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Full-time workers of Jesus Christ face many problems but so does the average Christian believer including outright persecution and hostility. Note Paul's exhortation to Timothy on how to solve the problem of timidity.
Key words: ashamed, service, gospel, saved, Christ, serve, timidity, fear, ministry, problems, persecution, Hindu, activists, suffering, missionaries, missionary story, Polycarp, martyrdom
This is part two of a five part series. Study questions are also included. Audio and video can be found in our huge BFF New Testament Library.
“But join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8b)
Paul the apostle not only identifies the problem that fears bring into one’s lives and how they affect one’s decisions, but continues envisioning what Timothy should be doing. Paul jumps over some of the hurdles of shame and speaks to him on the level of behavior and action.
He does not tell him how to feel better about what he should be doing but has him focus on what he needs to do. In this case, Paul said, “But join with me in suffering for the gospel.”
Paul is asking Timothy to join him in suffering. Paul was there. He knows what temptations come up when a person is being threatened. This is because Paul has faced, and indeed regularly faces such temptations.
Perhaps Timothy had already started to face some real opposition, but Paul has experienced it all, including many beatings and threats. God is able to keep him at those times. Keeping the proper perspective helps shape one’s feelings rather than allowing those feeling to run loose, dictating what one does.
Once I preached on an incident that occurred to a missionary and his two sons back around fifteen years ago. This beloved doctor, helping the community there in rugged India, was not liked by all, especially when he would at night go and show the Jesus film and otherwise witness for Christ. One night he slept in his car along with his two sons. Those that disliked him set the car on fire and the three died in the flames.
Many years later, I remembered that I had spoke on this incident in my sermon. I wondered, “Hm, where in India did that happen? How close is it to the spot that I am going?” After seeing that the two places were close to each other, I realized that I needed to properly prepare myself. The evil one was attempting to use fear in my life to keep me from training pastors in India. The Lord enabled me to face fear.
About four months later I was traveling in a car traveling to the place in India to hold a pastor/Christian leader seminar. The pastor brother, sitting up front in the car, turned around and asked if I ever heard about this immolation that happened to the dear missionary. I am glad I personally had dealt with it. With more than ten messages to speak on my mind, I did not need to start thinking about my fears!
Since then, our brothers and sisters in Orissa or Odisha (it’s new name) have faced many horrible tragedies due to persecution. While there are peaceful Hindus, there are also Hindu activists who hate the things of the Lord (most indeed do not understand them). Many places across the world experience the same things from those who oppose the things of the Lord, but this is not our true problem for the Lord closely oversees what happens to His beloved children.
More important than what might happen is how we internally deal with these fears. In most cases, what we fear never happens. Never. So all the times that we spend worrying about a situation causes disruption to our lives, family and work. The apostle was suggesting a better way. Join with him in the suffering for the gospel.
Make a decision to suffer for the gospel, if the need ever comes up. Make it clear what you will do if you are at all threatened or bullied by others because of Christ’s Name. Paul has suffered and eventually was killed for the Name of Jesus. “In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million -- fully 65% -- were in the last century, according to "The New Persecuted" ("I Nuovi Perseguitati").
✦ When walking in His ways, nothing can happen to me that the Lord doesn’t want.
✦ The Lord loves to deliver me from evil (3:11; Acts 4).
✦ If the Lord allows me to suffer evil, then He has some special reason for it. I don’t need to know what that reason is, but I do know it is for some greater good–probably for the salvation or comfort of others. Did not Paul use his suffering as a way to encourage others?
✦ It is my ultimate goal to live unashamed of Him by carefully carrying all He desires to the glory of Jesus Christ.
Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostles, was burned at the stake about the year 155, February 23. Polycarp’s courageous witness in the amphitheater at Smyrna is seen when the proconsul asked him to curse Christ, Polycarp said, “Eighty- six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” This is prayer before he died:
Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise. I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
It is better to be open with my confession of Christ and suffer any possible consequences than to die in shame before my Savior who died for me. If He died for me, then I am willing to go anywhere with Him. Like you, I hope I do not experience this suffering, but many do.
As our society gets increasingly hostile to the gospel, it is important to make a like commitment to join Timothy, myself, Paul and a host of others to suffer for Christ if it is necessary. We will all die at some point. May we all bring that valiant testimony with us into His presence, we loved not ourselves or the world more than Christ.
✦ Have you ever been timid sharing the gospel? The Lord prompts you to share the gospel with some colleague but you have all of these fearful thoughts rush into your mind. Many of these thoughts are very exaggerated. The evil one is causing this fear to hinder you from going forward.
✦ Make a commitment: “Whatever happens to me, I will faithfully serve You and be unashamed.”
This article is one of hundreds waiting for you to read from the BFF New Testament Library. The library includes audio, powerpoints and videos.
Three Stages of Discipleship
The Heart of True Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4-7)
The Plan of Discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2)
Seven Principles to Spirit Dependent Teaching
Combating Spiritual Decline
Understanding the Cycle of Decline and Revival (Judges 2)
Determining your place in the cycle of growth
Discipling your sons: The why and way (8)
Reviving your Personal Devotions (15)
Spiritual Warfare: General Principles
THE FLOW: The whole process by which disciples grow as a church or individually.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988