Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 4:17 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “You Never Let Go.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Timothy 1:1-14 (ESV).
The Promise (vv. 1-2)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, have all been gifted of the Holy Spirit and called of God to specific roles (parts) within the body of Christ. God has a general will for all of his followers, and he has a very specific will for each one of us individually – the part that he wrote just for us. We read in Ephesians 1:4 that “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” God told Jeremiah that before he formed him in the womb of his mother; that before he was born, he set him apart, and he appointed him as a prophet to the nations. As well, the Psalmist David wrote: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives, to bring us to salvation and to eternal life with God, to mature us in Christ and in our walks of faith, and to use us to spread his gospel to others and to minister his love and grace to the people of this world and to the body of Christ.
Sincere Faith (vv. 3-7)
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 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. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I find much comfort in this passage of scripture, not that Paul remembered Timothy’s tears, but that my Lord remembers my tears, and that he longs to encourage my heart during our times together each day. He knows all our heartaches, and he cares about us. Yet, he is also completely sovereign and in control over every aspect of our lives. He allows us to go through times of suffering and pain in order to mature us, to get us to rely on him and not on ourselves, and to teach us perseverance. Through our times of suffering we are comforted and encouraged by his love and grace, and by his words of counsel and instruction, and then we are able to comfort others, who are also going through tough times, with the same love, grace and counsel (urging) as we received from the Lord.
So, what does it mean to have “sincere faith”? And, is it truly “faith” if it is not sincere (honest)? What is “faith”? The word translated as “faith” here means “to be persuaded” (by God) or “the persuasion of God’s will” for us (See: biblehub.com). This persuasion comes from God and not from ourselves (See: Eph. 2:8-10). God, by his Spirit, moves us and empowers us to turn from our sins and to walk in obedience to our Lord, but we have to cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our hearts. We are not puppets on a string. We have to say “Yes” to Jesus. We have to yield to his will and to his purposes for our lives.
Sincere faith, thus, is that which is genuine and is not hypocritical, i.e. there is no pretense in it. The person with “sincere faith” is persuaded (convinced) by God with regard to his will for our lives, and the Spirit enables him or her both to know and to do God’s will. So, if it is not sincere (honest), then it is fake (hypocritical), and thus it truly is not faith. Yet, many say that they have faith, but what they really have is head knowledge, or they have a religion or they follow a religious practice, but they have not truly been convinced of God to leave their lives of sin behind them and to follow Jesus Christ in obedience and in surrender to his will, for if they were, they would not still be walking according to the flesh, but they would be conducting their lives according to the Spirit, and by the Spirit they would be putting to death the deeds of the flesh (See: Ro. 8:1-14).
If we have sincere faith, i.e. if we are persuaded by God to be crucified with Christ (of the Spirit) in death to sin, and to be resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; Ro. 6), then we are to “fan into flame” the gift of God within us. This gift is God’s grace to us, our salvation, and eternal life with God; and it is the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit (See: Gal. 5:22-25) and the gifts of the Spirit (See: Ro. 12; 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4); and it is our walks of faith in the power of the Spirit within us. We are to fan this (or these) into flame, meaning we are to set them on fire or to stir them up. So, how do we do this in all practicality?
I believe we do this by continually yielding our lives to our Lord in full submission to his will and to his purposes for our lives, by walking in obedience to his general and specific wills for our lives, and by not neglecting our walks of faith or our times with our Lord in prayer and in his word. We do this, as well, by not giving way to fear and to intimidation, but by remaining steadfast in faith and in our witness for our Lord despite all opposition and persecution which may come against us. We also do this by not becoming lazy and slothful in our walks of faith, in our witnessing, in our times of personal devotions, and in our obedience to our Lord and to his Word. And, we do this by not allowing the devil to get a foothold in our lives, but allowing the Spirit to fill us to overflowing and to empower us to be bold in our witness for Christ and in following our Lord wherever he leads us.
Share in Suffering (vv. 8-14)
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
When we are faced with much opposition and persecution because of our faith in Jesus Christ, or when we experience enormous peer pressure to compromise our faith and practice in order to not offend people with the gospel, or in order to be accepted and to not be rejected, we may be tempted to yield to that pressure and allow ourselves to respond with embarrassment concerning our faith rather than to stand strong and be rejected. No one likes to be hated, after all. Yet, God will give us all the strength we need to resist this temptation, and to stand strong, and to not compromise, but to speak out about our faith and to be bold in our witness for Christ and for his gospel.
Yes, it will most likely mean that we will be hated, rejected, ostracized, falsely accused, and the like. But, it will also mean that we are walking in obedience to our Lord and that we are sharing his gospel with others so that they, too, may be saved, so it is worth it all. I would much rather be at peace with God than to make friends with the world. I would much rather be hated of men and be approved of God. I would much rather be in fellowship with my Lord, serving him, and doing his will, then to be liked by the world and to be living a life which I know is displeasing to my Lord. If me being hated and persecuted means that I can influence others to come to know Christ, so they can be saved of their sins, and have the hope of eternal life with God, then I will choose to be hated and persecuted in order that others may also know the love of God and experience his grace in their lives.
God did not call us to live for ourselves and to work to have people like us. He called us to live holy lives, pleasing to him, even if we are hated like he was, in return. To be holy means to be set apart for God and to be set apart from (different, unlike) the world because we are becoming like Jesus. The more we distance ourselves from worldliness and living like the sinful world around us, and the more we are being conformed to the image of Christ, the more that the world and the worldly church will hate and persecute us.
Yet, there is no better way to live than in the center of God’s will, being who we were created to be and doing what we were created to do. So, we are to guard (protect) what has been entrusted to us – whether it is merely our salvation, our faith, and/or whether it is our relationship with Christ via his Holy Spirit now living within us, and/or whether it is the gifts and ministries God has given to us. We are to protect them from corruption and from compromise and from slothfulness. And, we are to stand strong in our faith and in God’s mighty power at work within us, daily taking up our cross and following Christ, and putting on the full armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks (plots) against us, as the Spirit helps and enables us to do so.
You Never Let Go / Matt Redman
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near
And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
…Lord, You never let go of me…