A CHURCH IN TROUBLE
2 Timothy 1
Pastor Dave Strem
TIMOTHY IN THE MIDST OF PROBLEMS - NOT A GOOD PLACE TO BE
As Paul writes 2 Timothy, it has been about six years since Paul wrote 1 Timothy. In that letter Paul was telling Timothy: "You have to guard the faith. You have to teach the truth. There are false teachers going around that are going to try to destroy, wheedle into the church and destroy the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done and the difference He can make in your life and you have to stop it or problems are going to result."
And Timothy, this young leader, does his best but we find that six years later there is still a lot of problems. It is not a good place to be.
AFTER ALL, THESE DAYS WE CAN DOWN TO ANOTHER CHURCH!
Have you ever been in a place like that? Have you ever been in a church and say, "Uh, I just do not want to be here." Now most of us are lucky. We can go down the street to another church. We can go across town to three other churches. If you are in Ephesus, you have no place to go. You can pack up and move to Philippi several hundred miles away, which is no small task. Basically, a believer had two choices. He or she could suffer through all the problems and still try to maintain a positive attitude or he or she could leave the only church in town and be churchless, living an isolated Christian life.
PAUL'S LAST LETTER -- IN HIS LAST DAYS
This is Paul's last letter. Paul is in prison in Rome, in chains, facing imminent execution under Nero. History tells us he never made it out. He knows these are his last days. This book is often called Paul's "last will and testament." Everyone except for Luke has left Paul for one reason or another. Most of the other apostles have died a martyr's death. John is one of the few that are left and he is exiled on an island. The church in Rome is hiding from persecution. The church there in Ephesus is ashamed of the gospel because of the bad things that are going on. They do not want to proclaim it. The church is in a crisis situation.
TIMOTHY GETTING TIRED OF THE FIGHT
Timothy is having a difficult time with the church in Ephesus. He has done his best, but he has become discouraged and heartbroken. He has been persecuted. Timothy knows God is real and alive but he is starting to shrink back and is not sure what to do. He is tired of fighting these guys in the church all the time, all these older gentlemen who are big mouths in the church. He is just tired of the fight. And there is backbiting. The church is not functioning well. Church does not feel like a great place to be for Timothy or for the people that are there.
FEELS LIKE LETTING IT GO
God is not surprised by their situation. God has an answer and gives it to this church through Timothy. Look at 2 Timothy chapter one. This little letter is a guide for every one of us who sometimes feels like throwing in the towel. You feel like letting it go, resigning yourself to being a solo Christian. "I am just going to go it alone. I just do not need all the hassles, all the frustrations that go along with the church and the church people and the church life." It is an absolute miracle that the church survived when you see what is going on. When you see what the faithful are facing.
PAUL'S DETERMINATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Second Timothy 1:1 starts out,
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus to Timothy my dear son. Grace and 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."
Paul is saying, "Timothy, I know your life is not easy, what you are going through is not easy and I am praying for you because it is only God who can make the difference in your life and in your situation. I want God there. God needs to intervene. God needs to send His power down and make the difference for that church."
The text continues,
"Recalling your tears I long to see you so that I will be filled with joy." Paul continues: "I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and then in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded it now lives in you also. 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. For God did not give us the spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
Paul writes this to a pastor that is discouraged by all the rebellion and false teaching and to a church that is not doing well.
YOU CAN DO A NUMBER OF THINGS!
When the church does not feel good, you can do a number of things. One option is to just give up. You can just sit back and say, "Well, I guess there is nothing we can do, so why bother." I did my doctoral thesis on unchurched believers, believers who have walked away from the church. There are millions of them. Salvation does not depend upon going to church. It depends upon your personal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and walking with Him. Consequently, there are going to be unchurched Christians in heaven. Many have walked away through neglect. Some have run away from a troubled church. And others have been thrown away by those with an agenda different than the Lord's, the true head of the church.
One of the beautiful things about Florida is that everything grows so well. Do you not just love it in the summertime when it is 95 degrees and 60-70 percent humidity and you have to mow the lawn and trim the hedges? You have to do it every week, every three or four days just to keep up. And your spiritual life is the same way. If you do not stay on top of your spiritual life, that is where prayer and Bible study comes in, focusing on who God is, every day being reminded continually of who He is and what He has done, your spiritual life will go downhill. The Christian life is a battle against entropy. Church life is a battle against entropy. Everything in this world battles entropy.
CHRISTIAN LIFE IS SPIRITUAL WARFARE
We forget that the Christian life is defined as spiritual warfare. It is not just the stuff we have to fight, it is the discourager, it is the thief, it is the stealer who wants to get you down, who wants to get you out of the church because then he knows you are losing the influence of God in your life. You will not have a constant reminder of who you are and who God is. Yes, you can worship God in a fishing boat or on the golf course, but you will have very few reminders about who God is and His call upon your life. People who leave the church tend to drift spiritually.
NO SURPRISE THAT CHURCHES HAVE PROBLEMS
God is not surprised by the problems that arise in churches. He calls upon us to grow through them. He says, in verse five, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith," and then in verse nine, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." He knew about you before the beginning of time (verse 12), "and I am convinced he is able to guard them that I have entrusted to them until the end of days." God is not surprised by anything that is going on. He knows the adversity you are going to face and He says, "Ok, you can deal with that." Often, when we are healthy and wealthy we do not sense our need for a connection with God, our need for forgiveness and redemption. You have money to spend and you are happy in your self-sufficiency. But when things are going bad, then you begin to sense that you are not as self-sufficient as you thought you were. That is when God can draw you closer to Himself, whether that means salvation or sanctification.
GOD HAS GIFTED US TO MAKE THE CHURCH GREAT
Remember, God has gifted you just as he gifted Timothy. God has gifted you to make the church better. When you complain about the church, you are complaining about yourself because you are the church. It is all of us together. If you do not like the job someone is doing, then you do it. One of my favorite sayings is that "he who complains, holds the target." If you do not like the way I am shooting, then you hold the target for a while and you will find out it is not quite as easy as it looks, especially in church because there is spiritual warfare going on. There is discouragement. There is heartache. There is frustration. And the evil one wants to foster it because he wants to destroy effective ministry.
God has gifted you to make the church great. It says "fan into flame the gift of God which is in you. For God did not give us the spirit of timidity but of power and of love and of self-discipline." Fan into flame the gift of God that is in you. God has put it there. You are called to fan it into a flame.
THE MAN AT THE BETHESDA POOL
Many of us are like the lame man sitting on the pool of Bethesda. He is lying there waiting for the waters to stir, for someone, for God, for someone to stir the waters and for someone to lift him up and put him in it.
God says, "Out of you will flow rivers of living water." The water is already in you. God just wants to stir it and let it flow out of your spiritual bellies. Living water is in you. You just have to stir up and let it out. Most of us want the church to be on fire but we want someone else to find the kindling, light the fire, build a fireplace, make sure it is safe, and have the fire codes all taken.
SHOULD WE CONTROL GOD'S FIRE?
We want to be on fire, but we want it to be under control and somebody else put in all the effort and energy. God says, "I will baptize you (individual believers) with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The fire is already in you. You just have to kindle it. I cannot put the fire in you. It is God who put the fire in you. You have to stoke it though. If you do not stoke it, it just smolders. And a smoldering fire fills the chimney, fills the house with smoke. No heat comes out of it. It just contaminates the chimney and will cause, eventually, a chimney fire that will burn down your house. Stoke the fire. Put fresh wood on it. Tend to it. Feed it.
It reminds me of the disciples. The disciples acted the same way. They were out in the boat and the sun was shining, the wind was blowing the right direction and the waves were calm. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat and they were fine. They do not want to disturb Him. But when the wind starts to blow the wrong way, the waves rise up, the storm clouds are covering the sun, and it gets dangerous, they are finally ready to stir Jesus and ask for help. That is why God allows adversity. So we will call upon Him and He will be there to help and guide us.
THE THREE THINGS GOD PLANNED INTO EACH OF US
God has planted three things into each one of us. He has planted power. He has planted love. And He has planted self-discipline. What you do with them is your responsibility. What kind of soil are you going to be? Are you going to gather the little seeds up and store them away and not let them grow? Are you going to not care about them and just let them sit on the rocks and let the birds eat them? Or are you going to let them take root in your life and truly make a difference?
He has given us this truth to put into action. He has given you the power of God so that you will impact lives around you. God has not given you the power of God so that you can be very confident in yourself, so that you can be self-assured, so that you can be strong and mighty, so that you can talk loud or do great things. He has gifted you with the power, His power, so that you can make a difference in the lives around us. The spiritual gifts He gives to the Body of Christ are for the edification, the building up, the strengthening of the whole body of Christ. It is not just about you and what you can get out of church but what you can give with the power of God to the church and the community.
What God calls you to do is to heal and expand your relationships. You are called by God as far as you can go to be on good terms with other people. If you come to this church and you see someone else being thrust to the side and you had a bad business dealing with them, you need to clear that up. You see someone else that you know has been spreading rumors about you, you need to clear that up. Because it will stop God's spirit from working in your life. You will not hear what I have to say because you will be burning inside. There will be other things going on in your heart and mind. You will walk in here and you will want to love everybody, but because of that person it just burns in your heart. You know why it burns in your heart? Because God wants to take care of it. Put out that fire and fuel it with love instead. Heal relationships. Most times all it takes is a little bit of communication.
DO NOT MISS OUT ON THE VERY BEST THINGS
So many times we do good things, we choose good things, we try to be good but we miss out on the very best things. God makes that clear. God will bring it to you. You say, "Well, I am too busy right now to do that. I am doing enough already." Evaluate your priorities. Where are you investing your heart, your energy, your life? It is in your home and your spiritual ministry with others where God gets most involved in your life. Choose life's best things.
Galatians 6 makes it very clear that we are not to grow weary of doing right. Now there is a tiredness that comes from work but there is a good tiredness that comes from doing a work that is worthwhile. Invest your life in things that will make a difference. Let us not grow weary of doing the right things, of doing good things, especially in the household of God. And there is a whole variety of things to do that will fit the way God has gifted you to build up the church. Find out what it is.
When you reach out to God and do something you would not normally choose to do, do something you do not have to do, God will empower you. But you have to choose the best. A church filled with men and women seeking God's best for their lives is not a church where the works of the flesh will be prominent. Sin will always be with us and will be manifested in many different ways. The church is not immune to sin's influence as is witnessed in Ephesus and Corinth.
ONLY HIS WAYS WILL GROW!
The one thing that we must keep in mind is that this is the church of Jesus Christ and only His ways will grow it. Gossiping, backbiting, slander, false doctrine and the like are not His ways. Ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" If you do that, you will know that what you are about to say or plan should or should not be done. When you become detached from Christ you become vulnerable to the works of the flesh in your life, you become vulnerable to allowing their input in the world through you. You lose your ability to discern right from wrong, good from bad, spiritual from carnal. As Revelation 2:1-7 tells us, it is leaving your first love, Christ, when the downward spiral begins. Clinging to Christ is the key to a strong and vibrant church!
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION
The Weight of Evangelism and Social Action | Religion and Society | A Church in Trouble - 2 Timothy 1 | 2006 - The Year of the Redeemed | Evangelism and Social Justice | A Happy Hangover? | Accept Your Place in God's Plan | The Reformation and Image Worship | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Pastor Dave Strem