A Bible study through 2 Timothy
This short letter to Timothy contains some powerful exhortations! Paul started his letter with a bang by reminding Timothy of the godly heritage, the gifts God had given him, and his need to keep the fire of his passion and devotion for God burning. Paul also encouraged Timothy to not walk in a spirit of fear or timidity, but to remember that he has power, love, and self-control through the Spirit of God. Now, in light of these things—a spirit of power, love, and self-control and the gifts God had given him—Paul reminded Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel, but to boldly share in suffering for the truth by God’s power.
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
~2 Timothy 1:8-9
Do Not Be Ashamed
The Roman culture was full of evil, moral depravity, and all manner of ungodliness. Therefore, it rejected and deeply resented the purity, truth, and convictions of Christianity. You may think that our 21st century American culture is getting corrupt and wicked, but Roman culture was far worse! On pretty much every issue, Roman culture went contrary to the Christian faith. For this reason, Christians were being intensely persecuted. But persecution doesn’t just take physical forms like beatings, imprisonments, or martyrdom; it can also take much more subtle forms like social alienation, mockery, estrangement, and other types of covert hostility.
Paul knew the various kinds of pressure Christians experienced in the hostile Roman culture. He knew that unless one was strong in their convictions and emboldened by the power of God, it would be easy to become lukewarm, compromising, and culture-pleasing. Therefore, he strongly reminded Timothy of the truth of the gospel and exhorted him to never be ashamed of it.
This is a timely message and reminder for us. In this day and age, it is so easy to compromise, to refrain from saying anything so that no one is offended, to be political and diplomatic, and to ultimately become people-pleasers. However, when it comes to the truth of the gospel and the Word of God, we must be bold and uncompromising. We should not be ashamed, but we must stand up for what we believe and why. While diplomacy and cultural sensitivity has its place, we must be careful to never allow these things to stifle or silence our witness.
Remember, like Timothy and Paul, we have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control. Fear and timidity are not part of the spirit God has given us, and without these two, we should not feel shame. Shame comes from feelings of inadequacy, fear, and timidity. But God has given us the opposite in the Holy Spirit, so shame should not be part of our lives. Rather power, love, and self-control give us boldness and courage to face opposition with compassion, kindness, and humility.
Share in Suffering
Even though Paul was about to give his life for the faith, he wanted to remind Timothy to never be ashamed of the gospel. Timothy didn’t need to apologize for the truth or be afraid to stand firm on what he believed. Rather, Paul reminds him that he is called to share in suffering and that God would strengthen him for all that he might face.
This is a tall order! While we may be able to tolerate discrimination or ridicule for our beliefs, are we ready to unapologetically stand for truth even when it brings suffering?
Later on in 2 Timothy 1, Paul lists some who allowed shame to overtake them and turn them away from the things of God. However, Paul also mentions those who were unashamed of the gospel and shared in Paul’s sufferings. These brothers in Christ were commended and blessed by Paul, because they were not afraid to stand beside Paul during hardship and thus stand beside their Lord.
So the question for us is…which group do we want to be associated with? How would you like your name listed for all eternity in the annals of history? Do you want to belong to the group who fell away in shame under social pressure and rejected the truth? Or do you want to be counted among those who unashamedly held firm to the truth they professed even in the face of persecution and suffering?
Part of faithfully running our race of faith is staying in the race even when the going gets tough. We cannot drop out, take a time-out, or be sidelined when hardship comes. Those are seasons when we need to run even harder and focus our eyes more sharply on the goal of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we’ll lose sight of our mission, become overwhelmed by the pain and struggle, and bend to the weight of social and spiritual pressure to compromise. We’ll start slowing down and eventually stop running if our mind becomes focused on the challenges and difficulties of the moment and the negative opinions of others. However, if our mind is fixed on Christ and the power of the gospel, holding fast to the promises of God, then we will not become weighed down with the cares of this life. Rather, we will run with faithfulness, endurance, and joy towards the finish line.
So don’t be ashamed of the gospel, but stand firmly on the truths of God’s Word and be unmoved in your resolve and devotion to the truth. Share in the sufferings of the saints and expect it, because Jesus promised that in this world we would have tribulation. But take heart, He has overcome the world! Therefore, faithfully run your race no matter what the world throws at you and seek to become numbered among those who have stood with Christ despite persecution and challenges that God may be glorified and Jesus exalted. May we join Paul in declaring this statement of faith:
“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
~2 Timothy 1:12b