Today we are going to turn to the book of 2 Timothy. In this letter, Paul offers Timothy whom he refers to as his “beloved child” some lessons on how to live out the Christian life in a very non-Christian world. The things that Paul teaches Timothy are equally relevant to us and we need to learn how to apply them in our own lives. Let’s turn to 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV) and see what it says:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Paul gives Timothy a charge, an instruction. He says to preach the word in season and out of season – which means that Timothy needs to be prepared to preach it all the time. Of what does that teaching consist? It consists of correcting, rebuking and encouraging. Or in other words, Timothy is to let people know when they are out of line, chastise those who don’t want to get in line and encourage those who are trying to get their lives in line. That’s a pretty hefty task.
Then Paul talks about those people who don’t want to listen to sound teaching but would rather live in an echo chamber where all they hear is exactly what they want to hear.
And finally, in verse 5, Paul encourages Timothy to remain faithful even if it leads to some hardship. This is just another way of telling Timothy that he needs to be persistent. And that’s the word for today. Persistence. Paul told Timothy to be persistent. He pretty well tells us to do the same thing.
We know what it’s like to be persistent. It is because of persistence that the Prayer Garden was finally completed and dedicated after five years of trying to get it done. Remember that it was supposed to be built for our 150th anniversary in 2017 but we ran into various roadblocks along the way. But now it’s there, being enjoyed by the community. Aren’t we glad we were persistent?
If you want an example of and persistence, I can think of no better example then the current situation in Ukraine. We’re all familiar with it. Back on February 24, Russian forces crossed the eastern border and invaded Ukraine. Vladmir Putin thought it would be a cakewalk. It was simply a matter of the Russian army giving a show of strength and the Ukrainians would capitulate. It would all be over in a few weeks.
It didn’t quite happen that way. Initially, the Russian forces made impressive gains. But eight months later, the Russian military machine is in shambles. Its elite troops have been decimated. It’s estimated that they Russians have already lost over 60,000 casualties. The Ukrainian military has now halted Russian advances. Many young men are fleeing the country in order to avoid being drafted and thrown into a fight that they aren’t prepared for and don’t believe in. And now, the Ukrainian forces are beginning to retake territory that Putin previously claimed. I heard a report the other day where a military analyst suggested that Ukraine would retake all of its captured territory by January 31, 2023. In fact, we were joking the other day that by the time the Kyiv Home gets completed, we may be welcoming not Ukrainian refugees but Russian refugees as they flee Putin’s tyranny.
What caused this turn around? Some important factors need to be noted. First of all, the international community stepped in providing munitions, air defence capabilities and other much needed military and humanitarian supplies. But the world was also introduced to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who rallied his country to oppose the oppressor. And rally they did. After suffering many initial defeats at the hands of the Russian military, they have stormed back and stood tall, beating the Russians at their own game.
The best word we could use to describe this is persistence. The Ukrainian were not deterred by the initial Russian advances. They rallied and they began to push back. Has it cost them? Sure, it has. Many of their villages, towns and cities have been flattened by Russian air strikes and missile attacks. There is growing evidence of Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians. This has cost the Ukrainian people a huge amount but they have remained resolute and they have persisted. And we all look for the day when all Russian military forces are pushed back across their own border and a peace can be negotiated. In the meantime, let’s pray that Putin’s leaders will not allow him to use any nuclear weapons because that would cause an entirely different set of consequences.
Paul told Timothy to be persistent. Again, 2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV) says:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.
Preach the word of God, in season and out of season. Correct, rebuke and encourage with patience and careful instruction. Or in other words: “Timothy, keep at it, no matter what may happened or what obstacles you may face, keep preaching the truth of Jesus. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep at it because this is God’s calling on your life and, if you persist, you will make a difference in the lives of a huge number of people.
Persistence. How persistent are you? Are you as persistent as Timothy? I haven’t asked this question in a while but I’m going to ask it now. Who’s going to be in heaven because of you? Think of one person who God is laying on your heart right now. Can you see their face? What are you willing to do to rescue that person from sin? What are you willing to do to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them?
I want to take it one step further today because it’s not just about what you are willing to do. The next question is this: how long are you willing to do it? Do you share the Gospel once and then think you’ve done your part? I hope not. Because one time usually isn’t going to be enough. Leading someone to Christ takes time. It takes energy. And most of all, it takes persistence. It’s not about sharing the Gospel once. It’s about sharing the Gospel as many times as it takes for you to make a difference and lead that person to Jesus.
I know I’ve told you this story before but it’s worth repeating. Many of you knew my father-in-law Bernie Wiseman. And many of you were very kind to him during the four years that he lived with us. But like all of us, Bernie wasn’t born a Christian. He chose to become one by receiving Jesus.
One of the key people to making that happen was the woman would eventually become his mother-in-law, Ruth’s grandmother. She died many years ago, in fact, before Ruth was born. After she died, her family was going through her things. When they came across her Bible, they opened it up and there inside the Bible were the names of the people she had been praying for. They were people who didn’t know Jesus. She prayed every day for them. She shared the Good News with them when opportunities arose. Then when they eventually asked Jesus into their lives, she wrote the date of their decision beside their name. When Bernie was looking through that old doggie eared Bible that had been read and re-read and re-read again, he found his name and beside it was the date when he had given his life to Christ. Her persistence in prayer, her persistence in teaching and her persistent example of Christ-like behaviour had made a difference to dozens of people who are in heaven at least partially because of her persistence.
Whose going to be in heaven because of you? Who do you know who is trapped by their sin and needs to be rescued? What are you willing to do to witness to them and how persistent are you willing to be to make sure that they have a place in God’s kingdom?
Persistence, however, can be difficult because sometimes things just don’t seem to be happening. The main enemies of persistence are confusion, frustration and boredom. Let’s look at each of those briefly.
Confusion. Has anyone here this morning experienced confusion? Sure you have because all of us have. And we can be especially confused about the things of God.
Have you ever been confused about what God wants you to do? I know that there are people who say that it’s easy to learn God’s will. They’ll talk as though all you have to do is pray and listen for God’s voice and suddenly everything will become crystal clear. But that has seldom been my experience. In fact, for me discernment has often been a struggle. It was true when I first felt called to ministry. That was confusing. The conversation went something like this. “Hey God, what do you mean you want me to be a minister? I’m quite happy as an accountant. Why would I ever want to give up my nice pay cheque to be a lowly preacher?” That was confusing. And when I was ordained in 1987: “Hey God, what do you mean, the Church wants to send me out to the Prairies? Why would I want to go there? I want to go somewhere closer to home. Can’t we just move to plan B?” That was confusing too. Then, “Hey God, what do you mean that I should consider moving to Cottam? Never heard of the place. Don’t know where it is. Don’t want to go there. You must have someone else in mind.” And then most recently: “Retirement? That sounds scary. Don’t know if I like what that idea. In fact, I rather like being a minister. Are you sure?”
There are many, many times when attempts to live the faithful life can be most confusing but I’ve also learned that if we simply trust in God’s judgement rather than our own then that which was initially so confusing will eventually make sense. In Philemon 1:6 (NIV), it says:
I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
What that tell us is that if we faithfully do what God wants us to do when it comes to sharing our faith, even when it doesn’t always make sense, that it will eventually all come together and we will understand God’s great purpose. If we are persistent, the confusion will eventually fall away.
One of the enemies of persistence is confusion. The second one is frustration. Frustration happens when, no matter how hard you try to do God’s work, nothing seems to work out as it should. You can’t find the resources that you need. No one else seems available to help or even seems all that interested. You might try your little heart out but all of your effort seems to go for naught. That’s frustrating.
The church can be a very frustrating place. I get frustrated when I want to get something done in the office and the phone just won’t stop ringing. I get frustrated when it seems to take so long to get some things done. I get frustrated when I work with other congregations that are in trouble but they refuse to do anything to change their situation because “we’ve always done it that way.”
One of my biggest frustrations is when people refuse to accept the clear teachings of the Scripture. Paul addresses that very topic in 2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV) which says,
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
Here are people who should know better. They are people who are not ignorant of the teaching of the Bible. But they don’t like then and so they find people who try to explain the teachings of Scripture in such a way that twists them and robs them of their original intent. That is so frustrating. If people want to call themselves Christians, they need to stop playing fast and loose with the Bible and begin to submit themselves to the clear Word of God. I could go on about my frustrations. So could you I suppose but I won’t.
There are times, in the midst of frustration, when we can be tempted to give up. There are times when we want to move on and try our hands at things that seem to be a bit more productive. But please keep this in mind also. Sometimes the reasons why things are not working out is because you’re doing the wrong thing. Maybe you’ve misinterpreted what God wants you to do. That means that sometimes you have to take a step back, examine what you’re doing, re–evaluate your purpose and rethink your plans if necessary. Don’t get frustrated. If you are trying to do that which is the will of God, then keep at it. Persist and God will eventually open the doors and you will succeed. But don’t persist at doing the wrong thing because that will just lead to more frustration. Ask God for the wisdom to know what the right thing is.
Confusion can be an enemy. So can frustration. The final enemy of persistence is boredom. Boredom is a huge problem in our society which is steeped by quick fixes, instant messaging and all sorts of things to ensure that we are on sensory overload twenty-four hours a day. We live in a world that has come to believe that ultra-stimulation is the norm. So many people have lost the capacity to simply sit down, close their eyes and contemplate life for a while.
Guess what? Not everyone in the world gets a glamorous role in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Some people do. Some people get to do all kinds of exciting things all the time. But most of us are stuck in the trenches doing the day to day things that make ministry possible. Someone has to vacuum the carpeting in the church. Someone has to organize our fellowship time. Someone has to cut the grass in the summer and shovel the sidewalks in the winter. Someone has to act as treasurer. People have to chair committees and attend meetings. None of this stuff is glamorous. In fact, a lot of it is downright boring but unless those daily things get done, everything else will come to a grinding halt.
That’s true of our work in the Church of Jesus Church. It’s also true of our spiritual lives. Do you know the main reason why people have trouble doing daily devotionals including Bible reading and prayer? It’s because they’re bored. It’s not easy to read the Bible the very first time. It’s not easy to understand. Have you ever tried to pray for any length of time? You’d think it would be easy but it’s not. It’s really tough to spend 15 minutes to half an hour just sitting in a chair in your living room praying. That’s why most people don’t do it. I heard a statistic the other day that suggested that even ministers have difficulty spending quality time in prayer. It said that the average minister spends exactly four minutes a day in prayer. Four minutes. Did you know that there are 1,440 minutes in a day? That’s exactly .28% of the day that ministers spend in prayer. I guess my question is this: if ministers are only spending four minutes in prayer on a daily basis, what about the rest of you? Why aren’t we spending more time at it? Probably because we get so easily bored.
To get past boredom, you have be persistent. Is it hard to sit down and pray for even fifteen minutes? Sure, it is. It will seem like forever. But do it for a week and it doesn’t seem so long. Do it for two weeks and it gets easier. Do it for three weeks and you might begin to discover that fifteen minutes isn’t quite long enough.
It takes persistence to form good spiritual disciples because through persistence we get beyond the boredom and experience the joy of being together with God on a daily one to one basis.
God calls us to live with persistence. It helps us to get past the confusion, to get beyond the frustration and to face the boredom. Persist in that and let the ministry of Jesus Christ flow in, through and from this place.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Grace and Glory, shine upon us with the light of Heaven. Radiate within the deepest recesses of our souls so that we may glow in response to your never ending love and care. How wonderful you are and how good to us. Who are we that you defend us? What have we done to deserve your compassion? Your gifts to us are unearned and undeserved, given freely by your grace. For your many blessings we give you thanks and praise.
We thank you God for the many things that are being done around our church. We thank you for the various projects, works and ministries that are being done in your name. Sometimes they are done by groups and everyone knows about them. Sometimes they are accomplished quietly and few know about them. But it is still your work and you see what we do.
We thank your for the beauty that surrounds us in Creation: for autumn colours, leaves painted with rainbow strokes of red, orange, yellow and brown. We thank you for flowers and plants that are storing up nutrients for the long winter or spreading their seed so that, in the spring, the land will come alive with new colours and soft greens. How can we praise you enough?
We pray for the people of Ukraine as they continue to fight for freedom against the tyranny of a modern day dictator.
In the midst of our praise and thanks, we come with our concerns. We think of those who have been sick this week at home or in hospital.
Loving God, we pray with open hearts, knowing that you hear and answer our prayers. We pray in Jesus’ name through whom you gave us the great gift of eternal life. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 16, 2022 / Pentecost 20 / Proper 24
Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 121; Luke 18:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come, O God, as hearers of your Word;
Open our ears to listen.
We come seeking vision;
Open our eyes that we may see.
We come to be together as one body in Christ;
Open our arms that we may embrace one another as we embrace your ministry.
Holy God, your glory fills the skies. Your wisdom fills the oceans from the depths to the sea shores. Your majesty is seen in the vastness of the heavens and in the wonder of a new born child. We come to worship seeking a fresh infilling of your Spirit. We need your presence. We desire your direction in our lives. Come to us. Renew us. Transform our lives into images of your purpose. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
There are many times, O God, when we hear your voice and follow in the direction that you set before us. There are also times when we wander from your path and lose ourselves in the wilderness of discontent. Forgive us when we forget to share. Forgive us when we speak words of deceit and arrogance. Forgive us our sins and remind us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The grace of God is for all people. No matter how far we fall or how high we soar God is there. The is no power in heaven or on earth that can out-love God. When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
How can we count our blessings, O God, except to say thank you for all that you have given to us. You have blessed the earth with enough for all people if only we would have the courage and wisdom to use our resources wisely. We share these gifts on this day. Remind us to share all of our gifts everyday for nothing we have is ours. It all belongs to you and to you we offer it back. Amen.
May the path of Christ rise up to meet us as we leave this place of worship. May God’s Spirit breathe new life into our ministries as we seek to live faithfully. Go in the faith of Jesus to love and serve the Lord