Sunday, January 14, 2018

2 Timothy 1 :1-7 "Fearless Service"

This is, as far as we know, Paul's last letter. He writes it from prison in Rome around AD 67/68. He is  awaiting execution, and it is  clear that  his thoughts in this letter are  not  rooted in  his  imminent  death, but  in the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus (1:1).

The letter is addressed to Timothy, whom he calls “my beloved child” (1:2;2:1). He is not his biological child of course, but his son in the faith. He is Timothy’s father in the gospel. (1 Cor. 4:15).  Timothy is a pastor of the congregation in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), and as I  said to you in my introductory words when I preached through 1 Timothy in 2016:
“…these pastoral  epistles were  written by Paul to these younger colleagues in the ministry in order to provide pastoral   help and counsel for the many and varied situations  which these younger  men and pastors  encountered  in their respective  situations. The pastoral epistles  address a  number  of  timeless issues  that churches  experience, and it is therefore of great  value for  us to  learn  from  the wisdom  of  the  God inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16,17) and  so to avoid the  common pitfalls and traps  into which so many pastors  and  churches  throughout the ages  have fallen…” [1]

One of the great privileges of being older in the faith is that we have seen God at work in so many different ways. We have seen and experienced and tasted  God’s faithfulness  in so many ways, and the knowledge and experience of  this helps us to encourage those that are younger in the faith.  
At the beginning  of this year of our Lord,  2018 I want to speak to you about  ‘Fearless Service’, and I am of course referring to fearless service  in the service of   God, and my text is found in verse 7“God gave us a spirit not of fear  but of power  and love and self- control.”  

What I want to do is to look at the man, Paul who made this statement, and I want to look at the man Timothy, to whom he made this statement,  and finally I want  us to appropriate  these Scriptures to ourselves,as we think about  serving our Lord without fear in 2018.  

1.     Paul : Our model of fearless  service 

In doing so I must not tempt you to think of Paul as a perfect man. Paul does not claim perfection (Phil. 3:12), and he confesses  his own weakness readily (2 Cor. 12:9). But   Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God (1:1a) …. Paul is not claiming to be a self -made man. He is a God -made, God- called, God - equipped man! He is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus (1:1b). The fact of the matter is  that  Jesus took hold of Paul according to the story told in Acts 9, and this religious  man, this well trained Pharisee  was born again  and he  became a great, life giving  tool,  for the conversion and sanctification  of many in the hand of  God. And many are still born again, and many are still being sanctified when they read the inspired words of Paul in our own day. He was a man, but he was a man in the hand of God, and his grace to him was not in vain. It was effective (1 Cor. 15:10).  Paul’s amazing biography is found in his second letter to the Corinthians. There we read (e.g. 2 Cor.11:16-28) how he persevered in fearless service, under many trying circumstances. He feared man little. He feared his circumstances little, although they were painful. He feared God more.  And he looked forward to his eternal reward, which the death that he was facing could not take from him, because he understood the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.

The Christian life is a life  that  is undergirded by God’s grace, mercy and peace (1:2).  These are the spiritual blessings that God has given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and these make us able to do fearless service in this world. God’s grace is His unconditional favour to those who believe, and his grace is always sufficient for every situation (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s mercy is His love for His undeserving people, and Paul speaks about that in 1 Timothy 1:13-16. God’s peace  is   the accompanying  sense of well-being  (Shalom), when we know  that God is in charge of our situation. The peace of God which passes all understanding guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).  This enables Paul to be fearless, not because he is macho, but because he knows himself to be in the hand of God.

Now, to take this further, we must note that this apostle, who is so very secure in the knowledge   and the experience of His Saviour,   is also a man of prayer (1:3). Fearless men and women know about prayer, and they practise habitual prayer.  As we prepare to learn about Timothy, we note that Paul constantly remembers Timothy in His prayers.  I would like to say something about prayer in this regard.  Prayer is the joy of those who know that apart from God they can do nothing. I have studied Paul’s epistles over and over and I see that he is a man of prayer. He has understood that  his effective work as an apostle  is by the grace and mercy of God alone.  

Prayer then is the mark of a courageous, fearless Christian, and it is not surprising for it portrays confidence in God. Your prayer life, rooted in your knowledge of the Word of God (or the absence of it),  will tell you everything you are before God, and if you are not much with God in prayer, then you are your own man or woman, and if this is so, you will be easily overtaken by  the fear of man. 
 
Paul was praying for Timothy.  Paul believed in the help which we would receive from the  prayers of others (2 Cor.  1:10,11) But apart from that it is wonderful to know that godly people are praying for you, and we in the church must indeed learn to  diligently pray for one another (Eph. 6:18). And it is not just about repeating a prayer list.  Paul prayed for Timothy with real love and affection and longing.  

"I thank God...as I remember you.”  Again, note that Paul is not fixated on his own fear as he is in prison, awaiting death. Instead,  Paul  exhibits a life  of  thankfulness for the life of others.  He was  thinking about others.  

2.     Timothy : Learning  to become fearless in Service:

1:4 “I am reminded  of  your sincere faith,  a faith  that dwelt first  in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now,  I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Timothy had a Jewish mother and a grandmother who had become believers in the Lord Jesus.  His father, we learn in Acts 16:1 was a Greek pagan man.  His conversion is never mentioned. These godly women and Timothy were probably all converted under Paul’s evangelistic ministry. 

The work of God in the soul of man is always work in progress. Salvation is a dynamic concept. And so conversion, repentance, faith must be followed by  sanctification , and  it is here  that we find that God has  much work to do in Timothy.  

You see it in 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God...”. Timothy has been called to shepherd the flock of God in Ephesus. But he is a man like all of us. At times we get slack, or hold back, being fearful of making  a commitment,  and at times  we need  someone to tell us to get going and  use that which God has put into us  by way of a spiritual gift. 

Spiritual gifts  are for  spiritual service,  and these spiritual gifts  are given to us by God[2] . They do not operate automatically. We must use that gift and practise to use it.  We must fan it into flame and keep it going. In that sense our spiritual gifts are like natural gifts. If you have an athletic gift, you will not become a great athlete unless you train diligently.  Someone may have a natural musical ability, but  they need to  practise and develop and stir up that gift. Marcelle’s brother who sang in the Drakensberg  Boys choir, and was a soloist in his day, portrayed a clear musical talent and a singing  gift at a very young age. But he was trained at that school, and he was taught to perform and use his gift. You have got to cultivate those gifts. So, why is it  that  we do not  want to use our spiritual gifts to the glory of God and for the benefit of the church? 

1:7 gives us an indication. Following his statement on the spiritual gift, Paul says to Timothy,  “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”  Apparently, Timothy was by nature somewhat timid. He was inclined to hold back, perhaps because he was a nervous person. He had stomach problems and other ailments (1 Tim 5:23). Stomach problems are often associated with nervous conditions. He was young and he was leading a church, and as you can imagine, that was not easy. Paul had to encourage  him frequently in that regard (1 Tim 4:13 , and again  this text  speaks of the spiritual gift). Timothy was tempted to hold back, because  of his  temperament and  bodily ailments, but  Paul reminds him : ‘Timothy, we haven't been given a spirit of fear (or timidity), but a spirit of power and of love, and of  self- control (discipline)...’. The fact is that God has called Timothy  into service, despite his temperamental disadvantages and despite his bodily weaknesses.

God has equipped him, and his   temperament and  bodily ailments  are  no hindrance, and thus I remind  you that our competency  and confidence in ministry  is never  in ourselves, but in the God who calls and equips us. We are fearless in Christian ministry, not because we have  a natural ability to be macho, but we know Who stands behind us, and because  we know Who has equipped us with everything good to do His will.  

3.     CONCLUSION  AND APPLICATION :

From verses 1&2 we learn that Christians draw strength in their trials because of their knowledge of God's providence, His will, and His promises. Every Christian is able to serve God, not with self-confidence, but with confidence in God, and in His promises. Grace, mercy and peace are foundational gifts and blessings to every believer, and Paul's words, are a comfort if we will listen.  If we attempt to minister on God’s behalf in our own strength, we will be broken, and we will either live in denial or in bitterness. Paul could live and minister in power and love and  self- control  because he believed...he knew God's will and God's promise.

In v.  3 we learn that prayer is the hallmark of a person that trusts not themselves but God. It becomes one of the hallmarks  that undergird  fearless  service. Paul knows whom he has believed (see 1:12). 

And so he is freed from the curse of human fear and what man can do to him. Therefore he is able to focus on others. In this instance he is thinking about Timothy and He is thanking God for the life of Timothy. This mind-set is not found much in our culture.  We tend to think  too much of  ‘what I need’. We think too much  of  - ‘Is God meeting my needs? Is the church meeting my needs?’  For Paul this is  the last thing on his mind. Because he is God's man  he is able to  let God take care of him , and this gives him time and space to think of others who are not there yet.   This, I say  is counter-cultural thinking,   and this is what God calls us to do and to  be- to be not like the world.

This radical God centeredness is what leads to fearless service. Look at verse 7 again.  Christians serve with a power and strength that cares for others wisely – with real power, real love and real self- control.  This, I submit to you is profound thinking, and may this help you to trust God and to really have a heart for fearless service in 2018 . Amen



[1]  See my sermon on  1 Timothy   1:1-2 , entitled  “  A Letter  from Paul to Timothy  for the  Church in all Ages”, dated    03/04/2016
[2] See 1 Corinthians 12

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