by Helen Lambert 2015
2 Timothy 1 New Living Translation (NLT)
Greetings from Paul
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
Encouragement to Be Faithful
3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.
5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
There is a contrast between people who have vision and people who lack vision. Vision is that elusive thing that dares to dream big dreams about the future. Vision is what an inventor has when he or she thinks outside the box to create something new. Vision is what a mother has as she looks at her newborn baby and imagines all that her child could grow up to become.
Vision has a way of ignoring its critics and chasing its dream regardless of how many people say it can’t be done. Vision has a way of ignoring those who say it can’t be done and doing it anyway.
I have spoken many times about the vision God gave me for this church and I believe we are entering exciting times, I can feel it in my bones. Over recent years there have been many prophecy’s spoken over the Wharfedale valley and these prophecy’s say that God is on the move. But the question is are we ready to stand up and run with him? Are we ready to open our hearts and minds to His vision for this valley, for this church? Are we ready to hear the call and make real Gods vision for Gods people in this community? As Paul encourages Timothy in his last letter to him, he also encourages us, the question is are we ready to listen or do we just hear words? Are we ready to act or do we want to watch? Are we ready to be on the move with him or will we save it till another day?
Paul was fully aware of our human fragility and that there will be times in our walks when we feel lost, when we become dry and when our vision fades and the flame of our passion begins to dim and that’s what was happening to Timothy, Pauls young protégé, he has become overwhelmed and burnt out.
Paul had sent Timothy to try to salvage a mess in the church in Ephesus. Yet when Timothy got there, he found himself in a situation which was way over his head. The entire leadership team in the Ephesian church was older than he was, and didn’t respect his leadership and to make matters worse, Timothy was shy and timid, so he had a tendency to avoid confrontation with them. The stress of his ministry was effecting Timothy’s health, and he found himself sick with constant stomach ailments, and now to top it all, his beloved mentor Paul had been arrested by the Roman government and was lying in prison awaiting execution.
Things couldn’t have seemed worse and Timothy’s must have felt defeated and in his defeat his vision had shrivelled. The excitement and enthusiasm that he’d once felt when he joined Paul’s ministry team was gone. Somewhere between his bad health, his discouragement about the church in Ephesus, and his fear for Paul’s life, Timothy’s vision had slipped away. Paul knew that Timothy needed his vision renewed, and that’s why He wrote him a second letter – the last letter we have from Paul’s pen before his execution. In these final words Paul reflects back on the vision that had fuelled his life and his ministry, in order to encourage and renew Timothy’s vision and it also serves to encourage and renew our vision as readers who eavesdrop on Paul’s words over 2000 years later.
There are five points which I would like to reflect on today because I feel that these words written over 2000 years ago are speaking to this church today at the start of exciting times which lay ahead for us and for this community. Times which will need us to ‘fan the flame of our faith’, rediscover the gifts God has given us and renew our vision for this church.
I want to focus on;
- Renewing Our Vision For Worship (2 Timothy 1:1-3)
- Renewing Our Vision For Prayer (2 Timothy 1:4-5)
- Renewing Our Vision for Service (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
- Renewing Our Vision for Outreach (2 Timothy 1:8)
- Renewing Our Vision for Nurture (1 Timothy 1:8)
Renewing Our Vision For Worship We find an emphasis on worship in the word “serve” in v. 3. But this is not the usual New Testament Greek word for “serve,” this is the Greek word latreuo. This word latreuo is used 20 other times in the New Testament, and it always refers to service offered to God as an act of worship. This kind of service is never directed toward other people, it’s always directed toward God first. As Paul looks back on his own life, he views his entire life since coming to faith as an act of worship directed to God. For Paul worship was a lifestyle of devotion, not just a Sunday morning church activity but every moment of his life. For Paul worship was first and foremost about celebrating Jesus Christ and celebrating Christ’s presence among us, realizing that he is here with us not just when we gather as a congregation for worship but in every moment of our daily lives. It is in every moment that Paul worships God and he does this through service. I recently read that; ‘True worship, is defined by the priority we place on whoGod is in our lives and whereGod is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness. Thus, if your lifestyle does not express the beauty of holiness through an extravagant or exaggerated love for God, and you do not live in extreme or excessive submission to God, then you need to make worship a non-negotiable priority in your life.
Renewing Our Vision For Prayer I love the way that Paul expresses his heart as he lovingly tells Timothy how he prayed day and night for him and as he prayed he remembered Timothy’s tears and his longing to be reunited with him. As he prayed for Timothy he was reminded of how Timothy came to faith in Christ, he remembers all that he was and all that he meant to him. As he prays he opens his heart to God and he lifts his dear friend up to God and as he does so he reminds Timothy of the great love he has for him, the great faith he has in him and the great vision he has for him. As Paul pours out his heart to God, not only does he renew his own vision, but he encourages Timothy to do likewise. Pauls prayers were an outpouring of his heart to God and because Paul’s life was so focused on God whatever was of concern in his heart automatically bubbled up in prayer to God just like our bubbles today, because for Paul prayer came to him as easily as breathing and because of the prayer life he had, he regularly enjoyed an intimacy with God which empowered him and strengthened him even in the darkest of times. In Ephesians 3:20. It reads; “By his mighty power at work within us, God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” (NLT). God did great things through Paul and Paul encourages Timothy by telling him that he will do great things through him too and God can do great things through us too – it starts with pursuing his heart in prayer. That’s the heart of prayer, daily intimacy with God where we share our hearts with him and he shares his heart with us. This is what the Bible means by abiding in Christ, remaining in his love, being constantly aware of his presence. Through this intimacy God renews his vision for us and gives us the conviction to run with this vision.
My vision for this church is that we become a house of prayer, a place where prayer provides the foundation for every ministry and activity that we are involved in. It may sound silly to you, but think about it, do you talk about things as much as you pray about them? I love this saying; Prayer doesn’t prepare us for the battle; prayer is the battle.” Our ministry and our vision needs to flow from our knees and I want us to be a church on it knees with our eyes fixed on Jesus, I want a great outpouring of what is on our hearts and I want God to hear our visions and dreams and I pray that he will bless us and bless us and bless us.
Which brings us to the renewing of our vision for service: and we renew our vision for service by re discovering our God given gifts, and allowing God to re new those gifts in service to him. In verses 6-7. Paul reminds Timothy that God has given him all the equipment he needs to be effective as God’s servant. But the fire of God’s gift in Timothy’s life was going out. This image of dying flames reminds me of the end of the evening in winter, when our fire is going out because no new wood has been added for a while. The flame isn’t burning anymore, but instead there are a few glowing embers that are gradually losing their heat. I hate that time of night, when the fire dies away, and the day is coming to a close. But then the next day, when we go to make the fire up again we always discover those glowing embers at the bottom of the grate and so we carefully fan them back into flame to bring warmth and light into our sitting room once more. I always feel the open fire transforms our sitting room, it makes it cosy and inviting, a place where people wish to gather. Likewise in this passage Paul encourages Timothy to “fan the flame” of his gifts, so that once again he could burn brightly, with intensity, so that he can be transformed and transform others through sharing the love of God. The way we fan the flame of our spiritual gifts is by using them. The flame only loses its blaze through lack of use, and gradually our gifts become glowing embers.
We learn in this passage that it was fear that was holding Timothy back from using his gifts. The word “timidity” means “a state of fear because of cowardice or lack of moral strength. This may sound harsh – but Paul loves Timothy enough to be brutally honest with him and so he tells Timothy that this timid fear doesn’t come from God. What comes from God is an attitude of power, love and self-discipline. Power is the capacity to face our fears and use our gifts, even when we’re shaking like a leaf. Love is the capacity to express God’s love through our gifts when we use them. Self-discipline is the courage to go forward even when we’re timid and fearful.
I know that here are times in all our lives when at the end of the day there are only embers, when our vision for service needs to be renewed. But I also know that it only takes one step to fan that flame and bring it back to life, it is the first step out of our comfort zone in order to use our gifts and renew our vision for service. There is no substitute for actually using your gifts, drawing on the Spirit for power, love and self-discipline which God will give us in order to face our fear and do it anyway.
My vision for this church is a vision of service and its summed up in one phrase: ‘Every member a minister.’ At times you must think I am a scratched record, but I truly believe that every single follower of Jesus Christ in this place is called and ordained by God as a minister of Jesus Christ. Ministry is not the exclusive property of Derek, or of me, ministry belongs to the people – it belongs to you – every one of you from the oldest to the youngest every single one of you is a minister of God if you listen to the call.
My dream for this church is to see our members truly see themselves as God’s ministers investing their gifts, talents and resources to make God’s vision become a reality in this community. When God gives a ministry vision to a person our job isn’t to get in the way, but it’s to help make it happen. It may or may not succeed, but why not try to make it happen? Whenever I have asked Derek if I can set up a project he always says the same words; ‘ok lets give it a go’. So I encourage you today to get on your knees and renew your spirit of vision and dare to dream – dare to give it a go.
Which brings me to outreach, we renew our vision for outreach by testifying about Jesus. Christians are often tempted to be ashamed of our walk with Jesus We’re tempted to hide our witness, to keep our faith in Christ hidden inside our hearts and our churches, rather than letting it flow into our words, our conversations and our actions. We are often afraid to be a fool for Jesus.
If you need your vision for outreach renewed face your fears and testify about Jesus tell your stories, putting into words how Jesus has changed your life. Share the good news of Christ, tell people what this means in your life, use your stories to build relationships with unchurched people so that you can shine as lights in their lives. Think about this, have you ever noticed that the longer you’re a Christian, the less non-Christians you have as friends. So we need to be reminded that relationships are the primary mechanism for sharing our faith in Jesus. We need to be out there through those doors looking for the lost the broken and the seeking. To share the good news of Christ in our words and through our stories and it is this attitude that starts removing every barrier that keeps unchurched people from understanding and responding to the good news of Christ.
This brings me to the last point, nurture. In verses 8-10 Paul speaks of the good news of Christ, the gospel, the means by which we are brought into a relationship with God and the amazing changes that can take place in our lives by Gods grace. When I read this passage for the first time I underlined these words; ‘He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
God has a plan for each and every one of us and as a church we have a responsibility to nurture those around us to be the people and to live the life that God calls us to live. Just as we nurture our children and loved ones, as we encourage and love and empower those who are nearest and dearest, God also calls us to do likewise for his church for his people. Sometimes this can be hard, sometimes we are rejected and our encouragement and gratitude is allowed to fall to the ground rather than take root in the hearts of others. But just as we are asked to forgive seventy times seven so too are we called to love and encourage our brothers and sisters in faith and those who have not yet come to faith.
I know this is easy for me to say, but I believe this is what we are called to do and what God wants to say to us today. I know that there is always tension between our vision and the way things are, because if vision only described the status quo, it wouldn’t be vision. So the disparity between vision and the status quo creates tension, like a rubber band that’s been stretched. Often we’re tempted to let this tension pull the vision down to the status quo, to soften the vision and make it more acceptable to the way things are. Instead, we should let the tension pull the way things are closer to the vision, creating the necessary changes in our lives needed to pull us toward what God has for us.
I believe God wants to pull us closer to His vision this year. God wants a congregation of renewed vision for worship, prayer, service, outreach, and nurture. I believe he calls us to let the tension between His vision for this valley and the way things are stretch us and as it does so excite us, and fan the flames of mission so we as a church once again burn bright. Our vision wont be renewed by just hearing this sermon or reading a book. Our vision for worship is renewed by actually worshipping; our vision for prayer is renewed by actually praying; our vision for service is renewed by actually using our gifts to serve; our vision for outreach is renewed by actually testifying about Jesus; and our vision for nurture is renewed by actually responding to God’s call to encourage our brothers and sisters in faith. There is no substituted for action, for doing what God has called us to do so I ask you this – will you stand up and will you run the race- will you accept the baton, will you be members who are ministers?
I want to finish with the words from a book I read over the summer and which really encouraged me and set me on fire;
“God does not call us once but many times….. sometimes those calls ring clear as bells and sometimes they are barely audible, but in any case we are not meant to hear them all by ourselves. It was part of Gods genius to incorporate us as one body, so that our ears have other ears, other eyes, minds, hearts and voices to help us interpret what we have heard. Together we can hear our calls, and together we can answer them, if only we will listen for the still, small voice that continues to speak to us in the language of our lives.”
I believe God is calling us as a church, I believe that every member here today is a minster, the question is – do you?
Lord I believe that you have spoken to this church today and you have commissioned us to open our ears, our hearts and our mouths and to be prepared to renew our visions, and for our ministry and our vision needs to flow from our knees. Empower us now lord by the power of your holy spirit fill our timid hearts with courage to hear that small voice which speaks into our lives and the lives of this church and to serve you well all of our days.