Work hard and suffer?! (2 Tim 2:2-10)

Yesterday, we began the second chapter of 2 Timothy, which is all about loyalty. And we asked the question, what does it mean for us to be loyal to God?  Today, we’ll look at a couple of ways Paul gives us, and tomorrow, we’ll look at another two.

Work hard (like Paul did)

Firstly, says Paul, work hard in God’s service, just like I do. Follow my example: keep going, even if it’s difficult. And he uses three analogies that were very common in the first century when you were encouraging hard work and discipline: that of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. This starts in verse 3:

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Loyalty (2 Tim 2:1)

This next chapter of 2 Timothy continues the theme of “loyalty” to Paul, to the gospel, and to Jesus. And loyalty is something we often talk about in our own culture, too.

Loyalty in Sport

A couple of years ago, I read a true story about a lifelong, diehard fan of the Cleveland Browns. Now I’m a big fan of American football – and I’ll be seeing my first live NFL game this Sunday in Nashville, which is conveniently the day after the annual conference of the Academy of Homiletics. (This job has the occasional perq.) But I’m guessing many of you aren’t all that up to speed, so a bit of background is in order. The Cleveland Browns is the team that never wins. They’ve never played in a Superbowl. Most years they end up coming last in their division. Life’s tough if you’re a Browns fan.

But you get used to it, apparently. To the point where this lifelong supporter pre-wrote his own obituary column. It was then published after his death in July 2013. In it he requested that the six pallbearers at his funeral be players from the Cleveland Browns – so his team could let him down one last time.

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Guard the good deposit (2 Tim 1:12-18)

The story so far: Paul has reminded Timothy to follow his example and fan into flame his gift. He’s been given God’s power to carry out the mission. And he’s been given motivation for the mission: the grace of God who has defeated death on our behalf, and given us access to immortality.  And it’s of this message of grace that Paul (along with Timothy and us) has been called to be a herald, apostle, and teacher.

But this high calling has a downside:

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An apostle, a herald, and a teacher (2 Tim 1:9-11)

So far in 2 Timothy, Paul has reminded Timothy to follow his example and get on with his calling – fanning into flame his gift. He’s been given God’s power to carry out the mission, so he shouldn’t be ashamed of anything – whether it be the gospel itself, or Paul’s imprisonment for the sake of it.

Today, Paul reminds Timothy that just as he’s been equipped by God to do the work, he’s also been given a great motivation for the work: God’s grace.

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Timid Timothy?

Yesterday we looked at the theme statement of 2 Timothy: Paul told Timothy to fan into flame his gift. To remember that God has given him power, love, and self-discipline – which is enough to counter the fear of any shame that might come his way by being associated with the gospel, and with Paul’s imprisonment. But does this suggest that Timothy was being a bit cowardly, a bit timid? That’s been the traditional way of reading it. But today, we take a brief look at this issue (repeating a post from 2014) since I think the traditional understanding is open to being challenged.

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Fan into flame (2 Timothy 1:6-8)

Continuing in 2 Timothy, we’ve made it past the opening thanksgiving, in which Paul urges Timothy to live up to Paul’s example, and to his own spiritual heritage. Today, we get what is probably the theme statement of this letter:

2 Timothy 1:6 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. 

Paul’s example and Timothy’s family heritage (vv3-5) are the reason Paul gives for his reminder to Timothy. (Although it’s phrased like a gentle “reminder,” in this kind of letter from a superior it functions as a command.) And his instruction is to fan into flame the gift of God. But what does this mean?

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Remember your heritage (2 Timothy 1:1-5)

So far in 2 Timothy we’ve seen that Paul is probably writing this letter from a Roman gaol (not just under house arrest) and facing the likelihood that he’ll soon be executed. He’s sent for Timothy to be with him during this dark time. But since this takes the form of a letter of moral exhortation, he’s also reminding Timothy of their relationship, and of Paul’s example which Timothy is to imitate in terms of character and behaviour. The most important thing Paul wanted to pass on before his death was… himself. The model he has been for Timothy in how to live for Jesus.  Today, we begin chapter 1.

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Introducing 2 Timothy – Part Two

Yesterday, we began our series in 2 Timothy by looking at the historical background. We found that Paul was writing from prison (probably via Luke, since it’s hard to write while you’re stuck in a dungeon) asking Timothy to come to see him in Rome – and to bring his cloak and study materials. He’s facing death, and this is possibly his last chance to write to Timothy.

So what does he write? Or to put it another way, what kind of letter is this?

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Introducing 2 Timothy – Part One

Over the next three weeks we’ll be working our way through Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In prison and facing imminent death, these are some of the last words Paul ever wrote… or are they? This is the background issue we begin with today, before we get to the letter itself on Wednesday.

The dearly departing…

The big question about Paul’s circumstances when writing the letter is whether this was his final imprisonment before his martyrdom in 67AD when Emperor Nero decided he now didn’t like Christians very much. (Unless they were really on-fire.) You’d think so, reading this bit:

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