Today let’s start II Timothy chapter 2. Let’s look at being “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (1) This letter is the last letter written by the Apostle Paul. Paul had been arrested again for the Gospel and was in the Roman underground prison. In the midst of the uncertain situation of not knowing when he was going to be executed, he wrote and sent this letter to Timothy. Timothy who was at that time the Pastor of the Ephesian church was weakened, exhausted from dealing with smoldering problems in the church. To such a Timothy Paul advised, “Fan into flame the gift of God.” (1:6) That is because “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (1:7) Paul said that he wanted Timothy to share with him “in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (1:8) There was a good model of this named Onesiphorus. Many people were deserting Paul because he had been captured, but when Onesiphorus heard that Paul had been captured, he “was not ashamed of” (1:16) Paul’s chains. On the contrary, he didn’t consider the danger to his life and “searched hard for” (1:17) Paul until he found him. How great an encouragement that must have been to Paul! Like this he wanted Timothy to join with him “in suffering for the gospel.”
In today’s passage too Paul is advising timid Timothy who lacks confidence, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) I would like to explain concretely through three examples of how we can “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) Sometimes in the midst of struggles we feel weak. Today I would like to talk about 3 aspects of how we can become strong at such times.
- By the grace of Jesus Christ. (Vs. 1 & 2)
First of all please look at verses 1 and 2. I will read verse 1. “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is I Timothy 1:2 too said, “To Timothy my true son in the faith.” Here too Paul is calling Timothy “my son”. (1) Timothy was saved through Paul so he was a spiritual son. To his son Paul, the spiritual father, says, “be strong”. (1) All parents want their children to “be strong”. (1) No matter how hard things are they want their children to never lose hope. In fact, the harder things are stronger and sturdier they want them to be. Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father, wanted the same. How we can become stronger?
Here Paul says, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) What does it mean to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”? (1)
Ephesians 2:8 & 9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”
We are saved “by grace…through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8) It is not by our works, but “it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:9) A present is by the one way goodwill of the giver. The person wants to so he gives. He doesn’t have to. God gave this present. He wanted to from his heart. He really wanted to give it to us. That’s because God loves you. Therefore, he gave you a present from his heart. That was Jesus Christ and the cross. Anyone who believes in Jesus is saved. That is faith. Therefore, we are not saved by works, but by the grace of God. By receiving God’s grace, this is called faith, we are saved. That is not something that we received by doing something. Therefore, we become strong by remaining in the grace of Jesus Christ. The moment we leave grace we become insecure. It says, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1)
Thus this is not to be strong by grace, but to “be strong in the grace.” (1) It is by being “in the grace”, being immersed in grace, that we are to “be strong”. (1) Actually “be strong” (1) in the original Greek is in the passive tense. In other words, it is “to be made strong”. It isn’t becoming strong by your own strength, but by an outside power. That power is being “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1)
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;” (Acts 1:8) and by that power you will be able to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) We cannot be witnesses for Christ by our own power. However, when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit we will become witnesses.
Paul is saying this in Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” It is not our power, but “his power that is at work within us.” (Eph.3:20) Our God, God’s power of the Holy Spirit does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” “Him” (Phil. 4:13) is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus through the Holy Spirit works within us so we “can do everything”. We can’t do it. We “can do everything through him who gives … strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
I think you probably know about Nick Vujicic who was born without legs and arms. He was born in 1982 to a pastor’s family as the eldest son of 3 children. When he was born he had only shoulders, but no arms. His lower body had 2 toes but no legs. The reason for his handicap is unknown. He was brought up in the church so he knew God’s love. Time after time he prayed for arms and legs, but they weren’t given. In the course of time he began to think that he wasn’t loved by God and it was a mistake that he was born. He thought that in the future he would not be able to work at a decent job. Also he might not be able to get married. Even if he did, he would never be able to hold the child that is born. Nick lost his hope for living during his youth. At school there were so many things that he couldn’t do. He was made fun of. His parents held him when he was crying, but they couldn’t understand his really aching heart. It was so bad that at the age of 10 because God didn’t take away his pain, he tried to commit suicide in the bathroom. However, he realized that if he died, his parents would be very sad and was persuaded not to do so.
However, now Nick says that it is a huge joy to be living. He has graduated from college with 2 degrees and is in the real estate business. He is also invited to many parts of the world to speak. He can walk on his little legs. He can swim too. With 2 toes he can make a peace sign. He can type 43 words a minute and he can write.
He radiantly says that the truth has set him free. At the age of 15 he came across chapter 9 of John. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) When he read this he realized why he was born. That was for God’s glory. God for his glory has a plan for him. Even if hands and legs aren’t given up him, when he believed in God and prayed, God didn’t change the situation, but changed his heart. Plus he was able to have assurance that he could “do everything through him who gives … strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
Now he as a Christian evangelist is flying all around the world telling about Christ’s love everywhere. The other day too there was a huge gathering at the Big Site in Tokyo where he spoke. 3 years ago he married and now he has a 2 year old child. How wonderful! Nick “through him who gives … strength” (Phil. 4:13) today too continues to live with strong power.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13) This is not just Nick, but can be said of all people who have been saved by the grace of God. We are weak, but however, “according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20) we “can do everything.” (Phil. 4:13)
Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. If a branch is not connected to the tree it can’t bear fruit. If they are separated it can’t bear. It’s that simple. Jesus is speaking using the truths of nature. It is a matter of fact. That can also be said spiritually too.
Christ is the real vine and we are the branches. If we are connected to Christ, if we remain in him, we “will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5) That is you will be strengthened by Christ.
Timothy’s heart was gloomy with many problems. Therefore, Paul is saying to Timothy who was weak, “You then, my son,” (1) Timothy, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) Look to Christ Jesus. Remain in the grace. If so you will be made strong.
Please look at verse 2. Verse 2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
“The things you have heard” (2) are the truths of the Gospel. Those truths must be entrusted “to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2) Paul had entrusted the words of the Gospel to Timothy. Next Timothy must entrust the words of the Gospel “to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2) They must be entrusted to the next generation.
Like this by those who believe entrusting the words of the Gospel to the next generation, in the real meaning the Gospel will spread and a religious revival will continue. This is the reason or the goal of why Christians are to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) In other words, here what Paul is saying is that he wanted Timothy to have a wider vision of entrusting the words of the Gospel.
- Like a soldier, as an athlete, like a farmer (Vs. 3-6)
Next please look at verses 3 to 6. Here Paul is using 3 examples to explain what a person who is “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (1) is like.
“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hard working farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” (3-6)
① Like a soldier (3) “A good soldier of Christ Jesus…wants to please his commanding officer.(3) He doesn’t get involved in civilian affairs, but concentrates 24 hours a day 365 days of the year on pleasing his commanding officer and performing his duties as a soldier. To the end he performs the duties that he has been given.
If you look at Ephesians 6, it says that Christians too are fighting. That is a spiritual battle. Therefore, Christians must are fight a spiritual battle. We must remember that there is such a battle. We must live to please our commanding officer, Jesus Christ. We must not get “involved in civilian affairs” (3), but perform our duties at all times and to the end.
② As an athlete An athlete follows the rules of the game. If not, he doesn’t receive a crown. Usain Bolt was considered the overwhelming favorite to win in the 100 metres at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, the capital of Korea. Bolt broke early, received a false start and was eliminated from the final. I was disappointed because I wanted to see his running, but that is the rules of the game. No matter how fast you are, you must follow the rules of the game or you can’t receive a crown.
The Greek Olympics at that time had 3 rules. 1. The competitors had to attend a 6 month training. 3. They had to follow the rules of the competition on the day of the event. If you didn’t follow these rules you would be eliminated.
Thus a good athlete doesn’t neglect self- discipline. No matter how much skill he has if he neglects his daily practice, of course good results can’t be expected. For a long time, severe training is repeated over and over again.
Also he avoids harmful things. By overcoming such hardships, he is able to obtain a crown.
In the same way, Christians too are like an athlete that is aiming for a crown. In order to obtain a crown, daily devoted training is called for. We learned about this in I Timothy. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (I Tim. 4:8)
Paul in Philippians 3 says this, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
Then Paul when he was imprisoned by the Roman Emperor, Nero, when he was at the end of his life in this world, he said this in II Timothy 4 verses 6 to 8. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering” (4:8) refers to Paul’s approaching death as a martyr. He is pouring out his life as an offering to Christ. Very soon Paul will be martyred, but he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (4:7) Paul who ran with all his might toward the goal was able to say this. He “fought the good fight” (4:7) and “finished the race”. (4:8) These are wonderful words. When I die, I would like these words to be engraved on my tomb stone. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord… will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (4:8) So we will hear Jesus Christ say, “Well done my faithful servant”, let’s continue to run to receive a crown.
③ Like a farmer A good farmer works hard. He works hard from early in the morning until late at night. He puts up with the heat and the cold. He works while sweating. Everyone notices the athlete, but the farmer goes unnoticed. He is inconspicuous. He only does routine work every day monotonously repeatedly doing the same job over and over again. However, if he continues to persevere then he will “be the first to receive a share of the crops.” (6) No one notices the farmer. Farming is not a grand profession. It is not an exciting job. However, if the farmer continues to persevere then he will “be the first to receive a share of the crops.” (6) His dedicated effort will be rewarded so he isn’t reluctant to work hard.
I too am like a farmer. I am not reluctant to work hard for the Gospel. There will come a time when surely I will share in the crops. The Psalmist sang, “Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalms 126:5,6)
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalms 126:5) A time of reaping, a time of harvest will come so he is not reluctant to work hard.
III. Reflect (Vs. 7)
Lastly, let’s look at verse 7. “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
This weaves the three examples together. Moreover, it weaves the whole passage together. Paul wrote this letter to encourage Timothy. Timothy was suffering from problems within the church as well as persecutions from outside the church and his faith had become weak. However, Paul wrote, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) Teach others what I have taught you. You are like a soldier fighting for the Gospel. You are like an athlete running for a crown. You are like a farmer working hard for the harvest. Then here, Timothy, “reflect on what I am saying.” (7) Think deeply about it. “For the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (7)
How about us? Do we have insight into all that Paul has said? Do we understand the importance of entrusting God’s Word to other people? Do you know and understand that you are a soldier? An athlete? A farmer? Do you know that “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”? (Psalm 126:5) Also do you know that the joys of harvest come about after hard work? Reflect on this. If so you will be able to persist in difficulties. You will be able to join “in suffering for the gospel.” (1:8)
Our Christian life is a continuous battle. We are athletes so it is also a place of competition. We are farmers so it is also a field. It is accompanied by hard work. However, in the course of time we will obtain victory, a crown, and a harvest. If we continue to fight for the Gospel, continue to run to the end, and continue to work hard, without fail we will obtain victory, eternity, and a harvest. However, that is not by our strength. The Bible says it is “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (1) By being “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (1) we are made strong. Let’s be filled with God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s power and continue to fight the battle of faith, continue to run, and continue to work to obtain a harvest and let’s be a person that obtains the crown that God gives.