Persecution Brings Falling Away, Persecution Brings Drawing Closer2 Timothy 3:10 – 4:5
Pastor Nathan Buch
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Over the last few weeks we have had sermons and lessons which have focused on trouble and trial. We have seen that although we have these things our life, God love us and cares about and is always there to build us up in faith and bring us to what is best for us.
Even though we have faith and know God’s promises, our life is not without temptation. The devil uses these times of trouble and hardship to tempt us away from the love of God. Instead of turning to God, the devil wants us to doubt the love of God, to turn from God to something or someone else, or to rely on ourselves over him.
In our lesson for today St. Paul focuses on a specific trouble, persecution. He focuses on our response to persecution when it comes. He shows us that when persecution comes, we will either fall away or come closer to God.
The letters to Timothy are part of a group of letters that Paul wrote while he was imprisoned in Rome. There are 3 letters in this group that are called Pastoral Letters because in them Paul shows his concern for the Word, the church, and those who have called into the public ministry to serve the church. Men like Timothy and Titus.
Second Timothy is a very personal letter with a serious tone. Paul may very well have thought this was the last letter he would ever write. He was no longer on house arrest, instead, his trial had not gone well and he was in chains in the dungeons of Rome. Many of those who had accompanied him had left him due to the persecutions that the Christian church was facing.
Yet, even in this position he does not lament what is happening to him. Instead, he writes to his son in faith, the young pastor Timothy, encouraging him in his work and ministry.
Although Timothy was considered a young pastor, Paul trusted with many things. In a large church, Timothy would have been considered Paul’s associate pastor. He accompanied Paul on his later missionary journeys, Paul sent him as his representative to several congregations and Paul put him in charge of the congregation at Ephesus.
While Timothy was a pastor like Paul, there seems to be one thing that he needed extra help with. In both first and second Timothy we see Paul giving Timothy encouragement to be strong in the Lord. There was some persecution that was making Timothy timid in sharing the Word.
It may have been the outside persecution from Rome and the enemies of Christ. It may have been persecution from within the church, the response of the people to his age or to the fact that he preached the truth of the Law and Gospel. It may have been the fact that he just wasn’t Paul. Whatever the case, Paul is writing these words to show Timothy and us that when persecution comes we can either fall away or draw closer to our God.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Paul is not boasting here about all the things that he has gone through. He is merely stating the facts of what God can and does do when we are faithful and patiently wait on him in faith.
Timothy knew that Paul found his identity, his way of life, and his purpose in teaching the Gospel in Christ and what he had done for him. The faith that Christ worked in Paul’s heart showed in his dedication to preaching Christ to others. It showed in how he dedicated that life to that purpose of being Christ’s missionary and placed himself in the hands of the Lord over and over again.
Timothy also knew of the endurance that Paul had when he faced the persecutions and plots of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Why preach in places where they run you out of town, stone you and plot to kill you? This endurance was not because Paul liked punishment and persecution, it was because he loved his Lord and trusted in the Lord’s protection when and where he was preaching the Gospel.
In the middle of danger, persecution, even pain and suffering, Paul knew God’s answer . the Lord rescued me from all of them. This is the bottom line of our faith in Christ. Whether in life or in death, the Lord rescues us from the persecutions that this world throws at us.
Is this our response to persecution? Do we expect that there will be persecution, pain and suffering in this world because we believe in Christ and follow him? Do we expect family and friends to be happy to hear that they are sinners who need a Savior? Do we expect a world that is reveling in sin will be any more open to hearing the Law from us than they did from Paul, or Ezekiel, or even Jesus himself?
How do we respond when we see evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. and we feel persecution in the form of embarrassment? Work gossip? or when people won’t even listen and will instead label us as unloving and unkind?
Our sinful nature is usually the first to respond when we are in these situations. We want to be in heaven someday, but we don’t really want to go through the rough stuff here on earth. Instead of listening to Jesus when he tells us to expect persecution, to stand up and be strong in the Lord, we are timid and try to find ways that we can avoid or lessen that persecution. Paul is not just talking about a temptation for other people when persecution
comes, he is talking about a temptation that comes to us. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5
We know family members and friends that have done these things. We might look at them with a mixture of pity and sadness and think, “Why would they go away from the Word of God? Why would they turn from the truth?”
While we look at others, we may not see that the devil is doing the same thing to us. He is tempting us to twist and turn God’s Word to fit what we want rather than what he has said. Did God really say that sex outside of marriage is a sin? God never says that abortion is wrong, does he? God wants us to love and accept people for who they are and not worry about their sins, right? God loves me and accepts me just the way I am, why can’t you? Don’t judge me, God doesn’t. You’re a good person, that’s what God really cares about.
All of these statements are quite common even for Bible believing Christians to say and believe. Each statement has a bit of truth in it, but like in the Garden of Eden, the devil has twisted the truth of God into a fine sounding lie, something our ears want to hear, a myth to follow that will not lead to salvation that God wants us to have.
This is the temptation that we all face when persecution comes in the name of Jesus. We turn from God, we give in on little things, and then bigger doctrines. We no longer want to hear the truth. But it doesn’t have to be. There is something else we can do when persecution comes into our lives. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
If you have ever been in a sport, the coach will always preach getting back to the basics when things are not going right. Go back to the basics of what brought you here. Look at the footwork, the ball handing, the shooting form, the throwing motion, the running style and make sure that you are doing it right. That is also what Paul says. When persecution comes, don’t try to find something else, return to what you know and are convinced of. Return to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. That Gospel that you held onto when you were a child as you sang the Jesus songs and as you memorized your Catechism. Remember Gospel in the Word which points to Christ alone because this is the true message, not another lie or myth, that leads to eternal life.
When that persecution comes, continue to grow in the Word and in the faith which you have learned leads to heaven. The devil often tempts us to think that all we need a little faith to go to heaven. We don’t need all that the study of the Bible, we don’t need to be in church and Bible Study to have a saving faith. Again, the devil is twisting the love of God that wants all of us to be saved into a temptation to take God and his Word for granted.
God gives us an opportunity every day of our lives, but especially when persecution comes, to come closer to him, to grow up in the Word and become wise in the Word. As we grow in the wisdom of God we will see that God intends his Word to be used in many ways in many situations in order that faith might grow through teaching, the sinner might repent through rebuking, and all of God’s children might grow through correcting and training that we might be wise to use the Gospel no matter the occasion.
When persecution comes we should be prepared to stand on the Word. be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. This was the advice that Paul gave to a timid Timothy when he had persecution and it is the same advice that our God gives to us. Don’t look for anything else, you have it all in Christ. Stand firm on him and his promises for the strength to live this life and for the blessing of the next life.