DUNCAN/Not ashamed and holding fast


Please turn to 2 Timothy 1:12-18. During his ministry, the Apostle Paul had to suffer hardship and trials, and he had to endure many persecutions from the unbelieving world. Paul also knew that there are disappointments awaiting us in life and ministry even in the Christian church. Therefore, he gives Timothy and us godly instruction for how to live and minister in a fallen world and in an imperfect church. First, in verse 12, Paul speaks about our confidence in Christ as a source that enables us to endure suffering and hardship in the Christian life. Secondly, in verse 13, Paul talks about the importance of fidelity to truth. Thirdly, in verse 14, he speaks of our responsibility to be active in the care of the gospel message. Fourthly, in verse 15, he prepares us to experience disappointment in the Christian life from the Christian church. Fifthly, in verses 16-18, he pronounces a divine benediction on a believer who has encouraged him. Sixthly and finally, Paul tells us that we ought to aim to imitate biblical encouragers. 

I. Our Confidence is Found Only in Jesus Christ. 

In verse 12, Paul says, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.” In other words, Paul is saying, “I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the response to my ministry is going to be. I don’t know what struggles or trials or hardships I’m going to face. I don’t know what sufferings I’m going to have to endure.” But he does say, “This I do know. I know Jesus, and I know that He is able to keep His promise to me. I know He is able to deliver on the commitment that He has made to me.” My friends, our confidence needs to be in Jesus. If it’s not, it’s going to wax and wane. It’s going to go up and down, and we’re going to be tossed about by every wind.

II. Hold Fast to Biblical Teaching, and Do So in Word and Life. 

In verse 13, Paul says, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Paul is calling on Timothy and he is calling on us to hold fast to sound, biblical teaching, and even to the words that the apostles have given us in that teaching, because that teaching has been given to us by inspiration. It is the very Word of God. So Paul says, “Timothy, hold on to the truth.” 

And he is saying to us, “I  don’t want you to simply accept the theorems and the formulations of biblical truth as if they are theoretically true. I want you to live those truths out in your lives. I want those truths to work out in your faith and love.” Paul is reminding us here that those who understand God’s sovereign grace to them are people who are gracious to others because they know the mercy that has been shown to them undeservedly.

III. Guard the Gospel Message by the Holy Spirit. 

In verse 14, Paul says, “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” In other words, Paul is saying to Timothy, “You will have to be reliant upon the Holy Spirit if you are going to continue to be faithful to the truth.” If truth is to be guarded, it will be done so in our reliance on the Spirit of God Himself. We can neither keep our minds sound in the faith as to the doctrine of the faith, nor our souls steady in the exercises of faith and love without the help of the Holy Spirit. And so we must be consciously dependent upon Him in prayer as we embrace the truth.

IV. Faithfulness to the Lord Does Not Guarantee Human Loyalty. 

In verse 15, Paul says, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” Paul is saying, “Timothy, being faithful to the Lord doesn’t mean that God’s people won’t disappoint you or let you down.” Paul had risked his life, and he had shed his blood to bring the gospel to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Asia Minor; and in his hour of trial, when he was thrown in prison, he tells us just about all of them turned their back on him. That could have made Paul bitter and cynical. And it could have made him to question God and Christ, and the gospel and the church. But it doesn’t. Instead Paul is reminding us here that when we do experience disappointment from others, we should rejoice that we have the privilege of enduring what Jesus experienced. He is telling us here that we should rejoice because we have an opportunity to endure hardship and disappointment for Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the spread of the gospel.  

V. The Lord Shows Mercy on Those Who Encourage His Servants. 

In verses 16-18, Paul pronounces a divine blessing on Onesiphorus who has ministered to him. Many Christians in Asia had abandoned Paul. However, Onesiphorus searched all over the city until he found Paul in prison, and he went to him and he ministered to him. So Paul says, “The Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Lord God, when the great Judgment Day comes and the books are open, and the pronouncement is given, when Onesiphorus stands up before You, bless him because he encouraged me when everybody had left me.” You see, Paul is just saying, “Lord God, fulfill what Jesus said He would do: that everyone who encourages the servants of the Lord will not do it without reward before Your throne on the last day.”

VI. Follow the Example of the Encouragers.

Paul shares this example of Onesiphorus in verses 16-18 precisely because he wants to urge us to be biblical encouragers. Paul is saying, “Timothy, be an encourager like this, and make sure your elders are encouragers like this, and make sure your congregation is filled with encouragement like this.” My friends, we ought to be a fellowship of encouragement in the church, not because we are positive thinkers, but because we are committed to biblical principles. In this passage, Paul is saying to us, “Place your confidence in Christ alone. Hold fast to biblical teaching, and live it in your life. Guard that truth in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Expect the church to let you down at times. And be an encouragement to other people.” Paul needed it during his ministry, and we certainly do as well. May God bless His Word in our hearts and lives.

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