Stick with it….
If I were to summarize this last charge to Timothy, stick with it. Do not give up. “Fight the good fight of the faith” Paul says in 1 Tim. 6:12. The truth that is emphasized in this scripture: it’s easy to begin, but harder as you become familiar, as patterns emerge and become routine. Stick with it. “Guard what has been entrusted to your care…” Whenever you start something new, it is fresh, exciting, but then you get to the daily grind, easy to give up. “Fight”. ‘Take hold’ “Guard” all words of encouragement to keep on keeping on. In the church a new pastor, a new program, a new focus is exciting, but after a while, when everything becomes familiar, patterns are set... There is a place for starting over, but depth comes through seeing your commitments through even when times are rough.
In the year 2005, in SACC, a year was spent examining who we are as a church, when we were at our best, how we envision our future. What we are today is a testimony to a faithful people that kept the vision alive, joined by many other faithful people along the way, we were at our best when we were involved, when you were involved in ministry… these words spoken by Paul to Timothy are as needed for us as they were for Timothy: Fight. Take hold. Keep the faith. Keep this command. Remain pure to God, cleansed by the Lord “without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Stick with it.
I truly love to hear stories of people converting to the faith, new Christians who discover the life changing truth of Jesus Christ…but what I appreciate perhaps even more…the testimony of a faithful Christian who has walked with God for years and finds an incredible peace and satisfaction. Those who have fought the good fight, who have weathered the storms of life, and are in still in love with God. Their story may not be as dramatic, but there is something profound about hearing from Christians who have loved and known the Lord for decades… one of the clear messages is for Timothy to stick with it… remain faithful to the Lord even when it gets hard, it’s so easy to begin, but harder to continue after the initial excitement wanes.
Stick with it. There are several companion messages that flow from this charge to Timothy. Last week we talked about being a content person by embracing godly values. You’ll find those same thoughts in here… I want to focus on two more thoughts which enlarge the charge to be faithful to God’s calling on your life.
Embrace that which you already have…
You have to look at 1 Tim. 6:12 (second half, read). Timothy already had eternal life, and Paul is telling him to embrace it. How do you embrace that which you already have? That would be like the guy who loves growing flowers, so naturally he has a lot of vases he collects and hardly even notices them, till one day he unknowingly sees his own vases in a garage sale and gets so excited because he can use these wonderful vases, not realizing they were his to begin with, suddenly he sees them with new eyes, a fresh perspective, and he purchases that which he already had.
The Lord has already given you everything you need to serve Him, to make a difference in the world. To be a minister. Embrace that which you already have: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”
Sometimes we don’t know we have what we need to get the job done. A man was working on a construction project and got frustrated and had to put the job aside till he got the right tool. He asked his neighbors and nobody had what he needed. A few days later he was in Bellingham, and bought the right tool for the job. When he brought it home, how frustrating to discover on his workbench he already owned what he needed. Embrace that which you already have…you already have an incredible amount that the Lord has given you…
Are you amazed with me? A spouse gets sick, and the long time healthy spouse is overwhelmed, unsure how he/she is going to get along if/when the inevitable comes. Then the spouse dies, and the one remaining alive discovers an incredible strength, a gift of faith, a new wonderful chapter of life they never thought possible. The Lord has given a strength to endure, and the one who remains alive never thought it possible. There are wonderful folks sitting in this room that have found an incredible strength from the Lord in the face of cancer, sickness, tragedy. The faith was there all along…
"Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The problem is that when you are in the world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the problems, the negative actions, evilness. May your faith guide you. May your convictions of God’s truth be your strength. Don’t be overwhelmed by the world, be overwhelmed by God. God’s already given you what you need to serve him.
It is possible to possess something without really enjoying it. Even the things of God. Embrace the strength that is yours through Jesus Christ. Embrace the truth of God. Embrace the promises of eternal life. When your joy comes through confidence of knowing eternity with God, then you are an unmovable rock for God in this old world.
One more powerful truth to touch upon.
An Amazing Title…
Paul bestows upon Timothy an amazing title. Did you even notice it in 1 Tim. 6:11? [man of God].
In my imagination, I can easily imagine this title is the most powerful three words to the young man Timothy. It’s an amazing title.
Let’s start with Timothy. Back in the sermon on 10-10-10, this is the way Timothy was described. Young, if he was in the late teens when he first ventured forth with Paul, he is perhaps about mid thirties when 1 Tim is penned, still a young man. John Stott describes Timothy: “He was very far from being a stain glassed saint. A halo would not have fitted comfortably on his head. No, the evidence is plain that he was a real human being like us, with all the infirmity and vulnerability which that entails.”
Later, 1 Tim. 4:12, Paul says to Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because of his youth. A few years later, when 2 Tim is written, Paul says “flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim. 2:22). Timothy felt immature and inexperienced and was weighted down by the responsibilities place upon him.
Timothy was shy. He need affirmation. Timothy was reserved. When Paul and Barnabus were around in the book of Acts, Timothy was not the decision maker. Others always decided. When Paul sent Timothy to the Corinthians, he instructed them, “Put him at ease.” In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul says the Lord has not given us a spirit of timidity, evidently the mentor urging the young Timothy to be more bold.
Young, reserved, and sickly. Paul refers to a stomach problem, even prescribing for Timothy “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach, because you are sick so often.” Young, reserved, sickly. On the face of it, Timothy was not impressive. Not a great first impression. Yet Paul calls him a “man of God.” An amazing title.
In the old testament, the title was only used a few times for the leaders of Israel: Moses (Dt. 33:1, Josh. 14:6). Samuel (1 Sam. 9:6). David (Ne. 12:24, 36), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18, 2 Kings 1:9), Elisha (2 Kings 4:7) and a few other prophets and leaders. “Man of God” -- on the one hand young, shy, sickly Timothy who is being overwhelmed by bickering teachers in the church, and on the other hand Moses, David, Elisha and Elijah. Could you imagine Timothy receiving this letter from his mentor Paul, Timothy who is struggling to know how to reach into the community with the gospel message, Timothy who is young, shy and sickly, to get this letter from Paul, and to read this awesome/humbling title: “Man of God.” Paul is thrusting Timothy into the company of some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
When I was a young pastor, I had some great compliments from seasoned pastors. What a difference it makes. My own father did not say a lot, but when he had a word of affirmation, what a difference it made. I am not about to claim this title in Timothy or any other title, more important is the larger principle: the need for affirmation of each other. Paul believed in Timothy: people need a Paul. Somebody to recognize, somebody to affirm. Somebody to encourage. What an awesome title. Words of affirmation are important. Recognition. I don’t think my daughter is alone in getting overwhelmed by her first year of college at times, so what do Sally and I say to her: we are proud of you, you are doing so well. When people recognize your gifts and strengths, have the courage to accept the affirmation, and be encouraged to keep on fighting the good fight of faith, as you embrace that which the Lord has given you, the truth of eternity which is yours in Christ Jesus, finding great joy in the gifts the Lord has already given you.
Our calling as individuals and a church is to be mono-faithful in serving the community and never giving up on people. I am glad that the seasoned Paul penned these words of instruction and encouragement to the young leader Timothy. May we work to minimize internal struggles among ourselves, and be faithful in relentlessly testifying of Jesus Christ through our words and actions to a hurting and struggling community.