May 31st, 2009 – 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Growth through Resisting the Easy Road

Lesson 5

Introduction

The great American inventor Thomas Edison persisted with over 8,000 experiments in his effort to find the elements for the filament of a incandescent light bulb. Someone asked Edison if he was discouraged after failure number 7,000. Edison replied, “Oh, my no! I haven’t had any failures. In now know 7,000 things that won’t work.” (Total Life Prosperity, Lanson Ross)

In our drive-through line, instant everything culture we can be tempted to take the “easy road” in many ways. This certainly holds true for our spiritual lives as well. Whereas some attempt to wrap what it means to follow Christ in variations of easy steps, God’s Word calls for persistence when it comes to spiritual growth. Our faith in Christ will grow in part when we reject the temptation that the easy road presents and embrace persistence and endurance. Paul in this passage says, “… keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5). These are all images of staying with the effort to grow in your faith.

Your faith will grow when you consistently recognize and respond to two things (2 Timothy 4:1-5):

  • Recognize God’s Desire to Reveal Himself (vv.1-2)
  • Recognize the Effort Needed to Understand God (vv.3-5)

Recognize God’s Desire to Reveal Himself

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-2

In v.1 Paul depicts God’s inherent right to be heard. According to this verse “Christ Jesus” will return as “judge”. He will inspect the lives of the living and the dead. In other words, no one, believer and non-believer alike, will escape the insightful eyes of Christ. As the Creator of all life God has the inherent right to be heard. You will either be in tune and in alignment with what He reveals through His Word now or later. In essence, God cares how you live your life. He cares that your faith in Christ grows. He cares that Christ’s death on the cross equates to more than “fire insurance” (salvation from hell or eternal separation from God). God has the inherent right to be heard, but you must still make the day-to-day choice to listen and respond in order for faith to grow.

In v.2, Paul outlines two means God uses to reveal Himself in His effort to transform lives. First, God uses His written Word. He implores young Timothy to “preach” or communicate God’s Word “in season and out of season” — in other words consistently and constantly. Notice in v.2a, God’s written Word carries the potential to “correct, rebuke and encourage”. When God reveals Himself and you recognize and respond, it changes life. In this case by correcting when you are on a destructive course (“correct”); when you need to confront a weakness (“rebuke”); and when you need encouragement to stay on the right course (“encourage”). God’s Word reveals His direction and purpose for life. The question is, “How will you respond?”

The other means in which God uses to reveal Himself and thus change lives is through relationships with His loving people. Note that in v.2 Paul not only speaks of what to do in regard to God’s written Word (“correct, rebuke and encourage”), but in v.2b he speaks of how we are to approach people with the truth revealed in scripture. He states, “… correct, rebuke, and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” This means having relationships with other believers which exhibit “great patience” with one another and “careful instruction” meaning all thoughts, advice, interaction ought to have a solid Biblical basis. As a church family or church body we are not called to pool our ignorance, but share Biblical insight that we have learned through pursuing the truth.

In the context of vv.1-2, the God of all creation, the God of the universe bends down to reveal Himself through His written Word and through relationships with other believers who are grounded in the truth. A faith that grows first recognizes a loving God Who has gone to a lot of effort to reveal Himself to you.

Recognize the Effort Needed to Understand God

Read: 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Key Question: In vv.3-5, what is both the implied and stated effort you will need to make in order to grow spiritually?

From 1960 to 1966 a great baseball player named Maury Willis set the record for most stolen bases. In 1962 he set the club record for the Dodgers with 104 stolen bases during a regular season. However, Maury Willis set another record in those years, a record obscured by his accomplishments on the baseball field. In 1965 he held the record for most stolen bases, but he also held the dubious distinction for most times called out in a single season while attempting the steals — 31 times in 1965. Maury Willis didn’t let those failures or setbacks discourage him from trying as he kept his eye on the opportunities and took them one at a time. A faith that grows will require taking one opportunity at a time, getting back up when failure occurs and trying again and again. It is not easy but worth it.

Paul in vv.3-4 speaks of a day when people will take the easy road and they will not “put up with sound doctrine” or any inconvenient truth from God’s Word (v.3a). “… Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them …” those who will tell them only what they want to hear (e.g. “what their itching ears want to hear” v.3b). In v.4, Paul further concludes such people will “turn away from the truth” and turn instead to “myths”. Our natural inclination is to create God and life to our own personal liking.

In v.5 Paul challenges young Timothy and the church in Ephesus, “Don’t take the easy road and surround yourself with those who simply tell you what you want to hear.” Instead he depicts a transformed life as one with the ability to think straight when others do not (“keep your head in all situations”); the ability to endure challenges in life (“endure hardship”); the ability to be an effective witness (“do the work of an evangelist”); and the ability to make a difference in other’s lives (“discharge all the duties of your ministry”).

Conclusion

“Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate … In our culture anything, even good news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes to the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship.” (Eugene Peterson)

Faith does not grow simply because there is a desire for it to. You have to be willing to “sign up for a long apprenticeship”. Growing faith occurs when we refuse to give up and commit instead to a journey that will take a life time. The easy road will always be available and tempting, but to grow you must learn to resist taking it.

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