So don’t be embarrassed…

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.”  2 Tim 1:8

Or as Eugene Peterson has rendered it: “So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, his prisoner.  Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us.”  I don’t intend to cover EVERY verse, by the way, in this letter – but the next couple are just so outstanding that I can’t gloss over them.  I can’t help noticing that in British culture we are only to ready to exclaim when we have found something worth shouting about – yesterday on the news Dicken’s birthday and the Diamond Jubilee, both worthy objects of note and respect.  But the testimony of the Lord is something else, isn’t it?  Also caught Stephen Fry and other laudatories on Q.I. last night sniffing at the non-appearance of Jesus in glory, the ‘Great Disappointment of the Millerites in the 1840s.  There will be a day, a memorable day, when our hearts will leap, and we will whisper: “It’s come.  He’s come.”

So we keep going.  And as a 14 year-old Christian said to me the other day, even if it’s not true – and it is! – it’s a better way to live.  The word for ‘ashamed’ is the fear  that freezes you so you don’t do something.  The word for testimony is the word for martyr, which also means ‘witness’.  Paul is in prison when he writes to Timothy, but there is a sense in which he is a prisoner of Christ too – a love-slave.  A willing captive to the gospel.  The compound Greek word ‘sunkakopatheia’ means something like ‘to suffer hardship with’.  The word ‘kakos’ means evil, and ‘pathos’ means passion.  It’s really the key word in this verse – afflictions.  The theme of suffering is strong in 2 Timothy, as indeed it is in most of Paul’s later epistles.  That wonderful word ‘dunamis’ crops up again here – God’s power is the means by which we point to Christ, even under duress.

We learn from this verse:

1st, that Jesus is a witness

2nd, that we are not to be ashamed of Him

3rd, that those in prison are not to be looked down upon

4th, that hardship is part of the gospel message

5th, that believers are called to share each others’ hardships

6th, that God’s miraculous power will accompany our hardships

7th, that work for the Lord will entail captivity

8th, that as believers we can choose to partake in hardship or not

9th, that the degree of hardship for the gospel that we partake in will influence our experience of God’s power and provision

10th, that it is a natural danger for us to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ

 

Exploring further:

Many people unconsciously divorce Jesus teachings from Paul teachings, but there is a clear through-line.  So in Mark 8:38 we are told: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”  Acts 5:41 reminds us of the early church’s attitude to suffering: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  Rom 1:16 is a very satisfactory substitute for 2 Tim 1:8 and indeed is probably better known, so I won’t include it – but it does not refer to suffering.  And I do not work on the principle that one verse fits all anyway.  1 Pet 4:14 is deeply consoling: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”  This makes us aware that by bringing Christ’s aroma, we introduce the fragrance of death to some: and as some turn away in disgust they are condeming themselves.  But this does not mean we blaspheme!  On our part He is still glorified.

For the ‘testimony of our Lord’, check out Rev 19:10b: “Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  I may not cover 2 Tim 2:9 in this series, but the little aside is worthy of comment: “for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains, but the word of God is not chained.”  Being able to claim these truths in prayer is immensely powerful.  On suffering Col 1:24 shows us that each individual Christian suffering is part of His divine plan, the disciple not being greater than the Master: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”

But just to close, I will include some scriptures that show that it is the power of God which enables us to bear up under suffering, especially when we are labouring for the kingdom, and laid down for His will:

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Cor 12:9-10

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phil 4:13

“Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;”  Col 1:11

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.  Amen.”

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About stayingfaithful

I am looking for anything that relates to life and to a fuller life. I am bored by the normal and the natural and interested in the supernatural. There must be more than this. We were put on this earth for more than a nine to five prison, as someone said a few years ago.
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2 Responses to So don’t be embarrassed…

  1. Sitting recently in the excavated ruins of the amphi-theatre in Ephesus, I was impacted by the courageous passion that enabled Paul to speak of the Good News to a vast, indifferent at best, probably hostile audience at worst. And to think I hesitate to tell people I’m off to ‘church’!
    It put my daily witness into clearer perspective and helps me to be courageous about sharing.my faith, quietly in word and loudly in action. Courage comes first – confidence follows, by His grace, which is His power to assist us to do everything He has planned for us to do..
    Great reminder Ben, now – for an opportunity o give someone the Good News, no, the Best News, today!

  2. Pingback: Statement of Faith | benleney

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