Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Under Pressure (1)

Timothy was a man under pressure when he read his second letter from the apostle Paul. He was facing the perennial pressures that authentic preachers and churches have found themselves under.

The external pressure came in the form of persecution. Verbal and physical persecution is painful. Paul knows this better than anyone, so he writes:

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God." (2 Tim. 1:8)

Here is the key perspective from which Timothy must look upon persecution.

What will keep Timothy from buckling under the pressure of persecution?

Objectively it is because of Christ's resurrection, his abolition of death and the grave, and his bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel (1:10).

Believers have the promise of life, eternal life, in Christ Jesus (1:1). They know that Christ has been raised (2:8), and that if they endure they will also reign with him (2:12). Moreover the hardship that Timothy is being called upon to endure (1:8, 2:3) will not eliminate gospel preaching and the securing of the salvation of all God's people (2:9-10).

Subjectively it is because God has given not a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (1:7). This is why Timothy must stir up the gift that he has been given.

Timothy will be enabled to face persecution and hardship (the inevitable consequence that accompanies godly living for Christ's sake, 3:12) by calling to mind that he will one day face Christ, the judge of the living and the dead (4:1).

And he who knows now, before God, that the Lord Jesus will judge all men, will no longer be able to face those same men now with the fear that dreads the harm that they can do and silences the preaching of the gospel.

It is a solemn thought that God can sustain his people when they suffer for the gospel so that they will not be ashamed of the testimony of their Lord. It is a solemn thought that Jesus Christ will make his enemies a footstool for his feet.

The second, and internal, pressure facing Timothy came in the form of false teaching. I'll deal with this in a later post.

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