Pentecost, Sunday June 9, 2019 — 2 Timothy 4:17-18 — Trust Christ…Not Emotion or Experience
Sermon for Pentecost – Original 11/6/11 – June 9, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:17–18 (NKJV)
17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Him –
Life is like a ride on a roller coaster…it’s full of ups and downs; fear and joy; screaming and laughing. If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster ride, then you know that no one thinks about the end of the ride. Many simply live in the moment and enjoy the ride. Still, the end always comes.
Saul’s roller coaster ride began in the city of Tarsus, then the capital of the province of Cilicia, now south-central Turkey, about 12 miles north of the Mediterranean Sea. He was of Jewish descent, but born a citizen of the Roman Empire with all rights and privileges.
Saul chose to follow his ethnic heritage and become a member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees. He studied in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3) under the most famous teacher of his day, a man named Gamaliel. He was very zealous for his Jewish religion, more than many of his peers, especially in opposition to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Saul personally supervised and consented to the murder of a Christian named Stephen. He obtained warrants for other Christians and traveled 135 miles on foot to Damascus, Syria to arrest them.
However, outside of Damascus his life was changed forever. A light shown around him (Acts 9:1ff) and the Ascended Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the very person he had been persecuting spoke to him, saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Arise and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
Thus, Saul of Tarsus, zealous persecutor of Christ became…Paul of Tarsus, Apostle and zealous preacher of Christ. Paul traveled throughout Asia Minor, the Roman Empire, Achaia and Greece. He proclaimed Christ on three different missionary journeys.
He who had caused a great deal of pain and suffering for Christians…himself came to suffer many things for following and preaching Christ (cf. Acts 9:15-16). The roller coaster that Paul rode included the following experiences (2 Corinthians 11:24-28):
24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Rome where he lived under house-arrest. He used his time in chains to proclaim Christ, even to His captors. Finally, he came to stand before the Emperor, to make his defense, to give reason for his preaching Christ. It is believed that he was acquitted and set free to preach the Gospel elsewhere, perhaps Spain (Romans 15:24, 28).
Since “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…” (2 Timothy 3:12), Paul was again arrested and placed in chains. He was called once more to give a defense, this time alone. He wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:16):
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
The words upon which we meditate this morning are thought to be some of the last that Paul wrote. Many consider this 2nd Letter to Timothy his last letter, his last will and testament. But these are not merely the words of Paul, but the divinely inspired words given Him by God the Holy Spirit and for this reason they are useful for us still today.
If your life was coming to a close today...if your roller coaster was coming into the station…and you had one last chance to communicate with those close to you…what would you say? Would you lapse into sappy sentimentality? Would you use your final breaths to talk about the ‘good old days’? What words would you speak to those whom you love?
This morning we consider the final words of Paul to Timothy and notice the lack of sentimentality. We take note that He did not speak of his experiences or boast in his own accomplishments. Instead, he directs Timothy and us to the Scriptures, to the Lord’s Promises, to the basis of true Christian confidence and hope.
We are reminded that emotion and experience are not the foundation of our hope, but Christ and His Word. This morning we take a break from the roller coaster ride of life and seek to grow through the Word of God. May the Spirit of God strengthen us through these words and prepare us for the day of our departure from this place to our heavenly home. Amen.
How do we know that Paul believed he was about to die?
It’s not necessary that we ‘read between the lines’ because the verses that precede these are plain. Consider his words for yourselves and see if you agree that Paul believed his work for the Lord was done and he expected to die. He wrote (2 Timothy 4:6-8):
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Furthermore, we don’t have to guess his circumstances. The Apostle tells us that he had been abandoned by most of his fellow workers – having only one friend, Luke – as he waited to die. He wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:9-11):
9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me.
Paul was certainly disappointed…but not bitter. While only Luke was with him, there were others praying for him, and the Lord Jesus was with him. He had not been forsaken…and neither have we been forsaken.
Still, there are times, aren’t there, when sick or feeling down that we feel like we have been forsaken. Doesn’t it seem sometimes that frustrations, disappointments, sorrows, troubles…come in bunches? One problem a week would be enough, but it’s rarely just one thing.
It’s at these times that our emotions get the best of us. We groan, and ask – “Why Lord?” “Why now?” “Why are you allowing this to trouble me?” We ask questions that we really don’t want answered, like: “What have I done to deserve this?” If God did deal with us in such a way that He repaid our sins with troubles…they would be without end. When our concerns grow, Satan and the flesh suggest that perhaps God has forsaken us, left us to fend for ourselves.
Emotions can change like the wind direction. One day all seems to be going as planned, the next it falls apart. How we feel does not determine how our God feels about us! Our God is a God of love and mercy. He does not change like the wind direction and neither does His Word of Promise. God’s Love is constant. God’s mercy is constant. God’s Word is constant. Our relationship with God is not to be determined by how we feel, but upon the declaration of His Word.
Notice that when Paul wrote to Timothy these final words, He didn’t draw on sentiment or emotion. He didn’t urge Timothy to remember all the things they had been through and never forget them. He told him what to expect, and how to endure what was to come (2 Timothy 3:13-17):
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
He directed Timothy back to God’s Word of Promise. Emotions change, society changes, and we grow older, but unless we continue in the Word, we will grow no wiser. God declares in His Word how He has changed our relationship through Christ.
God declares in His Word that we are His dear Children by faith in His Son’s living and dying and rising again.
God’s Promises to us in Christ are always certain and sure…always the same because (Hebrews 13:8):
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Human emotions are very often in a state of flux, unstable and changing. Our relationship with God and our hopes for the future are not dependent upon how we feel, but upon what God says in His Word.
Moreover, I want you to notice why the Apostle Paul was so confident, even when facing the prospect of death. He wasn’t on an emotional high. He wasn’t confident merely because of past experience, but because of the one who stood by Him and strengthened Him through His Word.
17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
We’ve all had experiences in life. We’ve all learned from those experiences.
Sometimes we also make more of those experiences than we ought. After enduring a particularly trying experience we sometimes credit ourselves for having “made it through the rain.” We look at our experiences and reach wrong conclusions. “Now that I made it through that problem… I know that I can handle it.”
Paul of Tarsus stood before the Emperor Himself and confessed his faith in Jesus. But He didn’t then pat himself on the back for his strength and conviction. He didn’t conclude, “I made it, Timothy and so can you!”
He looked at his experiences and concluded – “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” He used verbs that picture those things as having been done for him…not by Him. It wasn’t about Paul, but Jesus. He glorified God for standing with him and giving him the strength to accomplish the work set before him.
What did Paul mean when he said, “I was delivered from the mouth of the lion”? There are some that take these words literally, meaning that the Lord kept Paul from being fed to lions. There are others who take these words figuratively, that He was delivered from immediate execution. Still others take these words to refer to the Devil, whom the Apostle Peter calls “a roaring lion” in 1 Peter 5:8.
Does it matter? Let’s not be distracted too much by the question, because the point is that the LORD delivered him. The passive tense is used, someone else delivered Paul from this lion be it man or beast. The Lord Jesus was his rescuer.
This isn’t about the Lion, but the lion tamer, the Lord Christ. He is also our deliverer, our savior. He is the one who sends angels to watch over us. He is the one who fought Satan that serpent of old and crushed his head. He has delivered us from Satan and the consequences of our sin. He has removed the sting of death. He has made death merely the door to life eternal. He is the one who strengthens the faith He has planted and germinated and caused to grow within us.
This isn’t about us. It’s all about Christ Jesus. He is the reason that Paul faced an uncertain earthly future and death with confidence and hope. For Paul concluded in faith…
18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
The Lord Jesus had certainly been gracious to Paul, and preserved him through many earthly dangers and trials. God provided Paul many earthly blessings, good food and good friends. These were not the blessings that the prisoner Paul longed to receive…but the blessings of God’s Heavenly Kingdom and a life not tainted with sin and death.
God has been gracious to us. He has preserved us from earthly dangers and trials. He has provided us many earthly blessings, good food and good friends. He has promised us so much more than this. He has promised to preserve us through this life and into His Heavenly Kingdom. He would have us look forward to the life that is to come in His presence apart from sin and death.
Christ promises His people more than earth…He promises us heaven. He promises to be with us, to deliver us from every evil and to preserve us until we reach His Heavenly Kingdom.
Jesus doesn’t promise that we won’t ever face terrible times. He doesn’t promise that we won’t weep and cry. He doesn’t promise that we will outlive our children. He doesn’t promise that this life will be without trouble. He does promise that if we remain by faith in Him…that we will…that we have already gained the victory.
We can learn from experience that God is gracious…even when things don’t turn out ‘for the best’ or ‘like we wanted.’ We can enter every situation confident…but not because we’ve been there before, but because we are not alone. God has promised us in Christ (Hebrews 13:5-6):
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
We can learn from our experiences…but we are made stronger by the Lord, through His Word…not experience. It is His Word that assures us of His presence, His forgiveness, His guidance. Let’s turn again to His Word and leave the emotional drivel, pride and confidence in our strength behind.
May our joy come from Christ’s Word of Promise! Let our pride and glory be in His Cross. Let our confidence come from His Word. For then…we will be ready when our last hour comes. Then we will be ready when it’s time to step from this roller coaster to the sure ground of the Father’s house, our heavenly home. Amen.