2 Timothy 1:3-18

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Sermon Transcript:

This morning, I have a friend that I’m introducing to you again. Uh, he reminded me today that the last time we had him preach was the Sunday right before Covid Clo Covid closed everything down. We’re hoping that is not a prophetic, um, message I just shared. Um, Michael Chance is a pastor with many years of pastoral experience in the last few years, and I mentioned this in my Musings Mail newsletter this week.

In the last few years, Michael has been asked to serve, uh, with a group of churches up in the New York City area. And his calling, his role was to be the pastor of encouragement to the churches. If you have gotten to know him, you understand why they asked him to do that role. By God’s grace, he and Linda have been led to our church family, and uh, he is now spilling over on We Pastors and many of you in our church family, that ministry of Encouragement.

I asked him to speak to us today and open the word to us.

Thank you, mark. God bless you.  Well, the first thing you will, uh, recognize is that I have a Southern accent. I am from Louisiana originally, and, uh, we raised our family up in Middlesex County, in East Brunswick. I worked in New York City for 17 years and then, uh, uh, pastored in Edison. For how many of you from Middlesex County or have you had any experience up in Middle City?

Yay. That’s home. That’s home. And, uh, for all those years, when we moved to New York City in 1986, people would say, uh, you sound like you’re from the south. I said, yeah, I’m from. South Jersey, but I never realizing that one day. I actually live in South Jersey, right here in Burlington County and I retired from full-time, uh, ministry, uh, a few years ago in 2017.

And, and, uh, have since, uh, been finding myself, uh, as a minister of encouragement for a, uh, network of graffiti community ministry churches in New York City. And then I also do pulpit supply for a couple of, uh, Chinese churches, one up in East Brunswick and one in, in, uh, uh, Chinatown in New York City. So, uh, we are here about one Sunday a month when I have, uh, time and Pastor Mark and the staff and, and the church has been so gracious.

We love Fellowship Church. And like Pastor Mark mentioned, I remember that week that, uh, uh, he had asked me to preach, uh, for that third Sunday in March. And on Tuesday of that week, he called me, he sent me an email and says, Mike, do you think you could come Saturday morning? Looks like we may be shutting down.

And, and so on that Saturday morning, the only people that were in this sanctuary as we taped the service to be broadcast the next day was the sound people, the worship team. Pastor Mark and myself, this is the first time I’m actually preaching to people here at Fellowship. This is great. It’s, uh, awesome and, uh, you, I tell you, we have been, the last three years has been a challenging time for every one of us.

I mean, we’ve lived through a global pandemic. We’ve, we’ve come through political unrest and demonstrations, stock market turbulence, a war. Cataclysmic weather events. Just in those last few weeks, we’ve seen 40 people killed in a massive blizzard in Buffalo. We’ve seen people killed in California with rivers of, of, of, there’s old cyclones, uh, coming ashore, tornadoes down south.

Uh, and, and to go along with all that stuff. In the last several years, we’ve seen even the evangelical church here in America has taken a real hit. Young people have left the church by droves. Relationships have broken. Pastors and staff have left their churches. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pastors leave their churches just step away from the pulpit because of emotional stress.

Churches closing. It has been just a challenging time for all of us. Why? Let me tell you I have good m this morning. Over the last year, I’ve been pouring my own energies into, uh, Paul’s final letter that he wrote The Little Book of Second Timothy. In fact, if you have your Bibles or your phones with your Bibles on it, we’re gonna be looking at the first chapter of second Timothy today.

So go ahead and open, uh, your Bibles to that, uh, the message here in this little New Testament book of only four chapters. Friends has brought great personal refreshment to my soul. The, the two Chinese, uh, churches I’ve worked with in, in 2022, we’ve, we’ve looked at second Timothy verse by verse, and every week as we shared, or is actually about once a month with each church, I’ve noticed God just showing me something that was just like being out in a desert and seeing an oasis and, and finding the water in that oasis.

It’s been wonderful. Now, to remind you of where we’re at here in Second Timothy, this is Paul’s final letter, and he’s writing to his young protege in ministry, his son in the ministry, young Timothy over in Ephesus, who. Leading of the church himself, uh, through this perilous, tumultuous time in the first century.

Now, Paul and Timothy had a precious, precious relationship. Uh, we, we know that, uh, Paul, that Paul had, uh, uh, spent a great deal of time with Timothy’s family, his grandmother Lois, his mother, Eunice. And uh, there’s no mention of Timothy’s dad. He may have died. We don’t know. The relationship that Paul had with Timothy was more like a father and son.

And, and today I just want to ask you, I, I, if, if there’s any anxiety in your life, if you’re a bit afraid of, of how to do life in this tumultuous 21st century is particularly coming out of the last three years that we’ve all experienced. I want to tell you that there’s some great words of hope in this, uh, little book we call Second Timothy.

And I pray that in this message today, you’ll be introduced to some real compassionate counsel from the Apostle Paul himself. But first, I want to remind you of the predicament that Paul found himself in as he was writing this little. You know, as we leave, uh, the Book of Acts, uh, Paul is in under house arrest.

That was nothing compared to where he is now. After he, uh, uh, once he finished up that house arrest in Rome, he managed to make one more missionary trip, probably up into Spain somewhere, and then decided to come back to Rome to, because he knew that the church in Rome was struggling. He wanted to spend time with him.

So he comes back to Rome. We don’t know how long he’s back there before he’s arrested and thrown into the Mamertine prison. Cesar Nero has got the City of Rome during this time, about 66 AD just in a state of complete upheaval. Now, let me tell you about Caesar Nero. He was a megalomaniac in every sense of the word, a narcissistic narcissist from, from every perspective.

Um, he decided to rebuild Rome to, uh, match his own glory. So he decided to try to burn it down and he blamed the believers, he blamed Christians, something that even Paul had an opportunity to talk to him at one point and, and maybe because of that conversation and Nero being confronted with the claims of the gospel and because of his nature refusing that, he went.

Insane. We don’t know. But Rome was in bad shape. The city was burning and he was blaming it on Christians. He disliked Christians so much that he said about these believers, these followers of Christ, that they are cannibals. They delight in eating the body and blood of their Lord. And, and he became so, uh, sadistic by, by arresting Christians and dipping them in some kind of oil and burning them alive.

And then you all know the stories of him throwing Christians into, uh, to feed the lions and, and, and such. He was mono. He was a, in Pastor Mark’s words, he was real muckety muck, if ever there was one. And yet, uh, Paul finds himself under arrest and he’s thrown into this, uh, prison now. Our scripture comes to declare today, I think, and I want you to see with me three admonitions, three, uh, compassionate counsel or admonitions, uh, from Nepal for tumultuous times, for chaotic times for uncertain times, just like we have here in, uh, 2023.

And the first thing I’d like to show you, this is take you in first chapter of Second Timothy, verse seven. In fact, um, uh, let me just read, uh, starting with verse three, these words and that’ll bring us down to, uh, verse seven. He says to young Timothy, I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors with a clear conscience.

As I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day, as I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I’m reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother, Lois and your mother Eunice. And now I’m sure it dwells in you as well. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.

Through the laying on of my hands. For God gave us not a spirit, a fear. But of power, love, and sound mind. The first admonition that I would challenge you with today, Paul is saying to you and me, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. In fact, be unafraid. He’s, you know, this whole idea of fear in our lives, fear does massive damage to every one of us, including we who are Christ followers.

It’s a tool of the devil himself. Fear is, it can be debilitating. It robs us of joy. It causes us to make bad decisions. Listen, no one likes to be afraid. Uh, you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered how many times it says in scripture to. Uh, do not fear or fear not. I saw a meme recently in social media where it says the term, uh, fear not is, uh, given 365 times, uh, in the Bible.

Uh, you know, one for each day. I, I don’t know that that’s true. Uh, you know, I’ve counted 70 to 80, 90 times, you know, as I’ve studied and, and looked at it, the bottom line, the number is not so as important as the fact that God tr just challenges us not to be afraid and not let fear rule in our heart for it will destroy your life.

It will destroy your marriage, it will destroy careers. Fear does damage to the first hearing in second Timothy one 17. Paul uses an interesting word for fear. He says, For, for God gave us a spirit, not a fear. That word fear is the Greek word, Dalia, which has the connotation of timidity. Uh, uh. It, it, it, it’s fearfulness.

It’s it’s cowardice In the first century world, um, in secular literature, it refers to a person who has fled from battle due to cowardice. It’s, it’s like the polar opposite of boldness. You know, the human condition is such that, that we are just kind of prone to be set by even all kinds of little.

Nagging fears and they will rob us of joy. Uh, you know, you’ve heard the term phobia. Uh, all of us you would think probably have some kind of phobia. I know one of the reasons I moved from Louisiana up to New Jersey is because there are no poisonous snakes here in, uh, New Jersey. Not that I’ve been able now.

Last summer I saw my first black snake in our, he, that little guy, even though he was non venomous, still freaked me out. But, uh, I grew up in South Louisiana and I’ve seen all men are of water moccasins, copperheads rattlesnakes, and, uh, the, the worst kind or the other kind of reptiles called alligators, which I’ve, I’ve seen enough of.

So I moved to New Jersey and I’m good. But, uh, uh, you know, let me just take a quick survey. Uh, how many of you, uh, deal with, uh, claustrophobia? Anybody deal with claustrophobia? Okay. Now how about, uh, what about Bronte phobia, which is the fear of, of thunderstorms and, and such? Anybody deal with bronto phobia?

What about acrophobia? The fear of heights. All right, there we go. Now we’re getting some hands. Okay. How about arao phobia? You about ara? Okay. The, yeah, there’s some guys that, yeah. The spiders. Ooh, yeah. Okay. Here’s a, here’s a phobia. That is, is, uh, I don’t know if you, uh, heard of, uh, it’s called nomophobia.

Nomophobia. You know what nomophobia is? It is the fear of misplacing or losing your cell phone. Okay? Anybody with nomophobia. Honey, where’s my phone? Nomophobia. Yeah. These fears will do a number on us. Now, uh, let me tell you, uh, Paul here is writing from this prison cell. It was a horrible prison cell. And he is writing to this young man, his son in the ministry and says, Timmy, don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid. Now you’re saying to yourself, how can Paul, as he’s writing these words here, How can he write these words and himself not be afraid? I believe there’s some things that we can see up, uh, top, uh, beginning of the, uh, uh, verse three that we can see that, uh, why Paul was not afraid. He was not afraid and fear had no place in his life because his life was filled with Thanksgiving.

Verse three, where it says, I thank my God whom I serve, as did my ancestors. Hey, his life was filled with Thanksgiving also. His life was filled with forgiveness. He had a clear conscience. He understood the power of living life without the burden of unconfessed sin. He had a clear conscience. His life was also prayerful.

He says, uh, as I remember your, uh, uh, I remember you constantly in my prayers. Uh, I want you to see also that he, his life was filled with hope. He says, uh, I remember your tears. I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. By the way, hope is so important for the believer. If we don’t have hope, what else is there?

And one of my favorite acrostics for hope is this, uh, hope is simply heavenly optimism, perpetually entertained hope. His life was also filled with encouragement. Look here in verse five, where he says, I am reminded of your sincere faith, Timmy, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother, Lois and your mother, Eunice, and I’m sure dwells in you.

And, and, and, uh, also godly advice. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God. He says, Tim, fan inflamed that gift of God, which he has given you. Uh, you know, Paul was apparently at Timothy’s appointment as a pastor in the church at, at Ephesus, and he challenged him by saying, keep serving by the grace and power of God.

Be a good steward of God’s gift to you, Timmy. He says, God has gifted you and even while he’s sitting there in, in this meine prison with all cold, damp, whatever. He was constantly focused on someone else. He was not focused on his own problems. His life was filled with Thanksgiving, encouragement, prayer, hope.

And when we begin to fill our lives with those kinds of things, we won’t have time to be afraid. Paul was also not fearful. For one more reason, he understood the power of love. He understood and probably was fully cognizant of John’s encouragement. Uh, you know, as John the beloved wrote these words in his own letter by this is love perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we also in the world.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Paul understood that what he was needed to be about was loving God and loving people. It’s all about love, love, cast out fear. That’s the first admonition today for us. Don’t be afraid. Secondly, we are not to be ashamed. Look here at verse eight.

Let me read, read some verses here in verse eight through 12. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested to the appearing of our savior, Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life into mortality to life of the gospel for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why it is why I suffer as I do, but I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and I’m convinced that he’s able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.

Don’t be ashamed, folks. Be unashamed to fully understand. You need to know that the, that this word shame or, uh, goes along with another word. Honor. Honor and shame were considered together. Often in the first century, they were linked together as two pivotal values in the ancient world, they are polar extremes of each other.

As nouns, honor approximates our ideas of esteem, respect, high regard, good, uh, uh, good reputation. While the word for shame means just the opposite, it connotes humiliation. Our loss of standing. The word here was also a euphemism for nakedness, as if one is brought to total embarrassment due to being unclothed.

It’s also so very interesting. That’s a Hebrew word. It, it’s this Hebrew word used in First Chronicles as a personal name, which means destroyed or in ruin. To be shamed was to be made in full view, to bring total embarrassment to someone. It’s, it’s like the emperor with no clothes. He’s been had, he’s been exposed.

And Paul is saying to Timothy, Tim, I am not ashamed. So you don’t need to be ashamed. In fact, we are invited, uh, to even share in the suffering, uh, of, for the gospel by God’s power. Uh, you know, last week I was preaching at a church, uh, one of our graffiti churches in New York. and, uh, this whole idea of suffering.

By the way, I’m moving quickly because I, uh, either I have to move, preach quickly, or you’re gonna have to listen a little bit faster cuz I’m running out of time. I got so much to share in this. The, uh, uh, he says here invites Timothy to share in the suffering. Last week I met Dimitri, a man, almost 80 years of age, who was from Romania.

And he sat there and told me about his, his prison experience. He got saved as a young man during the communist regime there in, in Romania. And he began preaching. He felt God calling him to preach and he would preach freely until he was arrested and thrown into jail. You sit there and look at Dimitri and he speaks broken English, but he has become a good friend and his nose is all bent outta shape and he said I was beaten severely, almost died several times in Romania.

He said in 1992, I made a return trip back to Romania to visit, and I sat down at a park bench, hadn’t been in Romania in my home very long, bought a bunch of newspapers, and the guy sat down next to me and he said, he said, uh, you are, you are Ian, Ian Colcci. And, and Dimitri said, yes, that’s my name. And Dimitri said, who are you?

He said, don’t you remember me? And then Dimitri said, it dawned on him here he was a prison guard who had beaten him, just ferociously. And this now man, over a little over 80 years of age, looked at Dimitri and said, when I beat you, I saw a radiance in your face. In your body. You did not fight back. You did not cry.

You just looked up at me with eyes of love. and, and Mr. Ian, I want to tell you that because of that, I recently became a Christian and I’m looking for a Bible to read. And right there on that park bench in 1992, Dimitri gave him a Bible. But Dimitri could have been shamed when he was beaten so ferociously when he was beaten up in the prison and, and just, uh, uh, treated like trash.

He said, I could have been very shameful, uh, be shamed of myself in my condition, but I chose not to be. I knew God was standing with me. You know, there is, uh, probably the greatest experimental scientist of all time was a guy by the name of Sir Michael Faraday. Uh, he was a British scientist who studied the electromagnetic field and if.

If the Nobel Prize had been, uh, available in the 19th century, he probably would’ve won about eight different Nobel Prizes. But, uh, near his death, his, uh, coworker and colleague, who was somewhat of a cynic, uh, especially about faith, came to see Sir Michael. And, uh, sir Michael was known to be able to, you know, when he would have an idea or a speculation, he would want to run into the lab and prove it.

And so his friend, uh, trying to introduce some levity into the situation, uh, came into, uh, sir Michael’s room and said, sir Michael, now what do you think? Do you have any speculations about death? What are your speculations now? And, and, and, and Sir Michael Faraday was, was near death. It wasn’t long before he was going to, to pass on.

But he shared something pretty remarkable with this cynic. He looked up at him, his former coworker, and he says, this speculations man, I have none. I have certainties. I thank God that I don’t rest my dying head upon speculations for I know whom I’ve believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him, against that day.

Don’t be ashamed, be unashamed. Third and final thing I wanna share with you today, and I want to encourage you with this, is this, that we are not to be distracted or are distracted by the world, but be totally unhindered. I want you to see with me starting in verse 15. Some, some names of some folks and introduce you to one particular person.

Verse 15. It says, you’re aware that all who Reja turned away from me, among whom are Figi and Hermogenes, made the Lord Grant mercy to the household of a, uh, ferous, ferous, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he arrived in Rome, he searched for me earnestly and found me.

May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day, and you well know all the service he rendered. In Ephesus, I wanted to do some research to find out who this guy on his cphs was. He was a man who had come to visit and, and minister and serve, uh, the Apostle Paul. And, and in, in all my research, I, I could not find a great deal until I stumbled upon a message by Dr.

W Christal from the First Baptist Church of Dallas that was priest in the late fifties. And, uh, Dr. Christal sermon helped me to draw together some facts about this man on a cph. Uh, we know that he is, uh, his name, uh, meant benefit bringing or profit sharing or profit bearing. In all likelihood, he was a successful businessman who traveled a great deal.

And he was an encourager. Uh, and as I began to study about who this guy on CPH was, Dr. Crystal shared some in a story form, something of, of how he spent his last few, um, weeks of life. So let me just share this and, uh, let you be challenged. Anci was the successful businessman and he decided to take a boat from his home in Ephesus to Rome where he frequently did business.

And upon arriving in Rome, he gets off the boat and begins immediately to ask, where is Paul the prisoner? Have you seen Paul, the prisoner? And folks as he’s talking to, they reply, uh, we don’t know who you’re talking about. He goes to the p pretorian guard. Where is Paul the prisoner? And they say we don’t know his business associates.

He goes to, uh, his contacts in Rome. Have you heard of Paul? The preacher of Christ? We don’t know. We don’t know where, who you’re talking about. But one time a person calls him over and says, Ancira, shh. Don’t ask so openly about this guy, Paul, the preacher of Christ. Don’t you know whoever is found to be. A Christian is an enemy of the gods and an enemy of the state and is subject to immediate death.

Be quiet, sir. Don’t talk about this guy, Paul. So Anus makes a determination if Paul, the preacher of Christ is in the city of Rome, I shall find him death or life. He searches, he asks, he goes from one prison to the other. He meets somebody. Oh, Paul, sure I remember him. A Roman citizen, a Jew, a Christian. I heard he was condemned to death and is in the EEN prison.

So Anci makes his way over to the Meereen prison. And you see this prison is unlike any others. It’s cut out of the solid rock on the Capitoline Hill. The only entrance to that awful dungeon. It, it’s made like a cistern up at the top, a g grading of iron through which the prisoner is let down into that awful hole through which, what little food and water is offered.

And he’s let down, down inside that hole is, its a stench, it’s, it’s a horror. The only light that which can, can struggle through the iron grading comes in by precious small rays. And here he is. I found him, uh, on his. SY says, there he is. There’s my pastor, there’s Paul. On Cph before he let me back up and say that, that, uh, he goes to the guard who’s guarding the, the, the great who’s guarding the entrance.

And he says, sir, in the dungeon, a prisoner named Paul. And the guard says Yes. So on Asph draws from a secret pocket in his robe, a little pouch of gold and places it in the guard’s hand. Ancira says, may I see him? And the guard says, huh, gold. Okay, well, yes, this time you may, he goes in the iron Grady, he lifts it away.

Lets anus down on the dungeon. He looks around and there chained to the solid rock is Paul the aged, the preacher of the gospel of the son of God. And Paul lifts up his face and there is his old friend on Ephs. Can you just imagine the sheer joy which overcomes Paul as he sees for the first time in a long time?

His good friend and Anci falls into the arms of his dear friend, that wonderful embrace of long separated brothers, and we are reminded of, of Paul’s words. In his, his letter where he writes on a cph, he sought me out diligently, very diligently, and he found me and he often refreshed me for he was not ashamed of my chains.

On a cphs comes back another day and out of his pocket, a little bag of gold into the hand of the guard to see Paul. Okay. Yes. One more time. You can see him. And he removes the iron grading and ancira is let down into the stinking dungeon. Again, look here. Paul Ancira says, I brought you some bread. I’ve got you some water so you can wash with, and I brought you a cloak and, and, and look, I brought you a pen and some parchment.

And the old and weirded apostle would then write. He often refreshed me. He helped me, he brought me something. Then one day, Annacis was found out a friend of Caesar Niro saw this businessman making his way to the Maton prison and, and seeing the transaction which took place between. And the guard. So he goes to his friend, a guy who’s in charge of the prisons and says, you wanna make some money?

There’s a guy visiting Paul, the preacher, and he’s rich. He’s a businessman. Let’s arrest him. And then you can ta we can split his wealth. And so seeing opportunity, they guard, they position themselves and wait. Until Anci comes and sure enough, Ancira shows up, makes the transaction with the guard, and Anci is arrested.

Now we have to guess, but probably he was executed the way that that Christians are at that time. There was, uh, there before the Roman court, one of Nero’s corrupt judges arraigned him. He’s declared a Christian and the Roman judge, uh, asked him if he’s a Christian. Ancira says, I am. Are you a friend of Paul?

The preacher of Christ, sir? I am. And that ended the life of Anci and his wealth and property may have been confiscated. . And one day Anci did not come to see Paul, and the next day Anci did not come. And the next day he didn’t come. And Paul wondered and wondered, and somebody told him, was it Luke, the physician?

Maybe. Was it the guard who heard? But somebody said, anus has lost his life. And Paul as though he didn’t have trouble in sorrow enough. Paul picks up his pen and he writes these words, the Lord give mercy to the household of anus back in Ephesus. The Lord granted to him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.

And when he closed the letter, the last salutation that he ever wrote was this salute. The household of Annacis for, he was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently and found me the Lord granted unto him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that day. Folks, I’d like to meet him one day and plan to meet onus one.

I’d like to shake his hand. I’d like to bow my head in his presence for he was un totally undeterred, totally undistracted like others had been. That’s what it is to be a follower. Follower of Christ totally undistracted by the things of the world. There were some, uh, like in verse 15 of chapter one, a very sad verse.

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are FYIs and her manganese. Over in chapter four, verse nine, do your best to come to me soon for demus in love with the present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Alexander the Coppersmith did me great harm. The Lord will pay him according to his deves.

There were many that got distracted who had once had been a part of the, the, the fellowship, but they got distracted by the, the tumult of the world, the chaos of the world, and the distractions of the world, but not unci. He was totally undeterred. Today, I think we can learn from his example to be totally unafraid.

To be totally unashamed and undistracted as we carry on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news of the kingdom. Would you join me in prayer? God, I thank you so much for the challenge today that in this crazy world we live in, in the 21st century, in this, uh, the wackiness of it, the tal, the chaos, the uncertainty that as followers of Christ, you give us the grace to be totally unafraid and unashamed and undistracted.

Lord, today may we go from here as, as one as people who are determined to live by your grace and mercy. Lord, we love you and we thank you for your presence among us this day. And now to the church, I say, go from here to love the Lord. Enjoy him, and serve and be on mission as people totally unafraid, unashamed and undistracted.

Amen. Amen.