Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 31 September 20:
[Note: Here is a short video overview of 2 Timothy: https://youtu.be/urlvnxCaL00%5D
2 Timothy 1:3-7 — I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Today, Paul, once again, exemplifies for us how to maintain our joy and contentment through life’s inevitable challenges and through uncertainty. Paul suffered a great deal throughout his years of Christian ministry and had much to say about his “secret” to contentment (some verses provided below), but what is Paul thinking now, knowing he will likely not make it out of this imprisonment alive?
Paul’s opening line provides the foundation, theme and tone for the rest of His letter: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul’s contentment rested on the Sovereignty of God, God’s grace, mercy and peace, and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Paul understood that nothing could place him outside of the will of God or separate Him from the love of God –
– Romans 8:28, 29, 31-39 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers…. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul’s opening line also reveals another secret to Paul’s strength through adversity – his focus was not on himself but rather on others, in this case specifically, Timothy. When we are focused on God and others, we are less likely to be consumed by our own problems, and we are more likely to appreciate the blessings of God when we are encouraging others. Also, Paul’s focus on serving others gave him continued purpose and hope for the future – “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.” Haven’t you found that people who are focused on serving others for God’s glory rather than their own problems are unusually joyful and hopeful?
“I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day…. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Paul remained thankful for the many blessings he had received from God which God had prepared in His sovereignty generations before. As Paul sat in prison considering his situation, he didn’t bemoan his condition but rather recounted God’s faithfulness and encouraged Timothy to do the same, which was also further encouragement to Paul. Seeing God’s faithfulness throughout the generations helped remind both Paul and Timothy that God would remain faithful in the future and into eternity. Also, Paul remained in constant prayer, again, not mainly for himself, but mostly for others as is evidenced in the remainder of Paul’s writings. Important ingredients to Paul’s “secret” of contentment are remaining thankful, prayerful, and focused on God and others rather than self. This secret is the power of love – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
“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, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Paul reminded Timothy that his faith was a gift from God that burned inside of him but also had to be intentionally and continuously fanned into flame. This fanning of the flame was also part of Paul’s secret of contentment and boldness. Throughout his writings, Paul tells us how, regardless his situation, he remained ‘on fire’ for the Lord – through constant prayer, study of God’s word, meditating upon “whatever is true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… commendable… [and excellent],” praising the Lord, singing hymns, actively sharing His faith with unbelievers, remaining in fellowship with other believers, keeping his conscience clear, and choosing to walk in faith (trusting God in the moment), hope (trusting God with the future), and love (dedicating everything to Him and sharing the love of Christ with others).
Paul had another reason or motivation to remain strong — for Timothy’s sake. It is hard to coach someone towards victorious living without first demonstrating victorious living, without setting the example. By encouraging Timothy, Paul was encouraging himself and holding himself accountable by default. So, encouraging other Christians is another important practice for keeping yourself fired up. Paul knew that Timothy faced many challenges and would need to persevere through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, again, that gift from God we fan into flame. To be a good example to others, Paul had to keep the flame of courage, power, love and self-control burning in his own life while in prison by abiding in the love of Christ, demonstrating the love of Christ, and remaining active or fruitful in the love of Christ.
While most people aren’t in prison, many remain in spiritual bondage, in bondage to sin, fear, guilt, anger and uncontrollable passions. Though Paul was in prison, he was free, content and joyful in Christ, and he wanted to ensure that Timothy remained confident, grateful and joyful in his freedom too, which he shared with all believers, regardless their circumstances – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Are you a source of strength, joy, peace, and encouragement to others as you rejoice in the freedom and victory you have in Jesus regardless your circumstances? “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:8–10 — We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
– Romans 5:3–5 — We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 — We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
– Philippians 4:11–13 — I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 August 20: Rejoice in the freedom and victory you have in Christ, and focus on being an encouragement to others. Give thanks all day, pray all day, and serve others all day while sharing with them the reason for your uncontrollable joy and hope.