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Not Ashamed to Suffer

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Not Ashamed to Suffer

By Mike Fennema

Com Lab 1

Rev. Larry Kirk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCF:  Christians are often not willing to suffer because they are ashamed.

Proposition:  Because of God’s gifts, we are able to suffer without shame.

Outline:

A.    1. God’s gifts do not leave us timid. (1:6-7)

1.     The Spirit is a Gift.

2.     The Spirit is a Gift.

B.    2. God’s power does not lead to an easy life. (1:8)

1.     Power enables us to testify.

2.     Power enables us to suffer.

C.     3. Our suffering does not cause shame. (1:9-12)

1.     We are not ashamed because we know Jesus.

2.     We are not ashamed because we are convinced that he will preserve us.


 

Scripture Introduction:

Second Timothy is the second of two letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to his dear friend and protégé, Timothy.  At the time of this letter, Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus.  Paul’s return address was most likely Rome, where he was in prison.  He wrote this letter near the end of his life, as he was walking toward that light at the end of the tunnel.  Because Paul knew that his time on earth was short, he wanted to encourage and charge Timothy in joining Paul in his work for the gospel and the Kingdom before he died.

Read 2 Timothy 1:1-12

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.  6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,  9 who 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. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,  10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.  12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Open in Prayer

II.           Introduction:

Shame is a feeling that no one desires.  No one ever wants to feel ashamed.  Shame is similar to embarrassment, but goes so much deeper.  Embarrassment is easier to deal with than being ashamed.  When I was a freshman in high school, I tripped climbing the stairs during chapel.  I landed flat on my face in front of the entire school, including the faculty and staff.  Talk about embarrassment!  It took me awhile, but I am no longer embarrassed when someone from my high school brings up that story.

Even though my clumsy fall embarrassed me, I wasn’t ashamed because of what I did.  It was an accident.  There are other things in my life that make me feel ashamed.  Things that I have done that I don’t like to talk about, even with my wife.  We all have things in the past that we have done that we are ashamed of.

Not only can we be ashamed of things that we’ve done, we can also be ashamed of who we are.  Sometimes people feel ashamed over a relative who has given their family a bad name because of something they have done.  Sometimes people feel ashamed because they are different from other people physically or mentally.  We can be ashamed of the car that we drive, the clothes we wear, or the house we live in.  Sometimes we are even ashamed of what we believe because we don’t want people to think that we are crazy or different.

In our passage for today, Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed.  He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of Paul and his being in prison.  Instead, Paul exhorts Timothy to join Paul in suffering for the gospel.  Paul explains to Timothy that he can endure what he is suffering because of the God’s gift that Paul has.  Through this passage, Paul shows Timothy—and us as well-- that because of God’s gifts, Christians are able to suffer without being ashamed.

As we dive into this text, one of the first things we notice is that:

A.    God’s gifts do not leave us timid.

Paul begins this letter to telling Timothy how grateful to God he is over Timothy’s sincere faith.  Paul saw first hand how faith in God was passed from generation to generation in Timothy’s family.  It first began with Timothy’s grandmother Lois who passed it on to his mother, Eunice.  And now faith lives in Timothy as well.  How excited Paul was and grateful to God for the passing on of faith from generation to generation!

Timothy had a special calling on top of the faith that he received from his grandmother and mother.  What is special about Timothy is that he received “the gift of God which is in [him] through the laying on of [Paul’s] hands.” (1:6 NIV)  Paul himself laid hands on Timothy and imparted the “gift of God” to him.  Paul then charged Timothy to fan this gift into flame.  But what is this “gift of God?”

1.     The Spirit is a Gift.

This “gift of God” is the Spirit!  More specifically, this gift is spiritual gifts that each person receives when they receive the Spirit.  God’s Spirit is truly a gift.  Way back in the Old Testament, God prophesied through the prophet Joel that he would give the gift of the Spirit.  Joel 2:28 says, “And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” (NIV)  The Apostle Peter, speaking under the influence of the Spirit on the great day of Pentecost declared to everyone in attendance “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Later on in the book of Acts, the Spirit is also described as a gift.  Peter and other circumcised believers who were with him in the home of Cornelius, the Gentile, were astonished when Gentiles began speaking in tongues and praising God.  Acts 10:38 says the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” after they heard Peter preach.

So the Spirit of God is truly a gift of God.  It is a gift of God that is given to those who have faith in Jesus, God’s Son.

But the Spirit is not just a gift for us to play with like a 2-year old who gets a stuffed animal at Christmas.  The Spirit is a gift of God that enables us.  Receiving the gift of the Spirit is like a 16-year old receiving their license.  It enables us to do things that we could not do before.

2.     The Spirit enables us.

Paul tells us three things that are included with the gift of the spirit and one thing that is not.  First of all, the one thing that we do not receive is a spirit of “timidity.”

My wife mentors a 14-year girl by the name of Marlin.  This past weekend, my wife and I took Marlin and a friend to Wet & Wild.  One of the final rides of the day was called “The Storm.”  It was a short ride that had only one turn, and you ended up in a funnel that dropped you into a pool of water.  It was supposed to mimic a tornado or a hurricane.  Marlin was a little nervous because she’s not a great swimmer and the pool was 6 feet deep meaning that she couldn’t touch the bottom.  I pointed out to her that a lifeguard was right there where she would come out, and everything would be ok.  When we got to the top and it was Marlin’s turn to go.  She freaked out and didn’t want to go down the slide.  I was standing behind her and she tried to push me out of the way and head back down the stairs.  After restraining her and convincing her that everything was going to be just fine, she hesitantly sat down and rode down the slide.  Everyone in line behind us clapped for her as she went down.

The fear that Marlin had is a great example of what the Spirit does NOT give us.  This fear—or “timidity” as our passage calls it—is not included with the gift of the Spirit.  Instead, when a person receives the gift of the Spirit, Paul tells us that they are filled with “power, love, and self-discipline.”

Fear or timidity disables us.  It makes us not want to go down water slides.  It also makes us ineffective Christians.  Fear causes us to be closet Christians, not wanting others to know our true identity.  It makes us hide who we truly are.

But God did not give us a spirit of timidity or of fear.  He gave us a Spirit that enables us.  We don’t have to hide our identity.  We can let other people know that we are Christians.  In fact, God actually desires that we show others that we are Christians.  He desires that we do, and he gives us the power to be able to do it.

If God desires for us to do something and he gives us the power to do it, that sounds pretty easy.  It sounds like the Christian life should be a walk in the park.  No worries.  “I know what I have to do, and I have the ability to do it.”  Sound too good to be true?  That’s because it is.  The power that God gives us—the Spirit that enables us—does not lead to an easy life.

 

B.    God’s power does not lead to an easy life.

Immediately after Paul tells Timothy that God has given Timothy power, love, and self-discipline, he follows it up by saying “so don’t be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:8).  Paul needed to tell Timothy that he has power from the Holy Spirit because apparently, Timothy was, at times, ashamed to testify concerning Jesus.

1.     Power enables us to testify.

I can understand where Timothy would be ashamed to testify concerning Jesus.  I have times in my life when I am ashamed to testify concerning Jesus.  When I worked for a healthcare recruiting firm for a couple of years, one of the last things that I wanted to do was to let people know that I was a Christian.  I didn’t want to be labeled as “the Christian guy.”  Too many connotations went with that title:  no fun, goodie goodie, legalist, judgmental.  I just wanted people to think of me as a “normal person”, whatever that means.

Much to my chagrin, before I even started, news traveled in the small office that I was a Christian.  What ratted me out was the fact that I was a part-time seminary student.  Oh well.  My plan of not letting people know that I was a Christian was foiled.  In reality, it shouldn’t have been my plan in the first place.

Right before his ascension into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem because they were going to receive the gift that was promised to them:  the Holy Spirit.  When this would happen, Jesus told them that an amazing thing would happen:  “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.” (Acts 1:8 NIV).  Notice in this verse that Jesus simply says, “You will be my witnesses.”  He doesn’t give them a command to witness, because He knows the power of the Spirit.  He knows that when his disciples are filled with this gift of God, they will receive power.  The command to be witnesses is unwarranted.  They will be, whether they like it or not.

The same power that enabled the disciples to testify is the same power that enables us to testify.  If that is the case, why are we not having the same affect as the disciples did?  Why am I afraid to be the “Christian” in the office?  Why am I afraid to tell my neighbors that I am a seminary student?  Why do I feel like I am filled with a spirit of timidity rather than a spirit of power?  There are a lot of answers to those questions.

Like I said earlier, I don’t want people to attach labels to me.  I don’t want them to think of me as judgmental or a goodie goodie.  I don’t want people to treat me differently.  I don’t want them to not invite me out after work on Friday because they think that I won’t approve.  I don’t want people to be shallow with me or talk differently around me.  I don’t want to be seen as odd, or different, or worse yet, weird.  Basically, I care way too much about what people think.  I want people to like me.  Paul, on the other hand, didn’t care.

Paul did not care about what other people thought about him, and he didn’t care if people liked him or not.  He didn’t run away from the label of “Christian,” and this got him into a lot of trouble.  In fact, Paul writes Timothy this letter while sitting in prison.

2.     Power enables us to suffer.

Paul was not ashamed to testify about our Lord.  In Romans 1:16, Paul boldly states “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” The life that he lived proved that he was not ashamed.  He gave his entire life over to Jesus and the spread of the gospel.  He was one who could truly say “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

There were many times in Paul’s life when he did almost die.  He chronicled much of the suffering that he endured in his second letter to the Corinthians:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Paul understood all too well, the power that came with the gift of the Spirit.  Paul knew and understood this power because without it, he would not have been able to endure the intense suffering that he did while preaching the gospel.

The same Spirit that allows us to testify concerning Jesus, this same Spirit gives us the power to endure suffering.  The Spirit enables us with this power to endure anything that the world can throw at us. 

Jesus knew that we would endure suffering in this world as Christians.  In his High Priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed for our protection because he knew what we would have to endure.  He prayed to God his Father:  “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Even before he prayed this prayer, Jesus, while preaching the Sermon on the Mount, said these words:  “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)  Even at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was preparing his followers for suffering.  He knew it was coming.

There are two types of suffering in the world.   Both types are evil, coming straight from the “evil one.”  One type of suffering, everyone endures.  I would categorize this as natural suffering.   Cancer.  A friend dying in a car accident.  Hurricanes.  Bridges collapsing.  Hunger.  Poverty.  These are the things that are most often out of anyone’s control.

The suffering that Jesus talks about here is the suffering that comes at the hands of other people.  This suffering comes out of the condition of the human heart.  For whatever reason, one person desires to make another person suffer, and this could be on a large scale or on a very small scale.

Most often, we don’t suffer large scale suffering in the United States.  We have a constitution that protects our “freedom of religion.”  We can meet in our churches peacefully without the threat of being arrested.  We can have Christian radio stations.  We even have a president who calls himself a Christian.

While many Christians across the globe are suffering in fear of their very lives, our suffering includes not being able to pray in a public school.  While Christians are being martyred in China, we’re battling to have “intelligent design” taught in schools.  We suffer by being looked down upon by more “enlightened” people who believe the religion is simply a crutch.  Our suffering is having someone look at us strangely when we tell them that we actually believe the Bible to be true.  When looking at the big picture, our so-called suffering pales in comparison to Christians around the world.

Outside of the US, Christians are relying on the power that the Spirit provides much more than we are here.  They are literally putting their life on the line for the gospel, while we are rarely willing risk much more than our reputation.  Why?  Why can they do it and we can’t?   Why do they live courageous lives like the Apostle Paul and we don’t?  It’s because we are like Timothy.  Our spirit is a spirit of timidity.  We cower in fear at the thought of suffering.  We back off when living out the gospel actually takes risks.

 

Jesus told us that suffering is the lot of a person who devotes their life to the gospel.  It happens, and there is no way around it.  But there is hope.  Even though the world will look down on us when we suffer, Paul tells us that we do not have to hang our head in shame.

 

C.     Our suffering does not cause us shame.

It is often true that suffering and persecution often bring with it a sense of shame.  Very rarely does the world honor those who are willing to suffer.  For every Mother Teresa, there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who the world does not idolize.  Instead of honoring those who are willing to suffer, the world honors those whose ambition is to get ahead in life.

As I stated earlier, we in the United States have a very small concept of what suffering really is.  A large part of suffering involves taking risks, something that we are often very reticent to do.  It’s the nature of our culture.  But what would happen if Christians started taking risks?  What would happen if Christians in the United States started taking risks with the thing that is the dearest to them?  What if Christians started taking risks for the kingdom with their wallets?  What would happen?

What would it be like if every Christians started trading in their luxury cars and started everyone drove Honda Civics?  What would happen if we decided to give up buying the latest fashions?  What would happen is we decided to sell our large houses in our nice little subdivisions and lived in the “bad neighborhoods”?  What would happen if we became like the Rich Young Ruler who Jesus told to sell everything that he had and give to the poor?  What if we actually started making sacrifices for the kingdom of God when it comes to our finances?  How would that affect our lives?

Honestly, I can’t imagine what would happen.  One of the reasons I can’t imagine it is because it seems so far-fetched.  When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler what he should do, he went away disappointed because it was too much to ask.

If this were to truly happen, the world would certainly look down on us as Christians.  They would think that we were crazy.  They would make fun of the way that we would dress, the car we would drive, and the house we would live in.  They would probably make fun of us and call us names.

1.     We are not ashamed because we know Jesus.

Do you know how Paul would respond?  He wouldn’t care at all.  In fact, he would welcome it.  We know this because that is how he reacted when the world persecuted him.  Paul didn’t hang his head in shame when people made fun of him.  He didn’t run away from the world when thought he was a lunatic and threw him in jail.  He didn’t feel sorry for himself or question his beliefs.  He stood strong.  He endured.  You want to know why?  He was not ashamed to suffer for the gospel because he knew Jesus.

Look at verse 12.  Paul says, “That is why I am suffering as I am.  Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed…”  Paul knew who he believed in.  Paul believed in the power of God that saved him and called him to a holy life, as he said in verse 9.  Paul knew the Jesus that destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, as Paul wrote in verse 10.

Paul knew Jesus!  And Paul knew that Jesus was all that he needed!  Paul wasn’t ashamed that he wasn’t successful by the world’s standards.  He wasn’t ashamed that he wasn’t wealthy.  He wasn’t ashamed that he wasn’t famous or highly respected by the world.  He wasn’t ashamed of these things because he knew that they didn’t matter!  What mattered was knowing Jesus!  And there is nothing or no one that Paul knew better than Jesus!

2.     We are not ashamed because we are convinced that he will preserve us.

Not only was Paul not ashamed because he knew Jesus and what Jesus had done, he was also not ashamed because of what he knew Jesus was doing then and would do in the future.  Paul knew that Jesus was “guard[ing] what [he] had entrusted to him for that day.”  Paul knew that Jesus was not only his Savior, but he was also his sustainer.

What had Paul entrusted to Jesus to guard?  Paul had entrusted Jesus with everything, even his very life.  He gave everything that he had over to Jesus.  And he wasn’t ashamed to do it because he knew what was more important.  He knew that nothing in this life was more important than his Savior.  He believed that his Savior had saved him and had the power to protect him.

Paul wasn’t concerned with his physical life.  He wasn’t trusting Jesus to preserve his physical body.  He couldn’t care less about his life.  Paul’s concern was his eternal life, and he knew that Jesus would preserve that.

The apostle Paul was an ordinary man who led and extraordinary life.  He is one of the greatest examples of a person whose faith was so strong that he was willing to give everything up for the gospel.   There may never be another person quite like Paul.  The encouraging thing, though, is that the very same power that gave Paul the ability to do the things that Paul did lives in us today.  Those of us who have the same faith in Jesus as Paul did have received the gift of the Spirit.  And with that gift comes “power, love, and self-discipline” as Paul told Timothy almost 2000 years ago.  We have the very same power!

Just as Paul was not ashamed to endure suffering for his Savior and Sustainer, Jesus Christ, we don’t have to be ashamed either!  We don’t have to be ashamed when the world looks down on us when we are living out the gospel.  We don’t have to be ashamed when people think that we are weird or crazy or backwards or just plain ignorant.  We don’t have to be ashamed when we show up to work in a car that was built 10 years ago wearing clothes that we “in” in the 90’s.  We don’t have to worry about what people are going to think when we spend our vacation time going on a mission trip rather than relaxing on an island.  We don’t have to worry about what the world will think about us, and we don’t have to worry about what the world will do to us.

We don’t have to be ashamed because we know Jesus.  We don’t have to be ashamed of suffering because we serve a Savior who was dead but is alive!  We don’t have to be ashamed because Jesus saved us, and he is going to sustain us until the end of time.  He has given us the gift of the Spirit that lives inside of us, enabling us to testify concerning him.  He has given us the gift of the Spirit that lives inside of us, enabling us to endure suffering, just like the apostle Paul.

Do not be ashamed, Christian.  Instead, let us heed Paul’s encouragement to Timothy.  Let us fan into flame the gift that God has given us of his Spirit.  Let us resist the spirit of timidity that so easily controls our lives.  Let us live in the Spirit.  Let us join Paul and countless other Christians in suffering for the gospel without being ashamed because we know who we have believed, and we are convinced that he is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that day!  Amen.

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