1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Timothy 1:1–12
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 to Timothy, my dear son: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 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 I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.
Someone once said, “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.” Ten or so years ago, when Tiger Woods was at the peak of his powers and was winning golf tournaments for fun, he was quoted in a magazine article: “Don’t mistake my ability to focus for misery. I’m having a great time on the course.”
Top sportsmen and women are able focus and ‘zone in’ far better than mere mortals, but Tiger Woods took this passion and intensity to a whole new level.
Someone wrote a book titled ‘Lessons from the Top’ at the turn of the century. It tells the stories of 50 of the most successful businessmen in the 20th century, and there is an interesting comment in the introduction: “No trait is more noticeable in the leaders on our list than the passion they share for their people and their companies. Quite simply, they love what they do.”
Now when we as Christians talk about passion, we’re not talking about a passion for careers, our favourite hobbies or a sports team. We’re talking about a burning drive that God places within us to change the world. We’re talking about the motivation we have (or should have) to go about Kingdom work. It’s all very well to be passionate and fired up in the context of a worship service, but the real work for God is meant to be seen outside the four walls of our Church buildings.
We are not here for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.
Our theme for today Jesus’ call to us to be the light of the world. I hope you enjoyed singing ‘Jesus bids us shine with a pure clear light’ earlier. It’s a cute Sunday School song we all learned many years ago, and it probably brought back a few memories, but the theology in the words of that song are profound and true. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His commission to His Church has never changed.
Within the heart of every Christian is the potential to burn with passion for Jesus, and by His power He does make it possible for us to make a real difference in the lives of the people God brings across our paths. In the words of that little song, it may only be a little corner where God has placed you, but if you have the passion to burn, God can make a difference through you in your little corner, and I in mine.
In our reading from 2 Timothy, Paul helps us identify four steps that will help us to intensify our passion for God.
The first is found in the opening four verses.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear son: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.”
Paul had experienced God’s grace, mercy, and peace in his own life, and God used these things to constantly keep the flame of passion within Paul burning.
You can have a passion for your career, your family or a hobby. And kept in the right perspective, those are good things to have, but a passion for God is something completely different.
I’ve spoken about this often in recent months. Coming to Church every Sunday is only the start. We are called to become involved in the life and witness of the Church, and this is something that happens every day of the week. The Church office is a bit like a railway station at times. It really is wonderful to see so much going on and people coming and going throughout the week, but there are many more people we only see for an hour on Sunday mornings.
Reach up to God, and ask Him to ignite a passion within you.
Secondly, reach within yourself.
Verse 5 says “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
What this tells us is that Timothy had been raised in a Christian home. His mother and grandmother had been instrumental in shaping and laying a solid foundation in his life. But Timothy took the decision to build on that faith on his own – with the help of the Lord, of course. Most of us grew up in an era when we had Scripture lessons at school, and most of us attended Sunday School regularly as children. But that is not enough to live a life of passion for Jesus. That’s only the foundation.
Each of us needs to decide for ourselves that we are going to take the foundations of our life of faith that were planted by others, and then make ourselves available to God. In the words of our opening hymn today, “Here I am Lord, it is I Lord. I will go where you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Have you asked God what His plans are for you? You might be surprised at the answer you receive.
Remember that as a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit lives within you. He is already there, and He is willing and able to light that fire in your soul. Reach within yourself and allow Him to change and transform you into a believer who is passionate for Jesus.
When we allow the seeds of God’s Word to germinate and grow within us, and we then walk daily in faith as a result, we will have all the resources we need. The amazing thing is that all of those tools and resources already lie within. Paul was simply reminding us that in Christ we have the necessary foundation to be what God has called us to be.
The third step is to reach out with a new boldness for Christ.
In verses 6 and 7 Paul says to Timothy, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” The NKJV says “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
If we’re going to take our light into the world it will require boldness. As Jesus said in Luke 8:16, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”
So many Christians are fearful about shining their light in the darkness, but that fear does not come from God. Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that you are not good enough for God. He gave His life for you, and I think that makes it pretty clear that you are of infinite worth and value to Him. You are good enough for Him.
You’ll remember from about a month ago that we looked at the monuments the Israelites erected when God stopped the flow of the Jordan River as they crossed into the Promised Land. They were instructed to put up standing stones as a reminder of what God had done, so that future generations would learn about His provision.
A key verse we looked at that day was 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Don’t be fearful of telling others what Christ has done for you. That fear does not come from Him. What He has given you is a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind.
Paul urged Timothy to fan into flame the gift he had been given by God, and he also reminded Timothy that it was essential for him to obey this instruction. Many people needed to be touched by his ministry, just as he had been touched by Paul’s ministry. Someone in your past took the trouble to tell you about Jesus. You have heard the good news of Jesus Christ. How can you not pass it on?
If you are living with regrets at missed opportunities to share the love of Christ with someone, take those regrets to God. Ask Him for forgiveness, and ask Him to remind you of His power. Remember how reluctant Moses was when God first called him to lead His people out of Egypt? The Lord listened patiently to all of his excuses, but then said to him in Exodus 4:12, “Now go. I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
When a Christian is transformed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the fire of passion ignites. Paul didn’t want Timothy to become discouraged, because he believed in this young man. And so did God.
If you read about the heroes of the faith in the Bible and also those throughout the history of the Church, one thing they all had in common was a boldness to speak out for Christ, despite their own shortcomings weaknesses, and regardless of the consequences of their boldness.
These people have all grasped the truth and believed in God’s promise of the spirit of power, of love and a sound mind.
All of these things help us to come to the fourth step: being effective in reaching out to the world. That is what it is really all about. This is why the Church exists: to tell others. Look at Paul’s words in verses 8-12 again: “Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. His purpose and his passion were to reach the lost and to inspire Timothy to do the same. Passion knows no boundaries when God is leading us. Our task as 21st century Christians is no different to that of Paul and his contemporaries in the 1st century. We are appointed as heralds and apostles and teachers and sharers of the gospel.
And the most effective way of doing that is by allowing the light of Jesus and the hope He brings to shine in and through you.
This is how Paul put it in our reading from 2 Corinthians 4 this morning: “By setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Despite all the technology and wisdom and pride in human achievement and endeavour in the world today, so many people are desperately lost, and heading down a path which will ultimately bring about their destruction. The vast majority of those people don’t even know they are lost in the first place.
You know some of those people personally, and my simple challenge to you today is this: What are you going to do about it?
Reach up to God, reach within yourself and allow His Spirit to use you. Ask Him for a new boldness, a new passion for Jesus, and then reach out. Carry your candle into the darkness, because God is counting on normal people like us to tell the lost that there is hope.
Coming to worship services, sharing fellowship with fellow believers, spending time alone with God in prayer and reading His Word are all good things. They’re all essential ingredients for growing and maturing in our life of faith, but unless if we use that growth for the benefit of others as well as ourselves, we have misunderstood the Great Commission Jesus gives us at the end of Matthew’s gospel: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and an outspoken critic of Nazism who died in Flossenburg concentration camp in 1945. A year before he died he wrote these words: “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others - not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”
We cannot do these things without a fire of passion burning within us, and to be set on fire, we must let God kindle the blaze. What is your real passion in life? Do you want to partner with God and make a difference in the lives of others?
I recently found this anonymous quote from a Church member in the USA: “This idea that one comes to Church to receive is total garbage. If anyone is in Christ, they have been given gifts and talents. These are not for their personal enjoyment, but for the cause of Christ. I have spoken to folks who say they are leaving because they are not being fed. My advice to them is to stop looking to be fed, and start looking to feed.”
It’s that same principle we looked at last Sunday. Are we going to live with a closed fist, expecting to receive, or is our attitude represented by an open hand, looking for opportunities to serve?
In a moment we will be singing these words, which I pray would be the earnest commitment of all of us today: “We are a family whose hearts are blazing, let’s raise our candles and light up the sky. Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus, make us a beacon in darkest times. Carry your candle, run to the darkness, seek out the hopeless, confused and torn. Hold out your candle for all to see it - take your candle, go light your world.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read 2 Timothy 1:6-12
In this passage Paul speaks of his passion for the gospel and also encourages the young Timothy to have the same passion for Jesus.
What do you believe are the qualities we see in Paul (and many other Church leaders) which makes them so different to many other Christians?
The Bible clearly teaches that we have different gifts and talents.
Obviously we cannot all be like Paul and Timothy, but in which ways do you feel that you might contribute more to the life and witness of the Church?
We cannot seriously commit to being the Light of the World without a burning desire to be faithful and obedient to God’s call on our lives.
What do you think may be some of the things which may be holding us back as the Church, and as individual believers?
How can you become a more effective witness for Christ?
Read 1 Peter 3:15
We have looked at this verse recently, but it is so important for us to grasp the true meaning of these words.
What is the ‘reason for the hope that you have?’
In which ways have you been able to share this hope recently?
Close by praying that the Lord would give us (both individually and as a congregation) a new passion for Jesus.
Ask Him to give you a desire to carry His light into the world.