MAKING A NEW START
2 Timothy 1: 3-14 (New Living Translation)
3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.
5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him[a] until the day of his return.
13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.
Don’t you sometimes want to make a fresh start?
- To put the past and the present behind you
- To wipe the slate clean
- To be free from guilt
- To have hope for the future
- To do what you’ve always wanted or needed to do but never had the opportunity or courage
- To step out boldly and not be constrained by your fears and insecurities
- To find joy and happiness in your relationships with others
- To serve God with all your heart, mind and strength
In short, to be the kind of person you know you should be but have somehow never quite made it
Or, as someone mischievously put it… I want to be as wonderful a person as my dog already thinks I am! Or better still, as my God longs for me to be.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Have you realised that ambition?
- I wanted to be veterinary surgeon (because I liked dogs!) or a priest or a missionary to China (though I did not come from a church family)…
- My elder son once told his teacher he wanted to be a robber!
And as for the ambitions we have for our children and grandchildren … most of all we want them to be happy and healthy
- But we worry about how they are going to reach such a state in a world where Satan seems to be having such success
Less often, perhaps, do we ask …
“What sort of PERSON does God want me to be?”
SUPPOSE THAT YOUR LIFE IS COMING TO A CLOSE…
- You want to write to a young friend with advice about life… about spiritual and practical priorities
- You want to make every word count… it could be your final chance to influence him or her
Now imagine that you are the Apostle Paul in prison writing a letter to a young friend and brother in Christ…
- What will you include in your final words?
There are many examples of famous ‘last words’…
Sir Walter Raleigh… “I have a long journey to take and must bid the company farewell”
Sir Cecil Rhodes (English-born South African businessman and politician… Rhodesia was named after him): “So little done, so much to do”
Captain Lawrence Oates: “I am just going outside and may be some time”
By contrast, the atheistic philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) wrote, as his life drew to its end:
Despair returns to haunt me…The world seems ugly, bad and without hope. There, that’s the cry of despair of an old man who will die in despair. But that’s exactly what I resist. I know I shall die in hope. But that hope needs a foundation. (But he had none!)
So what WILL you hope to say or write as your life nears its end?
- Study hard and get a good job
- Find yourself a loving wife/husband
- Achieve a work-life balance…take lots of holidays
- Settle down in a nice church…
All of these points are important…but are they enough?
PAUL’S ADVICE TO TIMOTHY takes a different slant… But before we look at what he says, note that in verse 3, Paul acknowledges that success in life depends, in large measure, on the example set by those around us…
- In Timothy’s case, the example was set by his grandmother and his mother—Lois and Eunice
- Their “sincere faith” was the foundation on which Timothy’s life was built
- Paul could have confidence in Timothy because he’d followed the powerful example set by his mum and gran
Mums, grans, dads, grandads, aunties, uncles, friends and neighbours… that’s all of us!
There are many things you are unable to do… but one thing we can all do is to influence young (and not-so-young) folk through our Christian faith, witness and walk…
- I wonder who watches you and me as we go about our daily tasks… our conversation, degree of trust in God, kindness, gentleness, humility, self-control, patience…
- We are ambassadors for Christ… we stand “in His place”… just as He stood in our place at Calvary
- We speak on His behalf… just as He intercedes on our behalf before God the Father
We are all beneficiaries of—or disadvantaged by—our spiritual heritage
I was walking through the town recently when along came a lady, the grandmother, pushing twins. The mother was also there with another little boy. How lovely… until the grandmother opened her mouth! It was awful.
When we see and hear such things, it makes us sad and we wonder how the children will grow up. What sort of people will they become when they are set such a poor example by adults?
- What chance do they have of becoming responsible citizens and staying on the straight and narrow?
- What chance do they have of hearing the Gospel and becoming heavenly citizens?
The truth is that Christian believers are the primary source of the Lord’s blessing to others…
- There are plenty of nice people who are not Christians
- But we have the mind of Christ… our role is unique
- If we are not “Christ to the world”, there’s no one else to do the job!
AND SO PAUL OFFERS THREE SPECIFIC PIECES OF ADVICE:
- Fan into flame the gift of God (v 6)
- Be willing to testify about the Lord (vs 8,9)
- Guard the Gospel (v 14)
Fan into flame the gift of God
- It’s amazing how swiftly fire spreads… especially when the wind blows strongly
- A bush fire can rage for weeks
And Timothy is reminded that he has been given a gift from God that he must “fan into flame”
- The nature of gifts from God varies from one person to another… but all of them are ‘gifts of grace’ or charisma
- Yes, every Christian is a charismatic!
Gifts come from God and are unmerited… but as Jesus explained, we make the decision about how we use these gifts of grace…
- The gift needs to be fanned into flame through surrender to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who provides the power
- We can try hard (that’s good) and be sincere and faithful
- But unless we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives, the gift will be more like a ‘pilot light’ on the old gas fires… it needs a surge of power to burst into flame
THE FANNING INTO FLAME IS NOT FOR PERSONAL GAIN… but to glorify God
- No use hiding the gifts under the mattress!
- Or using our gifts for our own benefit …
It’s quite possible to be gifted… but use them for worldly approval and our own benefit.
An obituary of Helen Gurly Brown from 2012 offers much food for thought…
Helen Gurley Brown, long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, recently died aged 90… She once famously wrote that: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere“. She catapulted to fame with her 1962 book, Sex and the Single Girl, which became a huge bestseller and led to Gurley Brown’s appointment as editor of Cosmopolitan… She encouraged young women to “sow their wild oats” just as men in secular society were expected to do. Earning the ire of both feminists and social conservatives, she promoted the idea that women should become the playthings of men, exploiting their looks and feminine charms to get what they wanted, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom. She made the concept of being a “good girl” seem terribly old-fashioned … Since the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, in which Gurley Brown was a major player, our culture has seen a meteoric rise in levels of depression, particularly among teenagers and college students, feelings of loneliness and alienation, a devaluing of marriage, and rampant cases of sexually transmitted diseases, which can lead to infertility… Fortunately, based on the overwhelming evidence that Gurley Brown’s advice on how to live a “fun” and fulfilling life have been such abysmal failures, more young people are “just saying no” to the contradictory idea of “casual intimacy”.
Was Gurley Brown’s life worth living? Does she receive God’s approval? She was gifted, no doubt, but did she use her gifts for God’s glory? Did the Holy Spirit fan them into flame? (You decide!)
The second piece of advice that Paul gives to Timothy is to be willing to testify about the Lord (verses 8, 9)
- Both in word and through our deeds
- To be in the world but not of it… distinctive … set apart…holy… So in verse 9 we read… “God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace”
- To stand for what is right and not be swayed by popular opinion or propaganda or clever arguments
- Certainly not to allow the media to determine our morality
We don’t need to be embarrassed by our Christian beliefs:
- We are not arrogant but we can be definite
- Willing to listen to the views of others but not to accommodate them into our belief system if they are contrary to Jesus’ teaching
As Paul writes in chapter 1, verse 8… “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God”
Of course, we need to be clear about what we believe…
- Willing to respond helpfully to genuine enquiries
- And not to be afraid to admit when we are unsure
There will always be sceptics, who ask questions like:
- “If God is a God of love, how can he allow…”
- “What about those who have never heard about Jesus…”
- “What about the unborn, the mentally deficient and those who die very young…”
- “Are you saying that murderers and rapists will go to heaven if they repent?”
We won’t have all the answers… and our answers won’t always satisfy the questioner… but we can speak about what we do know… “Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel”
The third piece of advice is, quite simply… Guard the Gospel! (See verse 14)
- Through sound teaching
- Through active faith in Christ
- Relying on the Holy Spirit
Sound teaching… The early church was plagued with improper teaching and false prophets, so…
- We must read our Bibles regularly and carefully, asking God to remind us of familiar truth and reveal new things that we’ve never seen or appreciated before
- Make time to read good Christian literature, including doctrine (not a dirty word!)
- Leaders… ensure that members receive a healthy diet of systematic teaching over the year…
- Check what speakers say… especially visiting ones!
- Beware of preachers who don’t expand our knowledge and understanding of God’s will and purpose: Give them a specific topic or simply don’t invite them again
SOUND TEACHING is essential…People being trained to spot forgeries become so familiar with the REAL THING that they know instinctively if something is counterfeit… We must adopt the same approach
Active faith in Christ
- Jesus said that we must not only be hearers of the word but also ‘doers’ …because faith without works is dead
- We fix our eyes upon Him… like the ploughman fixes his eyes on an object on the horizon
HOW REAL IS OUR FAITH IN CHRIST?
A young enthusiastic man asked an older lady if she was a real Christian. The lady replied: “Young man, I could tell you anything! Go and ask my family, friends and neighbours… they’ll tell you whether I’m genuine or not!”
An active faith means trusting God in difficult times as well as good
‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’
Relying on the Holy Spirit
- Jesus said that without Him, we can achieve nothing!
- But with God, nothing is impossible
A farmer tried hard to make a success of his business but the heat, poor soil and cost of maintaining livestock proved too much… and eventually he sold the farm. The new owner decided to sink a number of boreholes to find water… After numerous failures, he used longer pipes and up from the ground came…oil! The farmer had been sitting on a reservoir of power without realising it and yet had given up in despair. If only he’d known!
We know the truth! We know that God is the Guardian of the Gospel.
Let’s not wait until our ‘final words’ to communicate to others the way, the truth and the life found in Jesus Christ… Let’s get going today!