Faithful: Enduring Faith

Faithful: Enduring Faith

Sermon Podcast Audio 

Commitment

One of the
hardest things for me as a parent is getting my kids to follow
through with the commitments they’ve
made, and even more so on the commitments I have made for them. Maybe you’ve experienced this as well. Your child says they want
to play a sport or do some activity, but after about
two days or weeks into it, after a few practices, or after having to get up
early one time for it, they decide they don’t want
to do it anymore.

Several years
ago, my son signed up for baseball. He had played several years prior, so this
wasn’t anything new, but this year his passion for the
game was gone. That was coupled with a coach that took all the fun out of the
game for a 7 year old. What’s a parent to do? Do you
become the mean parent and force your child to
fulfill their commitment, or do you give in to compassion and let them drop out? 

Personally, my wife and I have always been of
the mindset to make them push through. They may not sign up again, but they have
to finish what they’ve started. Sometimes
this becomes very challenging. Sometimes we even
understand where they are coming from  – during my son’s last
year of baseball, his coach was horrible.  And sometimes, our desire to help them keep their commitments
costs us – after all, we are the ones driving them to practices and sitting through
their 6 hour ballgames. I know that’s an
exaggeration, but seriously, have you ever watched 7 year olds play baseball!

Our Response to Challenges

As adults, we too
face challenges in life that force us to figure out what kind of person we will
be. Will we be a stick-it-out person, or when the going gets tough, will we get
going? I think it has only become more difficult for us to be the kind of people who stick it out.  We live in a very disposable society. Everything is
disposable. Your cell phone stops working or you drop it and crack the screen,
so you throw it away and get a new one. Your television goes out, but Best Buy probably
has 300 on sale just screaming your name.

I’m not saying this is all our fault. Last year, our
washing machine went out. I researched the problem and how much it would take
to repair it. It was going to cost almost $400 to repair, and after it was
fixed I would have a patched up, 7 year old washing machine. For just a few
hundred dollars more, I could have a nice, shiny, brand new one with a new
warranty and all.

Unfortunately,
this disposable mentality carries over to more than just our stuff. We
find it creeping into our careers, our families, and even sometimes our faith.
When our job gets difficult, we update the
old resume, and send it out to as many companies as possible, looking for anyone
to rescue us from the pit we are in.

When our
marriages get difficult, we don’t push through and try to
salvage them. We move on. After all, the grass is greener with someone else, or
so we think. But when we see greener grass, we often don’t see the enormous water bill attached to it. When the
game doesn’t go our way, we just take our ball and go home.

Paul’s Letter

During this series entitled, “Faithful,” we’ve been looking at a letter that Paul wrote to his
protege, Timothy. This is the last recorded correspondence we still have
between them. In this letter, we have seen a few different themes that Paul
wants to make sure Timothy remembers after he is gone.

Today, as we look
at Second Timothy again, there is a repeated theme from start to finish that Paul
emphasizes to Timothy. Over and over, Paul emphasizes the need to have an
enduring faith. Paul needs Timothy and us to understand that in this
Christian journey, tough times come, not everything is roses and rainbows, we
will experience hardship and even suffering. The question we have to wrestle
with is: When the going gets tough, will our faith keep going?

2 Timothy 2:3-13

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs; he wants to please his commanding officer.  Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.  The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

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

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him.

If we disown him, he will also disown us;

if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Suffering and
Endurance

Christians will
face trials, difficulty, and suffering. This is not a popular message. After
all, wouldn’t you rather come to church today and hear me talk
about how if you will just follow Jesus you will live in a big house, you can
have any job you want, and you can just go pick whatever car off the lot your little heart
desires? After all, if you have faith, it is easy street.

But if we read Second
Timothy, we get a completely different picture. Look at the many verses just in
this short letter where Paul talks about either suffering or endurance.

1:8 – “be ready to suffer…”

1:12
– “I am suffering…”

1:13
– “hold on…”

2:3 –
“Endure suffering…”

2:9 –
“I am suffering…”

2:10
– “I am willing to endure…”

2:12
– “If we endure hardship…”

3:1
– “there will be very difficult times…”

3:10 – “You
know…my endurance…”

3:11
– “I have endured…”

4:5 –
“Don’t be afraid of suffering…”

Life will not
always go our way. There will be suffering. Now, I do not believe that we in
America are suffering anything close to what Paul or the early Christians
suffered. I do not believe that we in America are suffering anywhere close to
what Christians oversees are suffering, like in Muslim countries where they are being beheaded
because of their faith, or in China where they are being imprisoned.  We do not
experience suffering anywhere near that level. Even though there are those who want to take Christians out of the conversation, to
marginalize us, we still have incredible freedoms to speak and to share Christ.

There may be examples of people who have been passed over
for a job promotion because of their faith, and there may be examples of students’ grades being affected because of their faith, but the
religious liberty we still enjoy in this country keeps us from the extreme
persecution happening elsewhere. With that said,
though, hardship and difficulty do come. When tragedy strikes, we need an enduring faith to get through whatever difficulty we might be
facing.

Paul knew Timothy
would be under pressure to compromise, to water down the message of Jesus. He
was a timid and shy guy. And Paul wants Timothy to push through the difficulty,
to help him so his faith will endure even when he feels like giving up.

So what do we do? How do we keep going when the going
gets tough? It begins with our focus.

We Endure…Because Jesus Endured

Look at verse 8
again. Paul writes,

“Remember Jesus Christ…”  – 2 Timothy 2:8

This is where it starts. Making
sure our focus is on Jesus is essential. We need to remember Jesus.  All too often, Jesus is our last resort. We turn everywhere else first.  We pour ourselves into our job. We pour
ourselves into entertainment or whatever might possibly numb us. Instead of
focusing on Jesus, we focus on ourselves. Then
we look at others and begin comparing. We look to the government.  And sure, we can turn to friends or activities. . . OR we can turn to Jesus. What does turning to Jesus teach us?

Look at
what else Paul says:

“Remember
Jesus Christ, descended from David…”  – 2 Timothy 2:8

When Paul makes
this statement about Jesus being descended from David, it reminds us of Christ’s humanity. He was and is a real person. He lived a
very real life. He too dealt with difficulty and hardship. He suffered. When he
began his ministry even his own family abandoned him. He was a constant target
for attacks and ridicule. He suffered
abuse, torture, an unjust trial, mocking, embarrassment, and desertion by his
closest friends. Whatever you are experiencing, Jesus can relate.

We focus on Jesus because not only did he suffer,
he endured.

“fixing our eyes on
Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he
endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the
throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart.”  – Hebrews 12:2-3

We have a sympathetic Savior. He’s been there. Keeping our eyes on him keeps us from growing weary and losing heart. We can endure, because Jesus endured. But Paul gives us more when he also reminds us to:

 “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.”  – 2 Timothy 2:8

We Endure…Because of Our Future

Paul not only
points to Jesus’
humanity. He also points us to his
divinity. He is divine. He is God. It is the power of God, that even though
he suffered terribly, he was raised to life. The same power that raised him
from the dead is the same power that raises us to new life in Christ and
empowers us to endure, regardless of what difficulty or suffering we may have
to go through.

Christ being
raised to life points us not to what we may be experiencing right at this
moment, but reminds us of the future that awaits. Even if life is horrible
right now, even if life couldn’t possibly get any worse,
even if we think the current pain is too much to bear, the resurrection of Jesus
gives us a hope for the future and great things to look forward to.

Life may stink right now, but it won’t always. There are great
things to look forward to when we see things through the lens of Jesus. Yes,
for Jesus Friday was a horrific day, but Sunday was coming.

We may be right
in the middle of the worst crisis we could ever imagine, but even that will not
be forever. For the person of faith, the one who is following Jesus, the future
is secure. We can endure because we have hope in the future.

We Endure…Because of the Impact on Others

There’s one other point Paul makes that I think we need to
remember when going through hardship. We need to endure because our
response will impact others. Look at what Paul
said in verse 10,

“So I am willing to
endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to
those God has chosen.” – 2 Timothy 2:10

How we respond
has an effect. Kids pay attention when
a parent loses a job, or gets a traffic ticket, or when both parents
don’t get along. Your neighbors
and coworkers are paying attention to you. Will you be just another casualty of
religion, throwing your hands up in the air when life isn’t in your favor? Or will you like Paul look at the
responsibility before you, determine to get through it and keep your eyes on Christ? It may not be easy. I may not do everything perfectly or even
right, but when all is said and done, I want others to be able to look at me
and say, “I can’t see how anyone could go
through that and still be committed to God. That is a real faith.” Others are paying
attention. Will we, like Paul, endure so that others might come to know Jesus?

Paul writes a
poem or hymn here as an encouragement to us when experiencing hardship.

“If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we
endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Paul is reminding us that God is true to his word. He
is a faithful God. Even if we stumble and fall, if we are truly his, he will
remain faithful. If we die, we live. If we endure, we reign.

Conclusion

Why would Paul
spend so much time in this letter to his young friend talking about endurance?
Why does he tell Timothy over and over, endure, endure, endure? Because
hardship is a reality. And all of us run the risk at some point of abandoning
our faith. Our disposable society has made even faith dispensable. There is
a great temptation for us to halt, to retreat, to run away, to stop believing, to give up on faith, and give up on Jesus.

Many of us have the mindset that if we experience hardship, we must have done something
wrong. Sometimes, we are the recipients of the consequences of our sin.
Sometimes, as the Bible says, our loving Father does discipline us when we get
off track, so that we turn back to him. But sometimes we
suffer because evil exists in this world and through it we can see just what is
inside us; we can see the strength of our faith. We assume that difficulty has to weaken
us, to defeat us. But do you realize that the persecution of the first century
church didn’t defeat them? It didn’t
weaken the church. It strengthened it.

Do you realize
that if we purposely have a faith that endures, then when it gets tough our
faith will keep us going, and we will not find ourselves weaker? We will be
stronger and more committed. Endurance is only developed through
difficulty. The fortitude of our faith is demonstrated by our response to
adversity, not our avoidance of it.

The greatest
threat to your faith is not someone at work telling you what a difference
their sleeping in on Sunday morning has made in their life. The threat is not
you picking up a book by Richard Dawkins like “The God Delusion” and converting
to atheism. The greatest
threat to the endurance of your faith is difficulty in your life. And your
response to that difficulty WILL determine if your faith gets stronger or if
your faith falters.

So what will it be? Will you allow the difficulty in
life to draw you closer to God and build within you a deeper, stronger, and
enduring faith? When the times get tough, will your faith keep going or quit?

If you are going
through difficulty, and maybe you feel like you are hanging on by your
fingertips, about to fall, about to walk away from faith, can I encourage you
to seek someone out? Find someone to share just those words with, “I don’t think I can keep hanging on
much longer.”
Find the strength and faith of another to
pull you through the crisis, so you can develop an enduring faith.

Don’t dispose of your faith and of Jesus thinking there is
a better solution. An enduring faith is one that remembers Jesus. It is through
hardship and persecution that true faith is forged. You are not being judged on your accomplishments, but on your
faithfulness.

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