For a society known for its fast food, microwave ovens, instant oatmeal, “Cliff Notes,” permanent press clothes, the fifteen minute oil change, expressways, and of course the sermonette, we sure seem to do a lot of waiting when it comes to the church. I can’t tell you how many folks I have heard say to me; “Well, I really want to get involved with the church. I’d like to help with one of the ministries of the church, but I’m just going to wait until the right time comes along.” “I’m sure your church is doing a lot of good, but you see I was involved with a church one time and I learned how corrupt the church can be. Before I get back involved I think I’ll just wait a little while.” I’ve heard you say that you want to be a stronger Christian, a better deacon, a better husband, a bolder witness for the Lord, a better giver, a stronger Sunday School teacher, a better student of God’s Word, a more involved elder, and a more consistent member of the choir. I want to ask you this morning, “What are you waiting on?” Are you waiting for a change in yourself? Because of the failure, fears, and friction in your own life you don’t feel like you can get too involved. Maybe you are waiting on a change in someone else? Waiting on things to get better? Waiting on something to change? Waiting until you feel better? Make more money? Have more time? Whatever your reason I want you to really consider this morning, “What are you waiting on?”
I don’t raise that question to try and stir any feelings of guilt or inadequacy among us this morning. Quite the contrary, you who are waiting are not alone and neither are you the first ones to decide to wait before you get involved. Young Timothy found himself in an unfamiliar situation that fostered an atmosphere of surveying, contemplating, weighing, and waiting rather than getting busy with the work of the Lord.
I want to give us a little insight into Timothy’s life and his situation in Ephesus by saying that as a young man the Apostle Paul led Timothy to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul saw much promise in young Timothy and so he invited him to join his ministry team. For sixteen years Timothy accompanied Paul on the road as they shared the Gospel with friends and foes alike. Over the years the relationship of Paul and Timothy grew into a strong bond of brotherhood. Love and devotion to the Lord were the pillars of their partnership. Paul saw Timothy as his son in the ministry, his protege. Timothy saw Paul as his father in the faith. For anyone who has experienced the guidance and support given by a mentor, you know the feelings of security Paul’s presence meant for young Timothy. As we arrive at Paul’s letters to Timothy we encounter a drastic change in their relationship. Paul has been arrested and is sitting in a dark, dingy, damp prison cell beneath the surface of the earth. His only source of light is a small hole in the ceiling and he knows that his impending death will not be avoided this time.
Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to be the pastor of the First Christian Church and he was feeling left out on the high seas. When Timothy felt inadequate and unable to make the decisions he needed to make, he couldn’t just pick up a phone and call his mentor Paul. Added to Timothy’s inexperience at being a pastor was the fact that the people in Ephesus were a stiff-necked, obstinate, if not impossible people to deal with. There were foes in the church and there was persecution outside of the church. Timothy’s appointment was met by resistance by many of the heretical church members who were teaching the false doctrines of Gnosticism, decadent Judaism, and false asceticism.
On the outside, the Roman Emperor Nero was having a field day with confessing Christians. After the burning of large parts of the city of Rome, Christians were blamed for the fire and as a result a tremendous persecution arose. Nero was very creative when it came to persecuting Christians. Many Christians were thrown to the lions, others were sewn into animal skins and then placed before wild dogs or hungry lions to rip apart, and others were used to light Nero’s gardens. Nero loved his beautifully adorned gardens and after the persecution began he would take Christians, cover them with pitch, tie them to long poles, and then set them on fire to light his gardens.
Timothy had much to deal with in Ephesus, but along with the pressures from the outside was Timothy’s propensity to timidity. Timothy felt the incredible responsibility of encouraging and building the church. He had been a part of this process many times in the past, but he was now finding out that it was much easier to stand by Paul’s side rather than to stand-alone. Timothy was much more comfortable leaning than leading. He was young in years. He was more bashful than bold. He was demure in his disposition.
Paul knew Timothy and he knew his son in the faith needed encouragement so he continued to write him. In his first letter, Paul instructed young Timothy how to organize the church. In the letter we are looking at this morning, Paul gets much more personal with his young protege. Paul begins in the very first chapter by saying, “Timothy I know you son. I know what kind of cloth you’ve been cut out of because I’ve witnessed the bold faith of your grandma Lois and I’ve seen that godly mother of yours, Lois. Now Timothy you’ve got to stir up the gift. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Now is not the time to quit Timothy. It’s time to stand firm for the faith!” I can hear Paul now. You know as I well as I do that Paul never did mince words. When it came to his own son in the faith you know he was firm with Timothy. In chapter 1, Paul writes,
(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 not saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
In chapter 2 verse 1, Paul writes, (1) You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul says, “Timothy I’m not asking you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I’m not asking you to find it within yourself because it’s not there, but the power to pastor in a precarious predicament is found ‘in Christ Jesus.’ Do you think that I don’t know how you are feeling? I know the people are hard to lead. I know that there are false teachers trying to bring you down. I know there are evil elders, devilish deacons, tricky trustees, and critical choir members trying to tear you down, but remember I was there before you were. I left you there. But now is not the time to fold up our tents, now is the time to stand for the Kingdom of God!”
Oh, it’s time for us to hear the Apostle Paul this morning, “What are you waiting on?” Let’s take out our Scripture and read together from 2 Timothy 2:1-26.
(1) You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) 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. (3) Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer. (5) Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (6) The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (7) Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (8) Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, (9) for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (10) Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. (11) Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; (12) If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; (13) If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (14) Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. (15) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (16) Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (17) Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, (18) who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. (19) Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (20) In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. (21) If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (22) Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (23) Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (24) And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (25) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them toa knowledge of the truth, (26) and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
As we move from the foundation of Paul’s exhortation in chapter one to his instruction in chapter two, we notice that Paul moves from cheering on timid Timothy to painting a portrait of what a Christian worker is supposed to be doing in his or her walk with the Lord.
I know some of you are thinking, “Well, Timothy was a pastor, but I’m not even a member of this church so how does this pertain to me?” Oh, I’m so glad you asked. We are all ministers, workers in the Kingdom of God, are we not? Here at Britton Christian Church it is not just minister Hays, but each and every one of you are called to be ministers in your own right. You may not be a Sunday School teacher or a choir member, you may not visit the shut-ins or pray for the sick; you may be a truck driver or school teacher or stay-at-home-mom or a dish washer or a business executive, but you are called to be a minister where God has placed you.
The picture Paul paints for young Timothy is so important for you and me to grasp that I want to spend the rest of our time this morning examining these seven finger nail sketches of the follower of the Lord Jesus.
First of all, we are called to be a teacher. In verse 2, Paul writes, (2) 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. Now don’t get Paul wrong, he is not just talking about Sunday School teachers or Bible study teachers, but he is talking about passing on the faith. This faith of ours is not a private matter, we are called to pass on the Good News of King Jesus on the home front, in the market place, in the office, and on the streets. Pass it on. Pass it on to your children. Pass it on to your neighbors. Pass it on to your doctor, your dentist, your dietitian, beautician, electrician, and even your politician! Pass it on to your plumber, your garbage man, and your mechanic — pass it on.
Not only are we called to pass it on, but we are called to fight on. In verses 3-4 Paul writes, (3) Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer. We must fight on. I don’t know if you are aware of it but we are in a battle. Spiritual warfare is being waged and some of us are A.W.O.L, some of us are still asleep in the barracks, some of us are still in boot camp, and some of us are deserters. It is time that we get in the battle. Paul says, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer. It’s impossible to be a part-time soldier in a full-time war. I know many of you have been discouraged from time to time and you say, “But they are not supporting me — fight on. But they don’t give me any recognition — fight on. But I get tired and weary — fight on. The war is on and I need to ask, “What are you waiting on?”
We must not only pass it on, and fight on, but we must also press on. In verse 5, Paul writes, (5) Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The Olympics have started. I love watching the athletes compete in the Olympics. I’ve noticed something through the years — the athletes who will receive all kinds of recognition over the next two weeks will rarely if ever heard of until the next Olympics roll around. As a matter of fact you’ve probably not heard of them since the last Olympics. There is a good lesson for us to learn from these athletes.
I heard a familiar name this week. Do you remember Peekabo Street? She’s one of the best skiers in the world, but I haven’t heard her name since the last Olympics. I don’t know how she will do in this Olympics, but I know she’s been out there day after day getting ready for her chance to shine. While you and I have been putting off getting some exercise she has been working out, sweating, and preparing for her moment of competition. She wasn’t waiting on you or me to get out of bed. She did it when she didn’t feel like it. She worked out when she would have rather slept in. On those lonely mornings that it was cold and she was sleepy, she wasn’t skiing down those huge hills and getting in shape for me or you or anyone else. She was skiing, lifting, running, falling, getting up and skiing some more only for a chance to win the prize!
Why are you running this morning. We don’t need to be running this race for the pastor, or the elders, or our friends in the church — we need to be running, we need to be training, we need to be sharing for the glory of God. Oh how this will revolutionize our ministry for the King. How I would love to hear you say, “I’m singing in the choir, I’m working in the food pantry, I’m working with the kids, I’m working with the Senior Saints only for the King!”
Being an athlete is hard work. It’s tough going through the same workout routines day in and day out, but do you know when it is all worth it? The glory comes when we cross the finish line. When we take our place on the victor’s stand, the King places a crown on our head, and they play our national anthem. When the King takes our hand and cries out, “Well done. Well done my good and faithful servant, well done.”
We must not only pass it on, fight on, and press on, but we must also work on. In verse 6, Paul writes, (6) The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. I don’t know how much you know about farming, but my grandfather was a farmer while I was growing up. I learned so much from watching him work in the fields. Being a farmer is hard work. You don’t just throw out some seeds and the next day go to market with your harvest — you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to turn that land over, plant that seed, and be patient for the rains to come and the plants to grow.
I have talked to many people in the past few years who are curious about what is happening at Britton Christian Church. I was invited to share the ministry of our church at a gathering for church leaders back in July while I was in Denver, Colorado. I told them about our ministry to drug addicts and gang members, to the hungry and hopeless, to the physically ill and emotionally drained. After I finished speaking one of them said to me, “That sounds so exciting. I wish our church could do that kind of ministry.” I so wanted to say, “It hasn’t just happened. We have worked hard. We are cultivating a neighborhood. We are dealing with setbacks by getting up and moving forward in the power of His grace.” Vibrant, growing, alive churches don’t just happen — it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of patience. When we look at one another and realize that we aren’t what God intends us to be then we’ve got to be patient and allow the seed to grow. We need to cultivate that seed in one another’s life, rather than crush the seed. Oh, be patient. Trust God for the growth. We need to be the farmers who are working, patiently working in the field.
We must not only pass it on, fight on, press on, and work on, but we must also grow on. In verse 15, Paul writes, (15) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. We ought to be growing. Paul paints a picture of a workman for us. We have got to study to grow. We can’t teach what we don’t know and we can’t lead where we won’t go. There are so many of us that act like we are tenured in God’s Kingdom. I know, I’ve heard it from many folks before as they say, “I’ve been in this church ten, twenty, thirty years.” Well big deal, you’re the same as you were thirty years ago. All that time spent in the church hasn’t done anything but make you more immature, childish, self-righteous, and narrow-minded than you’ve ever been. For those of us who are newborn babes in Christ, I need to warn you. If you do not grow up into your salvation then in twenty or thirty years you will still be wearing spiritual diapers and saying, “You can’t tell me anything — I’ve been in this church for thirty years.” We’ve got to grow.
So many of us are like that little girl that her daddy went in and tucked her in bed. In just a little bit, her daddy heard a thud and rushed in to check on the little girl. He found her lying on the floor so he picked her up and asked her what happened. The little girl said, “Well, I fell out of bed.” Daddy said, “Well, I know that, but what happened?” The little girl said, “Well, I guess I fell to sleep too close to the edge.” There are so many of us that have just inched in the church doors and we are going to stay right there. As a result, when the first test or trial comes we fall right back out again. We’ve got to roll over in that bed. You’ve got to study to show yourself approved. Everybody here ought to be in some kind of Bible study, a Sunday School class, or a small group that is seeking to grow in the Lord. What are you waiting on this morning?
In verses 20-22, Paul speaks of articles used in a home. Some of them are for noble or righteous use and some are for ignoble use. Paul says we must give on this morning.
(20) In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. (21) If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (22) Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
We must separate ourselves and present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord. We must give ourselves clean, empty, and available so that God might fill us and use us for His purposes. Folks we are called to be a holy people, a separate people, for God’s use alone. You and I aren’t some everyday dishes used when any ol’ Joe stops by the house. You and I are the fine china of Christ’s cabinet, used for a special purpose. In my house, Connie and I have a set of dishes that we have used for the past fifteen years when our special company comes — for birthdays, anniversaries, and any other special occasions. When we throw ham and chips on the table our special dishes don’t even flinch. When special occasions roll around they know it’s time to get busy. You and I have a special purpose this morning — we are servants of the King! Everywhere we go, whatever we do, whatever we say — we are His representatives.
The articles of wood and clay are easily damaged and destroyed by fire, but the articles of gold and silver are pure and able to be used for noble purposes. Oh, God wants to use us, but we’ve got to give of ourselves.
We are also called to serve on this morning. In verses 24-26, Paul writes,
(24) And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (25) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
We are servants of God. We don’t have to prove our intellectual aptitude to the atheist or agnostic — we must always remember that we are servants of God. We don’t have to argue with folks and fight and quarrel over doctrinal issues. We need to be kind and loving with folks. What good does it do to sit and spend hours arguing with folks? If you know who you are and whose you are then you have nothing to fear when others confront your faith. If you’ve never had an experience with Jesus, if you don’t know the Lord of the Universe, if you’ve never felt the power of His love, and if you’re unsure of your salvation, then it is easy for someone to knock on your door and dismantle your faith.
One time while my family was living in Plano, Texas I spent several hours sitting with two Mormon missionaries trying to show them the way. When they would share with me some hair-brained, half-baked doctrine of their church I was ready and able to come back with a biblical argument to counter everything they had to say. Do you know what happened? After several hours the two men left carrying the Book of Mormon rather than the Bible and I have decided that I’m not arguing any more. I’m taking the stand of the blind man who encountered Jesus one day in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus saw the blind man and spit on the ground making an ointment to put on the man’s eyes. A little later his neighbors saw him and asked, “Are you the same person?” The man said, “Yes, I’m the same man.” They said, “Well, how did it happen?” The man told them that he met Jesus and Jesus had healed his eyes. They took the man to the Pharisees who decided to do some further investigation into the matter. They asked the man what happened and once again he told them, “Jesus made an ointment for my eyes, I didn’t know what was happening, but I just did what I was told. When it was all over I opened my eyes and now I can see.” The Pharisees wrinkled their eyebrows, cleared their throats, and lashed out with a litany of sinister statements about Jesus. “Well, the man Jesus is wrong! He isn’t from God! He is a sinner! You know it’s against the law to heal anyone on the Sabbath!” The Pharisees called the man’s parents and said, “Is this your boy? Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it now that he can see?” The parents didn’t want to get involved because they were afraid of the Jews. They said, “Yes this is our son, but you need to ask him how it is that he can see.” The Pharisees turned their attention back to the man and said, “Come on boy, give God the glory. We know this Jesus is a sinner.” The blind man who now had his sight said, “Well, I don’t know about opthamology, soteriology, or theology. Whether He is a sinner or not I have no idea, but this I do know — whereas I was blind now I can see! I can see!”
Folks, I meet all kinds of people during the week and I don’t have to argue with any of them. All I know is whereas I was a wreck, now I’ve been repaired. Whereas I was down, now I am up. Whereas I was sick, now I am well. Whereas I was on the outside, now I am on the inside. You don’t have to ask my mother or father, my sister’s, my wife, or my children — all I know is that whereas I was groping around in the dark, now I’m walking in the Light, the Son is now shining in my heart. Whereas I was hopeless, now I have hope. Oh, I don’t have to argue — I know who He is and I know whose I am.
I don’t know what’s going through your mind this morning. Are you still waiting? Are you still wandering aimlessly through life looking for your place? In this country of ours we’ve got guided missiles and misguided lives, we got full pews and empty lives, we’ve got power, but no purpose, we’ve got money, but no message! If we will pass it on, fight on, press on, work on, grow on, give on, and serve on there will be no more need for waiting. He has been waiting far too long for us to come to Him. What are you waiting on this morning? Come forward and give me your hand as you give Jesus your heart. The Savior is waiting.
II Timothy 2:1-26