A sermon idea based on 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5.
2 Timothy 3:14-17, 4:1-5 NRSV
[3:14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,  and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
[4:1] In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:  proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.  As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…
Faith is fragile, and while it can be very healthy for our faith to grow and evolve as we understand more about God, there is always the danger that we will give up on God, on ourselves, and on the world. When that temptation comes, lean into the ways God has made himself and his goodness known already.
Information about the text that matters to the message, a potential outline, key truths to share, etc.
Paul, the aged mentor, shares the heartbreaking story with Timothy about some who had become oppositional to the ministry he was carrying out, which was evidenced by the way in which they were now living their lives.
Paul offered two particular exhortations about those we watch walk away…
- Get used to it. There will be many more.
- Don’t YOU walk away. Let their example be a warning.
I would urge caution to any communicator who reduces Paul’s words to a mere warning about the process of deconstruction so many are walking through today. We have no need to take a defensive posture about the Christian faith. Instead, we should walk alongside those who struggle with patience and love, creating a safe space for big questions.
Paul has already reminded Timothy of the faith of his mother and grandmother and then Paul’s own testimony of enduring and suffering for the gospel. Then he challenges Timothy to keep on keeping on in at least three ways.
1. Keep on believing in Christ.
Paul begins to encourage Timothy to keep on believing what he has already learned and what he has “firmly believed” to this point. I don’t think the point is to never wrestle with doubt on an intellectual level. Rather, there is an encouragement to choose to believe in the message of the gospel.
I’ve walked through seasons of deconstruction and reevaluation on many doctrines and issues. This has produced for me a more firm and settled faith in my own walk with God. At the end of the day, I’ve let go of my own need for absolute certainty and have instead decided that I will keep on believing in and following Jesus because the nature of the gospel is so beautiful, redemptive, and even revolutionary.
Paul reminds Timothy about the revelation of God in the form of the Jewish scriptures. Whatever questions one may wrestle with concerning the details, the scriptures have always been a faithful and effective witness to the reality of God and to the life that God would have us to live.
The scriptures, Paul reminds Timothy, are breathed by God for the great purpose of teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing us. That is, the scriptures have this tendency to break down our ego, pride, and stubbornness and to rebuild a new kind of life on the tender soil of faith in what God has revealed to us about himself.
The purpose of God’s Word is not information, but transformation. The point is never to simply know more or even to know with absolute certainty but to be changed from the inside out in our character.
2. Keep on sharing Christ.
God has chosen the foolishness of preaching – the verbal telling of the good news through relationships – to break through the ego, pride, and stubbornness of those around us as well.
It’s been said many times that “if the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it.” I get the impression Paul is urging Timothy to be faithful in every opportunity to share the life-changing truths of God’s word with those who are willing and listening.
Share, when it’s convenient. Share, when it’s inconvenient. Share, anytime someone is receptive to the story of Jesus and how he accomplished the redemptive mission of God on earth, and how he invites us to be involved in the renewal of all things.
If we believe the gospel as historical fact, and if we believe in its supernatural power to change anyone and everything around us, share it with conviction and passion, and also a huge dose of patience.
3. Keep on living like Christ.
Paul then turns to Timothy’s personal life. “As for you, be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and carry out your ministry fully.”
In other words, Don’t stop! Don’t give up! Keep walking in wisdom, enduring suffering, and sharing the good news out of your own life.
One of my favorite phrases comes from the title of a well-known book by Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. That’s what Paul is calling Timothy into – a long obedience to the gospel that he believes and proclaims.
The big call-to-action in the message…
If you want out, you’ll find reasons to give up and get out. But if you have decided to believe in and follow Jesus, keep going! Keep going in spite of your doubt, in spite of your circumstances, and in spite of the unpopularity of the radical message of Jesus.
About the Cover Art: Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash.