The Pastoral Letters were written to instruct and encourage Timothy and Titus as leaders of prominent churches. They teach us about the qualities required for Christian leadership and the tasks of ministers and they teach us all about how to live the Christian life. But these were also very personal letters from Paul to two of his close friends. They paint us a powerful picture of Paul himself and of the many things he suffered for the sake of the gospel. At the same time they contain Paul’s testimonies of the ways God had sustained him through all his struggles, which can inspire and sustain us when we go through times of trouble.
The Christian life is a battle
1 Timothy 1 18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience,
1 Timothy 6 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.
As Paul sensed that his life in this world is coming to an end he wrote this.
2 Timothy 4 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
The Christian life is a battle – we must fight the good fight of the faith.
There will be suffering
Paul mentions suffering five times in the four chapters of 2 Timothy
2 Timothy 3 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.
Timothy certainly did know all about Paul’s sufferings. On their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas had planted a church in Lystra and we can deduce that Timothy was one of their early converts. By the time that Paul and Silas went back to visit that church in Acts 16, Timothy was highly respected by the believers there. Timothy even went to the lengths of being circumcised so that he could join Paul and Silas on their missionary journeys. So he was with Paul in Corinth and in Ephesus. Timothy had witnessed first hand all the opposition and persecution that Paul had experienced, and possibly even shared in some of it.
Paul reminds Timothy of the painful reality which some Christians have had to face in every age.
2 Timothy 3 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
We see in the news every day how evildoers and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. At the same time opposition to Christian things is increasing. Paul knew the truth of this in his own experience.
2 Timothy 1 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.
Christians will experience persecution. These words are not just for missionaries and ministers and church leaders. If we want to follow Jesus all Christians must face the possibility of opposition and suffering.
There are a number of places where Paul encourages Timothy to join him in suffering for Christ.
2 Timothy 1 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
2 Timothy 2 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Paul had experienced opposition and persecution
He mentions particular people by name.
2 Timothy 4 14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
Paul could have been referring to the person who stirred up the mob against him in Ephesus. He also mentions Hymenaeus and a different Alexander who had shipwrecked their faith. The book of Acts and letters like 2 Corinthians mention lots of other occasions where Paul had faced fierce opposition as well.
As he was writing, Paul was in prison for his faith
2 Timothy 1 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.
2 Timothy 2 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 the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Paul was happy to suffer and even to be in prison, because his sufferings led to other people coming to know Christ and be saved.
Paul knew what it was to be abandoned
2 Timothy 1 15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.
2 Timothy 4 16 At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.
Everyone deserted me!
2 Timothy 4 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me.
All these verses speak to me about a deep sadness in Paul’s life. So many of the people he was close to, people who he had worked with and had relied on, had not been there for him when he most needed their help. Some like Crescens and Titus had been continuing in the Lord’s work in other places. Others like Phygelus and Hermogenes seemed to have abandoned their faith. One seems particularly tragic. 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Paul had passed on greetings from Demas in the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, where Paul described him as a fellow-worker. Now we read that Demas “left him in the lurch” because he loved the world too much. At the time Paul was writing, only doctor Luke who wrote his Gospel and Acts, was still with Paul. Paul, like Jesus, knew what it felt like to be abandoned. Following Jesus and proclaiming the gospel will sometimes bring suffering and persecution and even imprisonment and desertion. But in all of this, Paul then shares his testimonies of
2 Timothy 3 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.
Here was Paul’s testimony through everything that he had suffered. He had experienced opposition and persecution and been imprisoned for his faith. But through it all, God had rescued him. When even his friends had deserted him, God had not abandoned him. Every time God had saved him.
2 Timothy 4 16 At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
God had been with Paul in all his times of trouble. What a wonderful testimony! God stood at my side. God gave me strength. So we do not need to be afraid about what we might have to endure as followers of Jesus. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy also encourages, even if we are called to suffer for Christ.
2 Timothy 1 6 … fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Whatever we may face as we are following Jesus, the Holy Spirit who lives inside every Christian will give us all the power, all the love and all the self-control we need to remain faithful to God.
Since God had rescued him in the past, Paul was totally confident that God would always save him in the future too.
1 Timothy 4:17… And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lord will rescue me. The road may be bumpy and there may even be lions on the road. Life may be filled will storms, but God promises to bring us all safely to our ultimate destination, our heavenly home. God will rescue us too.
Paul uses another trustworthy saying to encourage Timothy. Here he is probably quoting the words of an early Christian hymn which sustained the first Christians in the days before the New Testament was written.
2 Timothy 2 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 remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
Here is an encourage to persevere in our faith, however difficult that might be. We have shared in Christ’s death, so we also share in His resurrection life. More than that, if we persevere in enduring suffering we will indeed reign with Him in glory forever. There is a solemn warning not to give up. “If we disown him he will also disown us.” This saying is only quoting the words of Jesus himself.
Matthew 10 32 ‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Here is a warning to persevere, but it is followed by a reassuring promise. Even if Christians do lose faith in the face of opposition and persecution,
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
Christ’s faithfulness to us is not dependent on our faithfulness to him, or we would all be lost. God is faithful and trustworthy – that is his divine character. He will always remain faithful to us. Even if we give up on God he will never give up on us! So Paul testifies that
God will never let us down!
2 Timothy 1 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 this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
Here is one of the most encouraging and inspiring verses in the whole of the Bible. I am ashamed to say I have never preached on it but at least we can think about it today. We may know it better from the old King James Version or from the chorus of the great hymn we just sang.
2 Timothy 1:12 “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (King James Version)
Paul was not ashamed of suffering or being in prison because of Christ,
“for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (New Living Translation)
Paul had so many experiences of God’s provision and God’s grace and God rescuing him. God had stood by him no matter what. So Paul was sure, he was certain, he was absolutely convinced, he was totally persuaded that God would take care both of him and also of all that he had entrusted to God. “I know the one in whom I trust.” We also know the one we have put our trust in. We also have received the amazing grace of God.
2 Timothy 1:9 … 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 Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
We know the one we have put our trust in. Jesus has died for our sins. We share in his resurrection life and his immortality. We have received the love of God which never lets us go. God will always be faithful. Whatever we may face in this life, we can put our trust in God. Suffering, opposition, imprisonment, abandonment – God will never let us go. God is not just able, he is much, much, more than able take care of us and keep us safe.
The story goes that years ago an ambassador was looking for a new car. He sent off to all the major manufacturers, Jaguar, Bentley, Daimler asking for the specifications of their top models. The other makes replied with all sorts of details: top speed, brake horsepower, miles per gallon, time to 60 mph, sound system and so on. Rolls Royce sent back a message with just one word on it. “Adequate”. For all of our situations the overflowing grace of God is much more than just adequate! God is more than able!
2 Timothy 1:12 “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (KJV)