Rejecting Shame, Accepting Suffering
Topic: Suffering Passage: 2 Timothy 1:8–18
Our scripture this morning commands us to NOT be ashamed, BUT rather to suffer!
You may have gotten the idea that God is supposed to protect you from all suffering. But to believe that you would have to ignore the suffering of Jesus and the apostles and verses like we have in front of us this morning.
The world tries to shame us into silence because we have violated it’s norms. We believe things that they are utterly against. We have stepped outside the rules of conformity. So we can accept the shame they seek to impose on us, OR we can refuse to be ashamed and choose to suffer.
No doubt, there is a stigma associated with the message of Christ. The world thinks we are naive, anti-intellectual, and even dangerous. We may have some family members, or friends who think our Christian faith is okay. But the people who influence our culture, do not! There is great opposition to God’s truth in government, in Hollywood, in the media, in our schools, colleges and universities, and on social media. They do not think we are cool, at all!
Of course this only confirms what the Bible itself says, that Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews and FOOLISHNESS to Gentiles. *To be a devoted, life long follower of Jesus Christ you must be willing to bear that shame for the sake of his name.
That is what Paul challenges Timothy to do here. And that is what we are challenged to do. “Therefore (or because of this reason) DO NOT BE ASHAMED of the message about our Lord.” Because of what reason (should we not be ashamed)? Because God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but a Spirit of power... along with love and self-discipline! Being ashamed of Christ stems from fear. God gave His Spirit to conquer our cowardice, our fear of people, our fear of rejection!
INSTEAD of being ashamed, Paul said, SHARE in suffering for the gospel BY THE POWER OF GOD! We accept suffering, knowing God gives us the POWER to suffer. The power of God, within us, overcomes our tendency to be ashamed and to shrink from suffering. His power will carry us through ANY suffering. The Power of God is an unshakable, reality inside us! We need to believe that! To trust that!
The two main messages to us in this passage: refuse to be ashamed about the message of Christ, choose to suffer for that message. Paul challenges Timothy: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel..”. Paul testified that that is how HE himself lives. Vs 12 “For this reason I SUFFER as I do. But I am NOT ASHAMED.”
And Paul ends this passage by naming two men who were UNWILLING to suffer shame and one man who DID. “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.”
We probably learn MORE what cowardice is, and what courage is, by example than by teaching about it. You know courage when you see it. So Paul gives an example to shun, and an example to follow. If you want to know what gospel courage looks like, look at Onesiphorus. More on all this later.
The first command of this scripture is “DO NOT BE ASHAMED. Being ashamed comes from an over-desire to look respectable in the eyes of others. Instead of being concerned with the world’s opinion of us, we should be concerned that Christ would be ashamed of us. Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” How badly we need to be Christians with courage, with backbone today.
Specifically Paul said, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord OR of me his prisoner”. Paul was in prison when he wrote this. Prisoners were the lowest rung of Roman society.
It is easy to identify with Christians if they are successful or well thought of, but it’s easy to withdraw from them when they are criticized by others, or thrown in prison, or fired from their job because of Christ. We are NOT to be ashamed of other Christians who are outcasts or are suffering. You cannot separate faithfulness to the Lord from faithfulness to each other.
*We are not to be ashamed “of the testimony about our Lord”. We are not to be ashamed of Christ, OR the message about Christ. Since this message was entrusted by Christ to the apostles, we are not to be ashamed of Paul or the other apostles, or what they have written. IE We are not to be ashamed of the Bible. JVMcGee “God didn’t ask me to apologize for his word but to preach the word.”
The second command is “SHARE IN SUFFERING”. At a very fundamental level the Christian life is ABOUT suffering. Jesus Christ suffered rejection, injustice, hardship, and ultimately execution by crucifixion at the hands of evil people. Paul said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer”. Peter said “Christ suffered in his body, therefore arm yourselves with that same resolve.”
In Colossians 1:24 Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, In some way Christ’s suffering is NOT complete until Paul and you and I have suffered along with him! Paul said his sufferings were for the sake of the church, the body of Christ. Do you know you are called to suffer for the sake of Christ’s body? That’s not how most people think about church. But that’s how Paul thought.
Specifically here Paul said “Share in suffering FOR THE GOSPEL”. The gospel is the good news about Christ, his death for our sins and his resurrection for our new life. Paul suffered, for this message. Christians down through 2000 years of church history have suffered greatly. Our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering today. We are commanded to take our part in that suffering FOR THE GOSPEL MESSAGE.
Years ago JI Packer coined the phrase “hot tub religion” to describe what he felt was the prevailing attitude about what it meant to be a Christian. It’s the attitude that says, “Yes, I am a Christian, as long as it was warm and comfortable”. I am not condemning hot tubs! I have one. They can be so relaxing. But they are not a good metaphor for the Christian life!
“Hot tub” Christianity keeps us from taking unpopular stances. I keeps us from being committed to long term relationships. I keeps us from being faithful to the church. It keeps us from doing anything that feels hard.
CS Lewis said, “I didn’t go to Christianity to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”. Now I do believe that Christ does make us truly and deeply happy and I think Lewis would say that too. But at the very heart of following Jesus Christ is something hard and costly.
Don’t withdraw from church or from doing the work of the Lord because things are hard or involve suffering. I am convinced we will need the exhortation of this scripture more and more in the coming years for Christians in the USA.
Serving Jesus and loving others at times can seem so easy and exciting, but at other times it can just FEEL HARD! It is those who know how to press through and endure hardship who will finish the race.
Of course, it would be a distortion of God’s plan to say that everything in life is hardship and suffering. Paul had just described God as “the one who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” He condemned those who wanted to deny believers the pleasures of food and drink and marriage and all the millions of things that God created for believers to enjoy.
But along with pleasures and many good and enjoyable things there is a costly side to being a Christ follower, that we MUST embrace.
***Then in verses 9,10 Paul described in some detail the WONDERS of the gospel message that make it worth suffering for!
*God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
It is through the gospel message that we or anybody is ever saved. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
(Through the gospel) God SAVED us! JI Packer “Salvation always means being rescued from jeopardy and misery, so that one is now safe”. We WERE in grave danger; we were on the brink of eternal death. And God saved us! We are safe! “Being justified through faith in Jesus Christ we have peace with God.” When you wake up in the morning, you are NOT under condemnation. You stand in Grace all day long, every day!
“He saved us and called us to a holy calling”. We are not saved because we are holy but saved to become holy. It is a privilege to be called to holiness. Peter tells us “we are a holy nation. A people for God’s own special possession!” We belong to God. We are his people and he is our God.
And God saved us “not because of our works” but “because of his own purpose and grace”. He did NOT save us because of our goodness, but because of his OWN plan and His grace!
He chose to save us and to give us grace a LONG TIME AGO! Verse 9 says God planned to save us and gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the world began! What a mystery and what a wonder! If he chose to give you grace and to love you before time began, he loves you today!
Verse 10 And (this plan and grace) has “now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The wonderful plan God to save us, was shrouded in mystery for centuries! But it burst upon the scene in the appearing of Jesus Christ.
With amazing power Christ abolished death, and gave us life! God made us immortal through faith in Christ. We have the life of God within us springing up like a fountain to eternal life. Jesus said “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”. We are going to live forever! With him!
Paul said, I was appointed a messenger of THIS gospel (I just described!). And FOR THIS REASON I suffer and I am not ashamed because “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (vs 12)
We are NOT suffering for someone we do not know! We are not suffering for an idea or organization but for Jesus Christ, whom we know and love. And we know he loved us!
Paul also was ALSO willing to suffer because, he said, “I am CONVINCED that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul had great confidence in God about something that God had entrusted to him, or that he had entrusted to God. It says “My deposit”, meaning something valuable given to someone else to protect.
There are many ideas about what this deposit was. I think, from the context that Paul was convinced that God was able to guard the gospel message about Jesus Christ, in spite of all the opposition and shame the world would heap upon him and the message of the cross.
This gospel that has the power to save people, had been entrusted to Paul and God would guard it until the day Christ returns. The gospel will not be snuffed out! The gospel will prevail. And Paul’s confidence has proven true. The message entrusted to him is still with us today, protected by the power of God, against unbelievable opposition. And it will be with us till the Day of Christ.
Then Paul appealed to Timothy to guard that same message, Verse 13Follow the pattern of the sound (teaching) words that you have heard from me.. 14”And “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you” (NLT)
When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he was in prison. And he was nearing the end of his life, not because of old age but because he would soon be executed. He appealed to Timothy, (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to carry on, hold fast to sound teaching, suffering whatever necessary for the gospel.
And we participate in that too by faithfully guarding the truth of the gospel, and by being unashamed and willing to suffer for it.
Then Paul puts an exclamation mark on his exhortation, by giving us the example of two opposite kinds of people. Vs 15 “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” Paul does not name these poor examples out of revenge, but to point out the seriousness of being controlled by shame and fear. They were unwilling to take the risk of associating with Paul.
Then he shares the example of Onesiphorus. 6May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—18may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. is such a good example for Timothy and for us.
This is what courage looks like. He was not ashamed and he was willing to suffer. He almost certainly put himself in danger and by going to Paul. Yet he identified with Christ by identifying with Christ’s prisoner, Paul! When others turned away from Paul, he searched earnestly for Paul.
Paul was apparently in a prison that was not easy to find. You can imagine him going from place to place, asking where Paul was. Eventually he found Paul. And came to see him frequently for Paul said, “he often refreshed me”. This is what courage looks like. Are we living like that?
May we be unashamed and unafraid. May we be unashamed of Christ and the message about Christ, and willing to suffer with others in the body of Christ...for the gospel message.