How many different types of bowls and containers are in your house? You probably can’t count them all off the top of your head. I know I can’t! We have bowls and containers that serve a variety of purposes. Mixing bowls are used for baking while stove top pans hold simmering soup on chilly fall evenings. Meanwhile, some Tupperware containers hold leftovers while others are used to take out compost scraps. We have beautiful serving bowls that are used to elegantly present food, while at the same time we possess drab, boring containers that are used as garbage cans or laundry baskets. These different types of containers or vessels have different purposes depending on what they’re made of and how clean they are.
Paul used this picture of different types of household containers to reiterate the importance of walking in God’s approval. We’ve already studied his teaching on being approved workmen, but now let’s take a look at this somewhat different angle and see what God wants to teach us about being clean vessels ready for God’s service.
Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite verses in 2 Timothy. This verse has encouraged and challenged me over the years. It is one of those words from God that set the standard for Christian living and constantly calls us up to greater levels of godliness and Christ-likeness. It is a standard that we all constantly need to strive for. We cannot grow complacent in this endeavor, but must constantly keep this reminder before us. This exhortation is about being an approved worker of God who knows how to properly handle and use God’s Word.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
~2 Timothy 2:15
The title of this Bible study is “Run Your Race” and is taken from Paul’s many analogies of the Christian life being like a race to be run and finished well. However, in order for us to faithfully finish our race, we must not become distracted. We cannot get pulled off course by the flashing lights or promises of a better life that appear off of God’s straight and narrow track. We must stay focused on the race and the finish line, and, most importantly, we must keep running.
For this reason, Paul gives us a powerful exhortation to stay on mission and remain focused on our God-given assignment in the form of another analogy. He compares the Christian to a soldier who is on mission and cannot get mixed up or entrenched in civilian life. Just as a Navy Seal or special operations officer does not get distracted with local gossip, politics, or even personal appearance while on a specific mission, so also, we must be completely focused on the mission God has assigned us and not get sidetracked by peripheral and trivial things. Here’s what Paul wrote young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-7.
As you may have already noticed, 2 Timothy is packed full of rich truths and valuable nuggets of wisdom. Remember, these are Paul’s final words and instructions to his son in the faith; therefore, the wisdom and encouragement he shared are precious and worth carefully studying. Therefore, as we head into chapter two, let’s take a moment to examine the first two verses and a word of wisdom that would be easy to overlook in this fast paced epistle.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
~2 Timothy 2:1-2
Shame has no place in the Christian life. Paul boldly exhorted Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel and unafraid to partake in suffering for Christ. But that is not all that this spiritual father imparted to his mentoree. Paul didn’t just tell Timothy to be bold and joyfully suffer persecution; he gave young Timothy a much bigger charge. He commanded Timothy to faithfully guard what God had given him
“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”
~2 Timothy 1:13-14
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
God has given us gifts, as we saw last time. However, He did not leave us to figure out to use and grow those gifts on our own. He is with us, showing us the way and empowering us to use what He has given us for His glory. After Paul encourages Timothy to fan into flame the gifts God had given, he writes the reason for the exhortation. Why Timothy should not be afraid to let his light shine brightly. Why he ought to stir up his passion into a blazing fire that can be seen by many. The reason is that God has not only given gifts, but He has also given His followers power.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
~2 Timothy 1:7
From the very beginning, Paul opens his letter to Timothy with words of love, affection, and joy. He is blessed and encouraged by Timothy’s love for the Lord and faithful service in the work of the ministry. Within the first seven verses of this book, Paul not only celebrates Timothy’s faith, but he points out the power of a godly legacy.
“To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~2 Timothy 1:2
As the name of this epistle suggests, Timothy was the recipient of Paul’s deeply personal letter. Notice the title Paul ascribes to Timothy. He doesn’t say “Timothy, bishop of Ephesus” or “Timothy, missionary” or “Timothy, church leader.” Paul uses a tender, personal, loving title for his protégé. He writes, “Timothy, my beloved child” or as some translations put it, “Timothy, my dear son.” Obviously, Paul and Timothy shared a special connection that went beyond serving together in ministry. Paul was more than Timothy’s teacher; he was Timothy’s spiritual father.
But who was Timothy? What was his story? How did he get involved in Paul’s life and why was he separated from the Apostle at the time of this letter?