DUNCAN/A spirit of power, love and discipline
Please turn to 2 Timothy 1:1-7. This is Paul’s last letter. He writes it imprisoned and awaiting his sentence of execution. He is calmly facing the last great crisis of his life, and he leaves a final message for his beloved son in the Lord, Timothy. But it is also clear that Paul is writing this letter to the congregation that Timothy is serving. Paul wants that congregation to hear him exhorting Timothy to be bold and strong and courageous and to fear God and not man as he ministers to them so that they will respect Timothy as he lives in accordance with God’s Word and will for his life. There are several things that we can learn from this passage. First, in verse 1, we see that Paul tells us that Christians draw strength during trials from God’s providence and promise. Then, in verse 2, Paul teaches us about our dependence on the Lord. Next, in verses 3-5, he tells us to serve God with gratitude whatever our circumstances. Furthermore, in verse 6, Paul exhorts us to cultivate the gifts that God has given us. Finally, in verse 7, he reminds us that we have been given a spirit of power and love and discipline in order to live and minister in the Christian life.
I. Christians Draw Strength during Trials from God’s Providence and Promise.
In verse 1, Paul says that he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” Paul is confident that the same God who by His will chose him out of his spiritual blindness to be a preacher of grace is the same God who has him in this circumstance. Paul knows that God is in control. Therefore, Paul is confident of God’s providence. And not only that, Paul is also confident of God’s promise. He’s the “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” He speaks with confidence because he believes in the sovereignty of God’s will, in the graciousness of His providence, and in the certainty of His promise. Paul’s words, even in describing who he is, are a balm of comfort if we will listen and put our trust and hope in the places where he put his trust and hope. Christians draw strength in their trials because of their knowledge of God’s providence, His will, and His promise.
II. Christians Are Dependent upon God for Life and Ministry.
In verse 2, Paul says, “to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a scriptural, apostolic blessing upon Timothy, upon this congregation, and upon us. It is important to notice the three parts of this benediction. First, Paul says, “Grace.” In other words, he is saying, “May God’s unmerited, pardoning and transforming favor and power be upon you.” Then, he says, “Mercy.” This is God’s warm and tender affection for those who are in need and who are afflicted. Finally, Paul says, “Peace.” There, Paul is saying, “May the fullness of God’s blessings be upon His people because we have been reconciled to Him through the death of Jesus Christ.” Also notice that Paul points us to God, the Father, who has loved and bestowed this grace, mercy and peace upon us and to His Son, Jesus Christ, who has given us that mercy at His own expense.
II. Christians Serve God with Thanksgiving Whatever Our Circumstances.
In verse 3, Paul says, “I thank God.” Instead of turning in upon himself and talking about how his needs aren’t being met, Paul begins with the statement, “I thank God.” Paul’s attitude, his thankfulness, and his gratitude to God serve as an example to every Christian that we are to serve God with thanksgiving whatever our circumstances. Paul is writing to this young pastor and he says, “Dear Timothy, I’m in prison. I’m chained up. I’m in a dreary hole. I’m awaiting execution. And you know, I was just thinking: I’m so thankful to God for you, and I’m so thankful to God for the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that He implanted in the heart of your grandmother, who passed it on to your mother, who passed it on to you.” Do you notice the direction of Paul’s concern? He’s not turned in on himself. He’s other-centered, and as he thinks about others and their situation and their need, this exhortation to Timothy flows, and then his thankfulness to God flows in this letter. Friends, we ought to manifest that same kind of gratitude for God’s providence, and if we will, it will enable us to transcend the circumstances in which we find ourselves in this life.
IV. Christians Must Not Neglect the Cultivation of God’s Gifts.
In verse 6, Paul says, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God.” Paul doesn’t simply express a gratitude which we ought to emulate, he also exhorts Timothy to exertion. He calls him to activity. And this reminds us that we must not neglect the cultivation of God’s empowering gifts. This exhortation shows that the gift for service given to us by God does not operate automatically. It requires the active cooperation of its recipient. Paul’s illustration is literally the language of a fire. God has given this gift. It’s ablaze. Thus, Paul is saying, “Now, Timothy, you tend that fire, and you make sure to stoke it and keep it going.” The Christian life is active service and cultivating the gifts and graces of the kingdom. We are called to spiritual ministry, and that requires spiritual resources, but those spiritual resources that God gives us must be cultivated by prayer, cultivated by dependence on God, and cultivated by self-denial.
V. Christians Serve God by Serving Others.
In verse 7, Paul says, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Paul is telling us there that Christians serve with a power and strength that cares for others wisely. So Paul says, “Timothy, let me just remind you that the Spirit of God has not given you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power.” Don’t you love what Paul says about that spirit of power? It is a spirit of power, and of love, and of discipline. It is a spirit of sound-mindedness and sobriety. But this spirit of power is not given so that Timothy can lord it over the flock. This spirit of power is given so that he can edify the flock and love God’s people wisely. My friends, Paul’s words of greetings to Timothy and his words of counsel to this early Christian congregation are just as relevant to us today and just as applicable as when he first spoke them. May God grant that we would respond to them in faith.