Church was amazing this morning. You know those times when the Bible passage and the sermon just speak straight into you? Its like your heart has ears. It lifts you up. You walk away lighter. Stronger.
Today the passage was 2 Timothy 1:6-14. This is the beginning of Paul’s letter to Timothy from his prison in Rome. It is his parting words – the words he feels most important to pass on before his execution.
And what is he saying to young Timothy?
What would you say to your kids? I’ve lived a good life but here’s some advice on how you could avoid the mistakes that I made? Here’s how to skip those painful mis-steps and pitfalls?
Paul tells Timothy, I have suffered for the gospel, but the Holy Spirit will give you strength so you can suffer too. The suffering part – that’s not optional? Do we have to do that bit? Yes, says Paul. There is suffering – but it is worth it because we know in whom we trust and we know where we are going.
I couldn’t do that, we think. We get that Paul could do it. We get that Timothy could do it. They are the special ones. The disciples. The witnesses. The fired up early church persecuted in another time and another place.
But we are disciples. We are witnesses. And while many suffer direct and horrific persecution for their faith in some countries, elsewhere in the world we will always face the possibility of consequences.
We think we couldn’t do it. But only because our lives are comfortable (relatively speaking). Here in Australia, there are no wars, no major displacement of peoples, no threat of imprisonment, beating, execution. We still consider those who suffer such persecution, and stand firm in it, to be special kinds of “other” people.
But the same God that gave Paul strength to endure and thrive, is the same God that gives people in North Korea, China and Eritrea the strength to endure and thrive. The same Holy Spirit that gave Timothy the passion and stamina to keep going is the same Spirit that dwells in us. The same promises from the same God. The same salvation. The same destination.
If we had to, we would endure. God would give us the strength and peace to keep going.
I know this because many people have said to me, as a single mum, “I couldn’t do what you do.” as though I have some kind of special skill. As though some hardships are reserved for special kinds of people. The truth is that yes you could. Because there is no special skill and there are no special kinds of people. If you found yourself in adverse circumstances, you would do it. Because you would have to. You lean on God and, in his mercy, you adapt to a new norm. And you keep adapting. You put one foot in front of the other and you keep going.
Paul says to Timothy “That [the gospel] is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12). I know who I believe – I believe in the one true God. I know he will guard what I have entrusted to him. And what is that? Ourselves. We entrust ourselves to God – just as Paul and Timothy did. We entrust ourselves to him because he will guard it until we meet him in heaven.
So have faith in yourselves, friends. God guards us. He gave us the power of his Spirit to give us strength for whatever we may face.
And whatever you face – you can do it.