in 2 Kings 9. I found only a few messages on the text I was getting ready to preach, but one particularly intrigued me. A Pastor was using the text of 2 Kings 9:20 that says: “The watchman reported, “He came even to them, and he did not return; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.” He decided to preach on the evils of drunk driving from this text! He evidently thought this was appropriate, but didn’t take into consideration that the text had no drinking in it, and that Jehu was fulfilling a mission from God. By that method, I could prove that “furious driving” was actually an act of a godly man on a great mission – the very opposite of the truth he was preaching. Communicating bits and pieces of the Bible rather than communicating the whole Bible intelligently is devastating to our outreach across the country. We must be committed to communicating the whole Bible in its context and in its timeless truths!
What They Refuse (2 Timothy 4:3-4): Paul also knew believers needed to refuse lies in the coming defection (4:3-4)
Look again at 3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Robert Withrow in his book After Heaven – Spirituality in America Since the 1950’s offers some alarming statistics:
• 69% of the people in this country do not believe the Bible is God’s exact word
• Only 50% of Americans know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible
• Only 33% know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount
It is true: defection from truth is a reality in our day. We shouldn’t be surprised that error will become very popular – when Paul wrote the “time will come”. Note he didn’t say “might come”. God chooses His words very carefully.
Defection from truth can be Recognized: People “will not endure” is an interesting idea in the original language. After the negative “will not” is the word “anechomai”: to hold oneself up against, to forbear, suffer. “sound doctrine” the phrase that means “healthy instruction”. In other words, the time was coming when people would simply NOT HOLD THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO TEACHING THAT IS HEALTHY (“hugiaino”: healthy and wholesome, plus the word “didaskalia”: instruction or teaching).
Defection from truth has a Reason: Note what happens next. First, people reject the hearing of the truth. Next, they seek out someone who will tell them a LIE that matches their inner desires to do the things that God has said wilol hurt them and violate His holy plan (epithumia: longing or burning to do that which God has forbidden).
George Barna writes, “To the average American, truth is relative to one’s values and circumstances. Only one out of every four adults- and even fewer teenagers- believe that there is such a thing as absolute moral truth.” Barna suggests that this disregard for truth “may be the single most intense threat to the health of the United States and its people.” Barna goes on give the implications of a disregard for the truth: “Without absolute moral truth, there can be no right and wrong. Without right and wrong, there is no such thing as sin. Without sin, there can be no such thing as judgment and no such thing as condemnation. If there is no condemnation, there is no need for a Savior.”
Why tell us these things? God wanted to EXPLAIN the events so that His Word contained a prophetic record. He didn’t leave us in the dark wondering, “Am I following a myth if many or most go the other way?” He told us to SECURE OUR HEARTS in a time when that defection seems huge and rampant. Don’t worry! He knew it would come!
What They Focus On (2 Timothy 4:5): Paul wanted Tim to face the world and do the work (4:5a).
2 Timothy 2:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship…”
Sometimes walking with God is difficult because God’s people aren’t vigilant: “be sober” (nēphe: means un-intoxicated”; having clear judgment, enabling someone to be self-controlled) in all things… If we let down our guard about controls, we open the flesh to wander, the world to entice and the devil to drive hooks of guilt into our hearts. Control frees me to serve Christ with my heart! The issue can be simple LAZINESS, but the nature of discipline is that it is harder to maintain when inconsistent. Consistency is the refuge of the disciplined. When the military trains you, they do so by drilling consistency. Do it until you don’t have to decide to do it.
What if my daily reading of God’s Word was drilled to the point that I just opened the book before I was even half conscious in the morning?
There are two issues about our FOCUS in the verse that needs to be explored. First, we will be tempted to let frustration cause us to drop our guard – and that will be costly.
Let me put this in Tim’s world – that of a Pastor – because I know about that world.
The reality of ministry is this: people will often judge Pastoral performance based on the response of others – even though we don’t control their response. If I preach and ten people get saved, people go away believing that I am doing a better job – when I may have been clearer on another Sunday – but God had a work He wanted to perform today in others through me. My preparation may not have been better, and my delivery may not have been sharper. That is why we must keep our focus on one thing: We are to do what we do the best we can – for the honor of the King. At the same time, the King will use our work as He sees fit. In fact, He may choose to use someone else when we are, in fact, doing a better job – if we use the standards of the Word. By the same token, we may get the fruit of someone else’s hard labors.
Our job is faithfulness – His job is the results. Charles Stanley said it this way: “God is responsible for the results of our obedience, but we are responsible for the results of our disobedience.” Many believers report a temptation to take frustrations and bury them inside. In moments when we want release from those frustrations, we will be tempted to let down the standard of controls and drop our guard. The enemy, like a boxer, waits for the moment he can land his punch. We need to be diligent and vigilant.
A second word about our focus: We will need to recognize that working with people has always included, and will always include real pain. In the case of ministry, Paul used the term translated “ENDURE HARDSHIP” is the compound Greek word “kakopathéō” (from kakós, “of evil or malicious disposition” and páthos, “pain or feeling”) – properly, experiencing painful hardship or suffering.
Some things will seem like a “setback” in your life and ministry – but they really aren’t. You can’t always tell today what God is doing – ministry works like pickling. Brine does its work over time. Don’t judge successes or failures too quickly. You cannot opt out of pain if you want to be useful to God in ministry. At the same time, learning to endure is vital to your effectiveness. Don’t be too quick to need affirmation in people – nor in circumstances. You and I weren’t called to fix things – just represent properly the One who can.
Facing the world meant Tim’s job wasn’t just inside four walls (4:5b)
2 Timothy 2:5b “…do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Paul told Timothy that the work INCLUDED outreach. He was to personally do the actions (ergon) of an evangelist (one who offers a convincing presentation of the truth of the Gospel). Why did he need to tell him this? Because some go into ministry with an inordinate need to be loved by people. They mean well, but they lead by consensus. In a time of rising persecution – it is natural to stand back and allow outreach to grow quieter. Holy boldness must be prayed for, exercised and developed. It takes practice, work and persistence.
The Gospel must be shared. We dare not leave the work for others!
There was a Roman aqueduct at Segovia, Spain, built in 109 CE. For eighteen hundred years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from its flow. Then came another generation, a recent one, who said, “This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children, as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor.” They did; they laid modern iron pipes. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beating on the dry mortar caused it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy idleness disintegrated. Resource, Sept./ Oct., 1992, p. 4.
Let me encourage you: Carefully plot a direction forward to the goal of serving Jesus with your life. Paul said it in 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Fulfill your ministry: Paul told Tim to stick to the GOAL God had placed in front of him (“plerophoreo” is entirely accomplish your “diakonia” or area of service). Tim wanted to CHANGE to something that would feel new and different than the work he had. We all get “antsy” sometimes to move on, because the work of dealing with people is at times arduous. Commitment over the long haul yields the best results. “Short term yardage keeps you in the game, but wastes a lot of time on the clock.”
In 1968, Tanzania chose John Stephen Akhwari to represent them in the Mexico City Olympics. Along the way as he ran, he stumbled and fell, severely injuring both his knee and ankle. It was 7 PM and a runner from Ethiopia had won the race. Everyone else had finished and there were only a few thousand spectators left in the huge arena. All of a sudden a police siren caught every-one’s attention. Limping through the gate came 36 year old Akhwari with his leg wrapped in a bloody bandage. The people cheered. A reporter at the gate asked him the question that was on everyone’s mind: “Why continue the race after being so badly injured?” He replied, “My country did not send me 7000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish a race.”
Paul knew that people who are effective for God are known for four things:
• What They Know (2 Timothy 4:1): Do you KNOW you will be accountable for this life to your Master?
• What They Communicate (2 Timothy 4:2): Do you learn and live the Word of God? Rather than dabbling from issue to issue and place to place looking for the “hottest truth” – are you involved in systematic study to learn how to use God’s truth in daily life?
• What They Refuse (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Will we refuse to let comfort rule us and push to understand truth even when it convicts my life?
• What They Focus On (2 Timothy 4:5): Will I stop avoiding the hard stuff, buckle down and work my gifts to His glory and accomplish God’s list for my life?
If I will step up, learn and follow God’s Word – I will refuse to be distracted, and my ardent focus will show itself in powerful HOPE. Why?