For the Sake of the Elect

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10-11

Even though Paul went from city to city as an evangelist and teacher, he seemed to care for the leadership wherever he went. He knew how fragile they could be. But he also knew the spiritual dangers and pitfalls they could experience. He wanted them to succeed, much like a good father wants his children to succeed.

So when he wrote that he endured everything for the sake of the elect, he was saying what he himself had already accomplished.

Pray for your pastors and their families today. They endure a lot of spiritual battles that none of us know about. They are under pressure from church members, leadership, their supervisors, and even their neighbors. The task of pastoring and caring for the flock within a church is not easy, but rarely do they complain about their role. Pray that they will be refreshed with the Scripture just as you and I are refreshed with the Scripture when they teach it. Send them a quick note to let them know you’re praying for them.

God’s Word is Not Chained

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 2 Timothy 2:8-9

For those of you old enough to remember, in the 1980s there was a big push to send Bibles and New Testaments to Soviet bloc countries. People were smuggling Bibles into those countries because they couldn’t read the Word of God any other way. High power radio stations were broadcasting into Russia to get the word out through the spoken word. In fact, it’s a roundabout way I met my wife.

Today, people still smuggle Bibles into forbidden lands. You’ll never know about them but they exist in the hundreds or thousands. If a country has excessive restrictions on the Word of God, then you can be assured that many are seeking to get the Bible into the country by any means possible.

We don’t know their names but they do their work without fanfare or fame. They realize the risks upfront and what might happen if they get caught. You and I would be amazed by the stories of God’s provisions, how a guard looked the other way at just the right time or how they completely overlooked bundles of Bibles. These Bible smugglers think differently than you and me. They are obsessed in the most positive sense of the word. They are obsessed with getting the Word of God into the hands of those who are crying out for it. In fact, they take Paul’s words seriously: “God’s word is not chained.”

Pray for them as they risk much to get the Bible into other lands. Pray that they will find favor in the eyes of border guards. Pray even that the eyes of these guards will be blinded temporarily to get Bibles past their station. God continues to work throughout the world. His Word is powerful, and it’s why people still risk their lives to spread the Good News.

Soldier, Athlete, Farmer

4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:4-7

With three short statements, Paul showed us how to keep focused. Having been a soldier and an amateur athlete, I know what it takes to obey my superiors and the rules placed up me. Not doing so in both instances was a recipe for disaster. They both had their consequences. The farmer in Paul’s illustration is also focused on harvesting his crop lest he and his family go hungry.

Combined with verse 3, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” Paul let us know that we should be focused the goals of our Master.

What are those goals? Well, it’s living the Christ-like life. It’s dying to self daily. It’s focusing on what matters to God. It’s living a Godly life in Christ Jesus through the help of the Holy Spirit. Actually, it’s quite a few of these and more because they are so closely woven together.

Join with Me in Suffering

2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:2-3

Join with me in suffering. Who says that kind of thing? Did Paul want Timothy to actually tag along and be persecuted as Paul was being persecuted. I think wha Paul was saying was that suffering is normal for the Christian. You can hate it or accept it. The choice is still up to you. No use fighting it.

Does that mean we intentionally do things to get persecuted? Of course not. We shouldn’t shy away from speaking the truth, even if it means persecution.

It’s hard to write about persecution in the United States. For most of us, we don’t know what it is or what it’s like. We get shunned, discriminated against, and poked fun at in the media, but we’re not being hauled away on Sunday morning because of our beliefs. Again, I don’t want to minimize the shootings in a Texas church or the one at a South Carolina prayer meeting a few years ago. Yes, that happens and it’s considered the ultimate persecution, but it’s completely out of the ordinary.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what it would be like to be taken from your family by the police. Armed guards. Prison cells, Interrogation. Asking for you to renounce Christ. It’s not that hard to imagine as we can see how it’s taking place around the globe. It’s real and if we continue to devolve as a society, strong persecution is closer than we think.

That Blessed Hope

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

If you’ve been following then you know that this verse is a repeat from yesterday. I loosely defined being strong in grace as relying more and more on Christ. That is all true. I woke this morning with an even better definition, one that comes directly from Scripture. It’ll make our ability to be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ much easier to grasp.

For the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:12

This verse will take a little longer to memorize than today’s verse. But learning both of them is a powerful tool that God can use in our lives. Memorizing Scripture has that power because God can and will use it day or night, no matter where you are. Fortunately, when I was in the Glee Club many years ago, one man recited this verse as part of the concert. He said it enough in practice and during concerts that I memorized it. To this day, I can hear his voice.

More importantly, I can hear the voice of God remind me that God’s grace is sufficient for teaching me no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

Strong in Grace

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

For those who say they can’t memorize Scripture, here’s a small verse for you. Verse 1 is a great example of a prayer that is meaningful, relevant, and simple. It’s more of a charge than a prayer but it would be very easy to change into a prayer.

What then, does it mean to be strong in the grace? As we grow older in Christ, it becomes necessary to rely more and more on Christ for our strength and power. We rely less and less on our own strength. What a powerful prayer that is for each of us.

Take some time today to memorize this verse and apply it to your own situation. Mull it over, think about it, write it down a few times. Within ten minutes it will be in your mind and in your very soul.

Dare to Be Onesipherous

16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus. 2 Timothy 1:16-18

Onesiphorus is not exactly a household name, but he should be. Whereas Paul was indeed a Type A personality, a forceful leader and visionary. Onesiphorus, on the other hand, was probably one of many who followed up or cleaned up after Paul. He probably put Paul’s vision into action on a daily basis.

Of course we hear about Pauls all through our life, but the Onesiphoruses go unnoticed, and much of that is because they don’t want the limelight or glory. They are much more comfortable in the background. We need many more people like Onesiphorus than we do Paul. That’s not to demean Paul in any way. It merely means we need more service-oriented and nose-to-the-grind people than visionaries. If everyone were visionaries and leaders, nothing would get done.

We’ve all known people like Onesipherus. Maybe you’re like him, which is perfectly fine. Keep up the faithful, God-honoring work. It’s tough sometimes when you don’t seem to get credit. The work you do is being noticed. Keep the faith strong and vibrant.

Your Obituary

15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 2 Timothy 1:15

Despire his standing among the Apostles, Paul suffered loss too. We don’t know much about Phygelus or Hermogenes except that they deserted Paul. We don’t know the circumstances or context, but Paul thought it worthy enough to include in his second letter to Timothy. Apparently they were in the faith so we’ll see them in Heaven, but they’ll forever be remember as those who deserted Paul. Well, probably not, but that’s how we’ll remember them.

How do you want to be remembered? A few years ago a friend of mine wrote his obituary even though he had just turned 50. He wrote it because that’s how he wanted to be remembered. In other words, it was a goal for him at the time. And now a few years later he’s aiming for that goal. Interesting thought.

When you read obituaries, you see what others have to say about the person. Unfortunately, the relatives have a limited space to write about their loved one. Browse through some obituaries some time and read what people write. It’s fascinating to see what others think is important about that person. Sometimes it’s a list of accomplishments along with names of close relatives. Sometimes it’s hobbies and likes.

Now, how do you want to be remembered? How have you influenced other people? What would they say about you? I get that question a lot when someone is interviewing me: what would your co-workers say about you? People will talk about you but what will they say? What would you want them to say? Move towards that mark.

He is Trustworthy

11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:11-12

In a roundabout way, Paul said that God can be trusted with salvation. He is trustworthy and faithful. We need to be reminded of that often as we live our lives. Not a day goes by where the news is utterly depressing and increasingly vile. The axiom, “Once you undock from God, there is no bottom” is proven every day. It’s enough to throw up your hands and give up.

But God is still at work in the lives of men and women across the planet. We may not see it or experience it, but He is. God gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22). What’s the guarantee? He’s guaranteed that what is coming is infinitely more significant than the trials we experience here. Keep pressing on. Keep trusting God. Keep asking for the Holy Spirit’s help – even when you don’t think you need Him.