A Profile of Enduring Faith - Courage|
Taking a Stand - 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Popular opinion seems to be shaping and determining what many people think and do today - even in the church. Certainly, taking a stand for religious values - for Christian principles - is not popular in our culture. If you look at the reported, current, general consensus of how our culture supposedly thinks Christians should exercise their faith, it could be summed up in one word - "privately."
Today in our culture it's considered insensitive, inconsiderate, ill mannered, offensive, uncouth, tactless, clumsy, and even gauche to let one's Christian faith and beliefs show, much less tell other people about them. People seem to get offended when we want to do either of them. At least, that's what the so-called "popular opinion" tell us.
I think it's interesting, though, that when you hear poll results that such an overwhelming majority of Americans claim a belief or faith in God - over 80% - we still have to bow down to such a vocal minority - the 20% - who object when we want to let our beliefs show in our lives.
ABCs (Anything but Christianity)
On the other hand, our culture is so inclusively-minded that we promote a whole host of things that we used to oppose - beliefs and behaviors that are not even remotely Christian. Today, people can stand up and promote pornography, abortion, "alternative" lifestyles, evolution, and so forth. In fact, they are applauded and even supported with government grants!
Therefore, this is certainly a time of mixed-up prejudice and bias. The "age of tolerance" has been tolerant of everything but Christianity. Many of us are alarmed, but it is nothing new. Isaiah the prophet experienced it when he wrote,
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isa. 5:20, ESV).
We're in that kind of a day in our own time. In fact, the prejudice is so strong that many of us who belong to Christ have had our faith and beliefs browbeaten into privacy.
When our faith is privatized, it also becomes marginalized and ineffectual.
Private Faith - No Such Things
The idea of a private faith is absurd! Our Lord's half-brother, James, said, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without deeds (outward expressions) is dead" (James 2:26, NIV, bracketed interpretation, mine).
Isaiah had enough of that nonsense in his day. James had enough in his day, and Paul had enough in his day, too. I believe Paul was so fed-up with it, with what he saw happening in his day and on the horizon for the church, that he challenged believers to:
"stand up" rather than be "shut up,"
take a front seat rather than to take a back seat,
to make an impact rather than to be marginalized.
Paul wants us to bring whatever areas of our faith might be hidden, out into the open. He wants us to be consistent and committed so we can help other people to follow Christ.
Bible Study - 2 Tim. 3:1-7
If you're interested in being that kind of a believer, then let's look at 2 Timothy 3. Young Pastor Tim and the church he was shepherding were going through the same types of things we face today.
2 Tim. 3:1-7 The Caution for a Soldier of Christ
The Peril of Apostasy
2 Tim. 3:1 - "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
3:2 - For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parent, ungrateful, unholy,
3:3 - unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
3:4 - treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
3:5 - holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.
3:6 - For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,
3:7 - always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
(Ryrie Study Bible, NASB)
1. Our Times (2 Tim. 3:1-7)
As we read this section of Scripture, it's almost as if we're looking at a picture of today. What was stated in Scripture back then is illustrated in the news every day in our time.
This scene in 2 Timothy 3 describes a very rotten moral climate.
When is the "last days?" We find that Paul, along with the rest of the New Testament authors, regarded,
The time from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, until his return, to be the last days.
Paul is saying, "Be aware: Now that we're in the last days we can expect difficult times. They are here to stay and they'll only get worse!"
"Difficult," as it's translated, is a really interesting term. It comes from the Greek word "chalepos" which is the normal word used for "difficult." But, the other places it is used help to explain its meaning here in 2 Timothy 3.
For instance, in Matthew 8:28 it is used to describe Jesus' encounter with the two demon possessed men He met at the tombs in the Gadarenes.
Matthew 8:28 "When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way" (NASB).
It describes these men as dangerous and violent, using the word "chalepos." In other ancient writings of the time, the word is used to describe a festering wound as "ugly." In ancient astronomy the word is used to describe a threatening collision between heavenly objects. So we get the idea that this word is much bigger than our normal concept of "difficult." It carries the thought of times that are menacing and dangerous.
2 Tim. 3:1 - "In the last days, (menacing and dangerous) difficult times will come."
So what Paul is writing about is an incredibly fierce, hazardous, and perilous season of ministry. In fact, it's our times! Then, in verses 2-7 he mentions the things that make it so treacherous. He is really describing in one form or another things that make the daily news.
Just thinking about our own day, when you consider today what is accepted and "normal" on television or in the film industry that, only twenty years ago was taboo, there can be no argument that Paul was speaking about the time from the first century right up until our day.
Can you remember when it was safe for kids to play outside, unsupervised, with no fear of sexual predators or others who would harm them? How about when marriage vows were taken more seriously than they are now, or when children were truly valued, or when the punishment of criminal actions was encouraged.
In verse 3:13 Paul said that "evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse." Wow, is that ever true! These are our times that Paul is describing for us here.
II. Our Stand
In light of the difficult circumstances in which we live, how do we as Christians take a stand to endure? What can we do to protect our faith from being browbeaten into silence? Paul gives us three specific safeguards in chapter 4. Let's read this because he tells us what, why, and how - what we are to do, why we're to do it, and how we're to do it. Let's look at those in that order.
A. What We Are To Do
2 Timothy 4:1-2 - "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: (v. 2) preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (NASB).
There are three principles here under what we are to do:
1. The first principle is "make the Scriptures your standard."
In difficult times like those Paul described in chapter 3, it is very easy to drift from the standards of God's Word. When this flood of ungodly behavior is rising and picking up speed all around us, it's easy to stop fighting against the current. Instead of raising our children according to godly principles, we can get swept away by the changing tide of relativistic values embraced by the world. Instead of seeking God's will in His Word, we can flow with the tide of opinion offered by others.
You and I need to be people of the Book. We need to be people who build our lives on the Word of God by exposing ourselves to it on a regular basis and then by applying it to our daily lives.
Be On Alert
2. The second principle provided is also found in verse two. That little phrase "be ready in season and out of season" tells us we are to "always be on the alert."
In other words, we need to keep our minds sharpened and polished on the truth of God's Word instead of allowing them to be dulled by the sinking level of values around us. We need to be mentally disciplined if we are going to think biblically and with discernment about the times in which we live.
There is one more phrase in 2 Timothy 4:2 that I want us to look at. It is "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." This gives us a third principle:
3. Take a Stand.
We need to deal with some of the serious things that are the "in-our-face" type issues, and when necessary, take a stand. We also need to learn to choose our battles carefully. Not every issue is a hill to die on. But, when something is clearly a biblical value that is being blatantly violated, we ought to stand up and be heard.
In his diary, the great American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, wrote:
Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God.
Resolved second: that whether others do or not, I will. That's taking a stand!
B. Why We Are To Do It
There are lots of important reasons for Christians to take a stand today. Paul mentions two of them in 4:3-4. Let's look at it.
2 Tim. 4:3-4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
(v. 4) and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (NASB).
1. The first reason is that Truth is being willfully rejected.
They are hearing it, but they will not endure it. We're getting to the place where fewer and fewer people - even many who claim to know Christ - tolerate solid, sound Biblical teaching. The reason for this is that, generally, they want to hear what they want to hear. They don't want to hear what God says they need to hear.
That's why a lot of folks hop from church to church. Many people are just looking for a church or a preacher whose theology is loose enough to accommodate their desires. So they search the TV channels, the bookstores, and the churches until they find someone who can fashion their "golden calf" for them. That's so interesting - there's always people looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear and there's always someone willing to accommodate them. What kind of a believer are you?
2. The second reason we need to take a stand is that,
Lies are going to be supported.
When people reject the truth, they then have this vacuum - this empty hole that needs to be filled. They fill it with half truths and fanciful stories that are not based in God's Word. People eat that stuff up like candy. Even worse, they enthusiastically follow and begin to endorse it themselves.
We need to take a stand because the truth is being rejected and lies are being supported.
Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do NOTHING!"
Unless we take a stand, are continually on the alert, and make the scriptures our standard, the lies supported by those who have rejected the truth will capture the hearts and minds of many people and perhaps even someone you or I love.
That's what we're to do and why we're to do it. Next, Paul tells us…
C. How We Are To Do It
Paul sums up his instructions in verse 5 and leaves us with four short and snappy orders that ought to characterize our efforts in taking a stand. Let's look at verse 5.
2 Timothy 4:5 "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (NASB).
1. First, we are to stand calmly.
The word "sober" here doesn't refer to the absence of alcohol. It describes the absence of a lunatic-like fanaticism. We need to remember to love the lost, not to fight them or scream at them. If we don't use tact, we'll lose control.
2. Second, we need to endure hardship.
That means we need to stand patiently, even when we are mistreated for standing up. When you stand up there are going to be some people who will make you feel like dirt. But, there may be one or two others that you encourage and strengthen by doing so.
3. Third, we are to diligently attempt to win others to Christ in the process.
Paul said "do the work of an evangelist" which is the basic privilege and responsibility of all believers. You don't have to be an expert in evangelism. Sharing the gospel is simply a matter of one spiritual beggar telling another spiritual beggar where to find the bread of life. Jesus is the bread of life.
4. We are to "fulfill our ministry," meaning that we do it "thoroughly."
We need to commit ourselves to do our work like we were doing it for the Lord. Instead of settling for mediocrity, we need to strive for excellence in the things we do for God.
We've seen the times in which we live - dangerous and desperate. We've also seen the stand we're to take - the what, the why, and the how. Finally, in closing I want us to take a look at…
III. Our Impact
When we apply God's counsel for being a stand up Christian - standing when it's not easy to stand - we can expect certain results. I wrote down four results we can expect as we take a stand. They are:
1. As we stand up we will stand out for God and make an impact on lives.
2. As we stand pure, in the middle of the impurity, we are going to provide a model for others to follow.
3. As we stand consistent it will keep us and others stable.
4. As we stand committed it will give us even more determination.