ENDURE FAITHFULLY Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Timothy 2:8-13 LSB Series C, Proper 23
October 13, 2019
1You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
8Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
In a.d. 79 the city of Pompeii was destroyed by the violent eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Many of the ruins have been excavated. These studies have provided ample evidence that many died in their attempt to flee. But one man did not attempt such a flight. At city gate, archaeologists found the skeleton of Roman guard. There he stood, both hands clutched about his weapon while fiery ashes gradually buried him. What a symbol of faithful endurance!
That's the directive Paul gives Timothy in this text. He warns of the many hardships he will face as a follower of Christ and pastor of Christ's people. He encourages Timothy to remain firm in his faith and task. Those words are addressed to us today. Endure faithfully! Keep the faith! Do not let the hardships you encounter in your walk with Christ deter you from the goal which Christ won for you by His precious blood!
I. THE NATURE OF THESE HARDSHIPS
For Paul, the hardships of discipleship involved imprisonment and accusation of criminal activity. Notice again what he says in verse 9:
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.
He was accused of treason against Rome because he proclaimed Christ to be King. His fellow Jews assaulted him as a traitor because he decried a righteousness through the Law and declared a righteousness through faith in Jesus, even for Gentiles. Wherever Paul went, wherever He held out the Gospel, trouble ensued.
The same was true for Jesus. Paul referred to the resurrection of Jesus in our text, which recalls also His crucifixion. Jesus often spoke to his disciples of the cross which he would bear, which he prophesied his followers would also bear. He was accosted by the religious establishment of his day as one who defied the divine law of Moses and presented himself as a Savior of sinners. He was put to death as a criminal under the curse of God and of man.
II. SUCH HARDSHIPS ARE TO BE EXPECTED!
We may not be arrested or imprisoned for being followers of Jesus today, at least not in our nation. We certainly don't expect to be crucified for confessing our faith in him. Historically we have enjoyed freedom of speech and religion.
That does not mean life will be easier for us! The world rejects the Christian way as narrow-minded and out of date. We choose to follow a path in life that differs from the way our society praises. We are be labeled as “different” in a world that prizes conformity to it’s standards. We are ridiculed for our proclamation of grace and for treasuring an attitude of humility when the rest of the nation demands its rights and clings to its pride.
III. CAUSE OF SUCH HARDSHIPS
Certainly, the power of sin and the opposition of Satan lay behind these hardships. Satan cannot and will not simply stand by while we go about our God-given Gospel labors. He hates our God. He hates those who belong to him. He wills to destroy everything God created and redeemed. The sinfulness he brought into this world is also at work to destroy what God made.
Oddly enough, however, Paul lays the “blame,” if we can use that term, at the feet of the Gospel! The Gospel upends the thinking of this world with its own ideas about salvation, hope, comfort. The Gospel says “No” to pride and the acquisition of power, and “Yes” to humility and sacrifice. The Gospel leaves no room for human accomplishment but promotes only the grace of God in Christ Jesus. The Gospel puts those who cling to it outside the mainstream of sinful society, and into the minority of those who think differently, live differently, who are different from the rest of humanity. It was this Gospel which led Ruth to turn away from her home, her family, her country, and commit herself completely to Naomi, her home, her family, and her people. It was this Gospel which led the Samaritan leper to return to the one who had given him healing and prostate himself at Jesus’ feet and give him thanks.
The question we face is, “How do we endure?” How can we faithfully endure as these challenges will most certainly come? Paul answers this question in the text.
IV. “REMEMBER JESUS CHRIST” (8).
Remember his endurance and his triumph. He did not have a pleasant path to follow in his earthly ministry. He was plagued throughout his life by Satan and a sinful world. There was no room for him or his family at the time of his entrance into the world—he was consigned to lowly manger for a bed, surrounded by simple shepherds. He was not welcomed as the king that he was, but was hounded by a hateful Herod who feared for his own royal security. As his ministry unfolded he was challenged by scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees who saw him as one who despised God's Law, and then rejected by those who wanted an earthly monarch bringing wealth and power to Israel. Finally it led to a cross and his death under the most severe and humiliating conditions. Yet in the end he triumphed! The grave was not his final resting place. He claimed the victory with his mighty resurrection from the dead. His ministry was vindicated by His Father who claimed him from death for life. He was put to death in humiliation but raised to life in glory and exalted to power at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Remember Christ’s endurance and his triumph.
Remember, too, Christ's purpose in endurance and triumph. What Christ encountered, he did for your sake. That's the glory of this Gospel for which Paul was imprisoned. Paul noted that Jesus was the “offspring of David” (8). This points to the purpose of Jesus’ earthly endurance and powerful resurrection. He went to the cross and conquered the grave for those whose nature he shared. He endured and triumphed for you. This propelled Paul to endure hardship for the Gospel. The good news that God had conquered death in Christ for Paul, led Paul to follow in the footsteps of Christ, enduring anything and everything that he might share in the victory Christ gained. Paul made the Gospel known for our sake whom God intended to hear that Gospel and share in the triumph of Christ. We endure the hardship of discipleship because that’s what Christ did for us. He has saved us by dying in our place for our forgiveness and rising to claim new life for us. That Gospel message was brought to us by many who also endured the hardships of which Paul writes. We have become heirs of eternal life in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.
Today we also remember Christ’s promise:
“The saying is trustworthy, for:
if we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him” (11-12a).
Paul urges us to endure the hardship of Christian discipleship, remembering Christ's trustworthy promise of life and a share in His kingdom. Jesus Christ has promised us that life and that inheritance. Jesus Christ has endured the hardship of the cross and claimed the victory over death. Jesus Christ has guaranteed the fulfillment of that promise by his own work. His promise is certain!
One Christian writer states:
“In the future, the most important test of the Christian church may not lie in the wisdom of our planning or the skill of our preaching but in the plain, stub-born, devoted commitment of people like ourselves, who are not wise enough or good enough to deserve the name of Christians, but who resolve to follow Christ in everything that we do.”
Our future will be filled with hardships as we follow Christ. Endurance will be required of us just as it was of the saints who have gone before us.
But even more important for us in all this is what Christ has already done for us. He endured the hardship and conquered for us. He promised and he has fulfilled his promises. Therefore “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (He 10:23).