Times will be Tough; Keep the Faith!

2 Timothy 1-4

I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?


Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message. 


Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.

So what does he say?


Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL. 


This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)


Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. 
A Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever. 

Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ. 


May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times. 

May you proclaim the faith boldly.

May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.

Tomorrow we will read 2 Peter and Jude.

Preach it!

2 Timothy 4

2 Tim 4 1 2.png

Several years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany my husband to Rome on one of his business trips.  It was amazing.  Being in the city that received Paul’s letter to the Romans thousands of years ago.  Seeing the ruins that date back to the time of Paul.  Walking on the ancient stone road that has led into town for many, many centuries – most likely the very road that Paul travelled.  Even standing at the doors of the Mamertine Prison which housed Roman prisoners awaiting execution which very well may have been the last known address for Paul, as he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7).  It makes you think about your own fight – your own race – your own faith.

 

For, whatever cell he was writing from – Paul faced death knowing he had been faithful – not perfect, but faithful.  He was now more than ever looking forward to, “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8).  He was content with how he had spent his life serving Christ, even with the persecutions and ultimate death it was to bring. Now, he looked forward to Jesus’ return – on that day!

 

I want to have that same assurance and that same contentment.  And, I want that for you, too.  And for those who will go after us.  Paul, too, was thinking ahead – not only for himself – but for those who would remain fighting the fight, running the race and keeping the faith.  And so he was passionate about having Timothy prepared and encouraged and strengthened to, “Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  (2 Timothy 4:2).  Paul wrote of those who would be forsaking truth to follow their own desires and what their “itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).  Sadly, there are a lot of itching ears today and truth is too often abandoned in exchange for what is politically correct, socially acceptable or just plain convenient and selfishly desired.

 

Do you still have life in you – then fight like Paul fought – for the sake of Christ.

Do you still have a race to run – then run like Paul taught Timothy to run – for the spiritual lives of others.

Do you still have faith – then keep it, grow it, and pass it on!

 

Longing for His Appearing,

Marcia Railton

 

 

 

It’s always a pleasure writing on God’s Word with you – but for the rest of this week I will be passing on the torch to my daughter Makayla who will be writing 3 days on the book of Titus.  Stay tuned.  Stay faithful!

The Dark Side – and God’s Side

2 Timothy 3

 

2Tim3 1617 (1)

The first half of this chapter paints a rather bleak picture of thriving human sinfulness.  “Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  … who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth“  (2 Timothy 3:2-5, 6b-7).  That’s a pretty good list of nastiness.  And it hits so many types of people: the materialistic, the teen rebel, the violent criminal, the power-hungry politician, the educated professor who denies God.

 

And sometimes, it hits me, too.  I can be proud – especially when I think I am right, but “they” are wrong.  I can be ungrateful – to God and to those who have given of their time and talents for me.  Sometimes love does not shine through me.  I don’t always exercise self-control and bite my tongue when I ought.  Too often I have chosen loving pleasure over loving God – watching one more episode and then suddenly “too tired” to read His Word.

 

It is so easy to point the finger at evil and the dark side around us.  And, definitely DO be aware of its prevalent influence in the world so you don’t unknowingly get sucked up in it yourself.  But carefully watch yourself as well.  Where do you need to work so you reflect more God and less world?

 

In the second half of this chapter Paul flips to writing on the light/Godly side of things.  He speaks of his own life – his purpose, teaching, faith, and love as well as persecutions and suffering (3:10,11).   This bed of roses indeed comes with many thorns.  He writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (3:12).  Because of the wickedness and deception in the world (see verses 1-9), Christians must expect and be prepared for many trials when they are actually acting like and following Christ.

 

But, don’t give up says Paul!  “Continue in what you have learned and what you have become convinced of…the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation”.  Who couldn’t use more wisdom for salvation??  Sign me up!  I am ready for more wisdom that leads to salvation.  I saw in the first half of this chapter my own darker side.  I am in need of more and more wisdom for salvation.  And, that is found in God’s Holy Scriptures.

 

But, that’s not all!   There’s more good found in God’s Word.   For, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16).  Here is the key to standing against the evil in the world and in myself – God’s Word!  He breathed it for me.  He breathed it for you.  And it is useful, over and over again, every time it is opened.  It gives wisdom for salvation, it teaches, it rebukes (which I do indeed need from time to time), it corrects, and it trains me to be righteous (which I always need).

 

But, there is still more!  With God’s Word we can be, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (3:17).  Do you long to do good works for Him – open His Word.  Are you discouraged by the evil of the world – open His Word.   Are you ready to be wise for salvation – open His Word.  Breath in what God breathed out for you.

 

Marcia Railton

Pass it On

2 Timothy 2

2 Tim 2 2

2nd Timothy 2:2 – the pass it on verse.  “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”  It’s not enough to believe it, know it and even share it.  We must be intentional about to whom and how we share it – so that it will continue to be taught long after our fleeting breath is gone.  Are you sharing God’s Word?  Good!  Are you teaching from His Word?  Great!  ALSO, prayerfully consider who and how you ought to be mentoring to do the tasks God has given, both now and in the future.

 

Or, maybe you aren’t currently sharing God’s Word and teaching from His Word.  Maybe you feel you just don’t know enough to start.  Or, you know you can’t do it as well as those you see doing it in your church now because you aren’t as experienced as they are.  After all, you don’t have the training to be a pastor or a Sunday School teacher.  That’s okay.  If you have the heart and desire and are ready to grow – ask those who are working how you can be involved!   Learn from them now before they are gone.

 

And – keep at it – even when hardships come (2:3)

Strive to please Christ – your commanding officer (2:4)

Remember the rules (2:5)

Endure – so you can reign (2:12)

Do your best for God (2:15)

Use His Word wisely (2:15)

Avoid false teachers and godless chatter (2:16,17)

Be holy and useful – no matter what your shape, size, age, job is (2:20,21).

Run away from evil (2:22)

Run after what is right and stick with God’s people (2:22)

Stop arguing (2:23)

Be a kind teacher (2:24)

Gently instruct even those against you (2:25)

 

Here near the end of Paul’s life he had so much Godly wisdom that he was faithfully passing on to Timothy – so that Timothy could pass it on to those he was teaching and training – so that it would be passed down the generations to you and to me.  What will you do with it today?  Read 2 Timothy 2 and see what God wants you to do to pass it on.

 

Marcia Railton

Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

Preach!

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2 Timothy 1-4

When you live in the Midwest it is possible that you can encounter just about every form of weather imaginable in a weeks’ time.  Monday could be a blizzard, Tuesday could be the perfect day to fly a kite and by Thursday you may find yourself baking in the sun at the beach. I realize it usually isn’t that extreme but you get the idea. The point is that you have to be prepared for anything.

Chapter 4 verse 2 reminds us that we must be ready to spread God’s word in any and every season. When life seems easy and things are going your way, preach the word!  When you are being made fun of for what you believe, preach the word!  When TV and everyone on social media preaches against God, preach the word!

It seems that we live in a time such as described in chapter 4 verse 3. The message being preached from the world is “tolerance” and “happiness” on the surface.  But deep down the world has been developing a war against God’s laws and His people.  They have no desire to “endure sound doctrine” but instead will only listen to those who tell them what they want to hear.

My prayer for you is that you would not turn from the truth but rather share the truth with others. Study the word and spend time with your Creator so that you will be able to teach God’s word with confidence.

-Lacey Dunn