Courage for Living—Continuing in the Gospel: 2 Timothy 3.1-17

Today’s passage from 2 Timothy 3 finds us right where we live—in the “last days.” These will be times with a problem, as well as, a pathway.

The problem—as Paul describes it from his prison cell to the younger Timothy—is that the time between Jesus’ ascension and return (Acts 2.3-4; Heb 1.1-2) will be filled with “difficulty,” and people characterized as “lovers of self” (:2), not lovers of God (:4). The eighteen descriptions of the people of these times pretty much matches our own day. Ironically, these people will be found not just outside the church, but also inside. But, there is a pathway.

Paul’s encouragement to Timothy includes his teaching and way of life (:10). This we know from the collection of books we call the New Testament. Also, Timothy is to … continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquitted with the sacred writings … (:14-15). These sacred writings we know call the Old Testament.

Finally, we read Paul’s summary of his prescribed pathway to Timothy. It’s a description of the whole Bible—the testimony of the Apostles (New Testament) and the sacred writings (Old Testament). All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped in every good work (:16-17).

Having described the problem of these last days, Paul’s last days pathway for Timothy involves continuing in the gospel, as described in the whole Bible—what will become both testaments!

Courage for living comes from continuing in the gospel in the last days. True for Timothy, true for us. And that’s a good word in these days we live in.

Here’s a few questions to discuss with others:

  1. The first part of 2 Timothy 3 (verses 1-9) describes the nature, people and result of difficulty in the last days. How would you describe the main trajectory of this time? What’s the central problem Timothy will face?
  2. Verses 10-17 describe how Timothy will continue in the gospel in the last days. Paul notes two reasons (verses 10-13 and 14-17). What are they? How do his reasons correspond with what we call the Old Testament and New Testament?
  3. How do we, likewise, continue in the gospel? What does it look like in the way we think, the way we spend our time, the way we interact with others?
  4. How does it give you courage for your life? What does this passage make you want to go home and do?

Courage for Living—Entrusting the Gospel (2 Timothy 2.1-13)

It seems too early for this, but snow is falling in the Northwoods, and the very beginning of winter reminds me of the need for courage. And, you know, the great thing about courage is that it can be passed on to others.

The Apostle Paul knew this. Just weeks from his homegoing to Jesus, he suffered in a Roman prison. But, he was all about what needed to happen next in the church of Jesus. He spent those weeks (as is evident in the chapters of 2 Timothy) instructing Timothy, the younger follower of Jesus.  Guard the good deposit entrusted to you (1.15). Treasure the gospel, Timothy. And now, in 2 Timothy 2.1-13: … what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Courage for living comes from entrusting the gospel to others with endurance.

These chapters from Paul’s final book encourage us at Woodland! They’re encouraging, because they remind us that following Jesus is actually hard, and future generations are going to come to Christ by means of our difficult work in the gospel.

They also encourage us, because everybody we know struggles. And these chapters give us truth to point to: … we will also live with him … we will also reign with him … and he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself (:11-13).

So, come on, Timothy. Entrust the gospel to others with endurance. And, come on, Woodland church family. Endure the difficulty in the work God has given us. There is courage for life, in the gospel of Jesus!

For those of us in small groups, here’s some questions for discussion:

  1. What picture comes to your mind when you consider verse 2 and Paul’s instructions to entrust the gospel (“what you heard from me”) to “faithful men who will be able to teach others”. What kind of work is Paul proposing?
  2. How do verses 3-13 illustrate and provide examples for what the business of entrusting the gospel to others will require?
  3. How do the illustrations of soldier, athlete and farmer illustrate endurance through suffering? How do the examples of Jesus, Paul and faithful followers of Jesus provide examples of endurance through suffering?
  4. How is our church family working to entrust the gospel to others? Where do we see the need to endure through suffering?
  5. How has God used this passage to provide you (or your family or small group) courage for living?