“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3 (NASB)
The political landscape had changed dramatically between the writing of 1 and 2 Timothy, and none of it was for the good. When Paul wrote 1 Timothy, the church was booming. Things looked very bright. Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith, must have been thrilled to see leaders emerging and taking their place alongside him in the ministry. Things were going so well that Paul wrote to inform Timothy regarding the kind of attributes and qualities potential elders and deacons should have before being placed into office. The church was healthy and growing, and there was a real excitement in the air.
That was only 1 Timothy… By the time 2 Timothy was written, things were radically different. Public opinion had turned on the Christians, and the Roman Empire was now flexing its strong muscles. Christians were no longer left alone. Instead they were hounded, captured, imprisoned, enslaved and even killed. Many of those who had professed faith in Christ were now taking the easy way out, defecting from the faith in order to save their skins. Trusted members of Timothy’s leadership team were now “missing in action,” nowhere to be found. As a result of this, the precious church he was pastoring was now in sharp decline.
2 Timothy is a very different kind of letter from 1 Timothy. Paul writes as a man knowing he was about to die for his gospel convictions. He writes, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6, 7)
Paul writes strong words for tough times. He writes for the good of Timothy’s soul.
The message, in so many words was this:
“Stay at your post, Timothy. While many have left you, even the very leaders you raised up, and while your heart is devastated by this, know that you have a sacred trust from the Lord. Instead of giving up, throwing in the towel as a heart broken man, be a man, suck it up, my son. Stay rooted and grounded in the gospel of grace. Know that God is with you.
“Rather than wallowing in your sadness, be a leader. I want you to get up, shake yourself off, and realize that Christ has commissioned you to do something. Your commander has spoken to you with clear orders. Until He tells you otherwise, you know exactly what you are to do. You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)
“Then find faithful men… and Timothy, there will be some… go look for them, find them and once you have done so, pour your life into them. Tell them what you know. Leave nothing unsaid. Even if it means starting again from scratch, pour your life into these men. Teach them the word. Teach them what I have taught you. What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2:2) Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Stay at your post my son. He has given you His word. Use it skillfully my son. All Scripture is God breathed – use it to encourage, to build up, to stir up and if necessary, rebuke. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by anyone. You are God’s man and you have a job to do.
“Christ’s solemn charge is for you to preach the Word and do so when the people like it and throng to you, and preach the Word when they do not like it at all, even when they will not endure it, and they leave you, when the only sound you hear is the remembrance of the empty words they said to you. I know… I know.. they promised you that they would always be with you… and now, they are gone… but Timothy… this is all a part of being a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He never promised you a life of popularity or ease.
“What I am saying to you applies equally to me. I am writing this from a prison cell awaiting my own death. All have left me too. Only Luke is with me (2 Tim 4:11)… But Timothy, keep your eyes on the prize. Endure hardship as a good soldier… Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me 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 loved his appearing. Stay at your post my son. Until the Lord says otherwise, you have a job to do. Do it!”