Monday, 28 November 2011

2 Timothy 4:9-18 Strength for Gospel Ministry

Notes from last nights LightHouse:

Paul has been calling Timothy not to give up teaching and preaching God’s word even as he faces opposition and confronts false teaching. He’s also been calling him to live out the gospel message, to be changed by the word of God so that he doesn’t just proclaim it but people can see its power at work in his life.

Last week we saw from (4:1-8)Paul call Timothy to live out his kingdom context, to fulfil his commission to preach the word , to understand the threat to gospel ministry and to pick up the baton Paul was passing on and pass it one to others. Now Paul shows Timothy how those things are being worked out in his life even as he is in prison and awaiting his death.

Next week we are going to focus particularly on passing on the baton and the nature of gospel ministry as team ministry, but this week we are going to focus on the other elements.

1. Fulfilling his commission: Preach the word
Turn to Acts 9:15-16 we see there God explain to Ananias his plan for Paul, **what is it? “to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Paul has given his life to fulfilling that commission, he is aware of it himself, in 1 Tim 2:7 he writes “for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle... and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.”

I don’t know about you but if I ended up in prison for preaching the bible I think I might be tempted to take a break from doing so. To take it as an opportunity to rest. But did you notice the emphasis in this section on ongoing ministry and preaching. **So Paul wants Timothy to do what? “come to me quickly”, **why? (10)“for...” Demas has deserted, and Crescens, Titus and Tychicus have been sent elsewhere to preach the word. Paul is not totally alone he has Luke with him, but he wants Timothy to come and see him too.

But not just as a comforter and friend, **what does he want Timothy to bring with him? Mark, his scrolls and his parchments. Now it isn’t that Paul wants some holiday reading, he isn’t asking Timothy to bring his airport novels or the latest Dan Brown. These scrolls are most probably his copy of the Greek Old Testament. **And he wants Mark to come to him why? “because he is useful to me in my ministry.” Paul wants Timothy, his son in the faith, and useful in ministry Mark and his scrolls so that he can continue ministry even from within his prison cell.

Paul has not retired from gospel ministry, (2:9) he has already reminded Timothy that though he is chained “God’s word in not chained...” And knowing that he lives that out. Just as he exhorts Timothy to continue preaching the word in hard circumstances so he continues to preach the word. You never retire from gospel ministry.

Do you see the dimensions of Paul’s understanding of the power of the gospel unleashed as God’s word is taught. As he preaches it, and Timothy and Mark multiply ministry in Rome, God’s word, the only power that can, is unleashed to change the world one life at a time.

Do I share that conviction about the power of the bible as it is taught? Do I share in that passion to see people changed?

I think this also helps us see a great prayer to pray for our brothers and sisters who are in prison for their faith, for preaching the gospel. Pray that they would keep on preaching the gospel that they would not despair or give up but maintain their convictions and lives would be changed.

But it’s also a conviction we are increasingly going to need to have as in Britain there is a growing resentment of and opposition to public expressions of the Christian faith. If you can lose your job for wearing a cross imagine the reaction to explaining the truth about Jesus.

Some of you will know of the ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign which is encouraging Christians to sign a declaration of hope that we believe that Jesus Christ is good news for our nation. He is the only true and solid hope for our society. And calling on government, employers and other leaders in our country to protect the freedom of Christians to participate in public life without compromising biblical teaching and to promote in our society the values that are revealed through Jesus Christ and that have so shaped our nation, for the good of all.

How does Paul say we ought to act? We join such campaigns as we continue to preach the word even in the face of hostility and opposition.

2. Understand the threat to gospel Ministry
Timothy is facing opposition to preaching the word and Paul has been encouraging him to endure, to persevere, not to give up and desert but to devote himself to preaching the bible. And here we see that it isn’t just Timothy, that in fact opposition is part of gospel ministry. **Paul advises Timothy to be on his guard about who? “Alexander”. **Why? “because he did me great harm”, **how? “he strongly opposed our message.”

It’s important that we understand Alexander is an enemy of the gospel because he opposed the gospel, not because he has had a personality clash with Paul. We cannot identify this Alexander with any certainty but we know that he did everything he could to stop Paul preaching the word, in fact some commentators think he is the one whom informs on Paul so that he is arrested. And notice that he is not a priest or a church leader he is a metal worker, he is just an ordinary guy, but he does everything he can to undermine the preaching of the truth.

Notice how Paul says Timothy is to treat him, he is to “be on your guard against him”, or beware him. He does not say take some of the boys round and see to him, or fire bomb his house, or tell everyone what he has done. He says be wary of him. Paul entrusts the situation to the Lord who will repay him(15), the Lord who (1)will judge the living and the dead.

There are enemies of the gospel, be on your guard against them but entrust their judgement to God.

Can you think of someone who is an enemy of the gospel? Who does everything they can to stop you teaching the bible? Here is a model of how you treat them, you guard against them and you entrust them to God who will judge. Expect opposition some people will hate the gospel and so they will hate those who teach and preach the gospel.

3. Live life in your Kingdom Context(16-18)
The kingdom context is vital in determining how Paul lives, how he reacts to every situation he is in, be it prison, teaching Timothy or dealing with Alexander. **We saw last week how though in prison Paul sees himself as **simultaneously living where? “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” Well here we see it again.

Outwardly things look bleak(16) outwardly he had no-one stand with him at his trial. Now we need to be clear about what he is saying here, he is not saying there are no believers with him, because Luke is there(11) and (21)we see that there are other believers in Rome who he sends greetings from. But there was no-one who would be his advocate or character witness at his preliminary hearing. Paul is too hot to handle, no-one will stand with him in court.

But notice the difference in his reaction to them, Alexander opposes the gospel and Paul prays handing him over to God for judgement, fellow believers are fearful of standing with him because of persecution and Paul prays for their forgiveness. They have not opposed the gospel, or rejected Paul just been scared of standing with him.

But notice how important his kingdom context is, there is no-one stood with him and he feels isolated and alone and bereft of support, is it worth it, am I doing the right things, can I make it through this may be how he felt as he looked at the situation with physical eyes. But (17) **how does his kingdom context change that? “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength”, the fear and failure of others highlights all the more the faithfulness and power of God.

 The Lord himself enables Paul to carry out the commission he has called him to, proclaiming the gospel even at his trial. The Lord himself is his advocate and character witness – that is his kingdom perspective.

God enables and empowers him to stand as a New Testament Daniel, and yet again God shuts the lion’s mouth, some suggest here that is a physical rescue, but Paul remains on trial and will die, though he is rescued from death at his first trial. I think it’s a spiritual rescue, Satan is described elsewhere as a lion, and Paul is saying God empowered and enabled me to overcome the spiritual battle, the temptation to give up, the temptation to bitterness at being left alone, the temptation to choose ease over preaching the truth, the temptation to pull up lame, to throw in the towel instead of fighting the good fight. It is the kingdom context that enables Paul to withstand that attack and those that are coming and enables him to say with confidence “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will being me safely to ... **where? “His heavenly kingdom.”

We need to know the present reality of the kingdom which we are part of. Do you feel the temptation to give in, to give up the fight, to stop guarding, to stop running the race? When we find ourselves weary in doing good, drained in standing, tired of preaching we need to stand back and remember our kingdom context. The power to persevere is not something we have to whip up in ourselves it is given by God 2 Tim 1:7 “For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 1:12 “I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2:11-13, 2:19, 3:17, 4:1 all remind Timothy that God enables us to endure, that he empowers by his Spirit.

We have everything we need to endure in Christ by the Spirit. We are not on our own, we are not summoning up our reserves of endurance, and perseverance but we are depending on God who promises us his resources. Remember your kingdom context and that all the resources of the Father are yours, you are safe in his hands and you fight the fight, as you run the race, as you keep the faith.

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