Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13
Paul has been encouraging Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel, to not be ashamed of Paul in prison, and for Timothy to be ready to suffer as well. That was the charge given at the end of ch. 1. Here in ch. 2, Paul shows Timothy how that’s done, how to remain faithful to Jesus, both in the preaching of the gospel, and being willing to suffer for Christ.
1. Ask for help. (vv. 1-2)
An isolated Christian is a defeated Christian. So for us to stay faithful to Jesus and faithful to the gospel mission He’s called us to, we need to ask for help. First and foremost, we need to ask for help from Him (v.1).
And, we also need help from each other (v.2). Timothy is weary. He has been standing against false teachers in the Ephesian church, and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. He probably feels very alone, fighting an uphill battle. So Paul reminds Timothy – not only do we need God’s help to follow Jesus, but we need help from each other to be faithful to our gospel mission.
Ministry is a team sport. Every believer is called to carry the gospel. And because every Christian needs to take ownership of gospel transmission, we all need to ask for help to do it – help from Jesus, and help from each other.
2. Work hard. (vv. 3-7)
Paul points to three illustrations to encourage Timothy in this hard work:
–Fight like a soldier. A good soldier won’t be distracted. Every Christian is in a battle. And every Christian has been given our marching orders from King Jesus. We are called to fight our own sin by the strength and grace that He provides. And our chief aim is to please the Lord, to honor and glorify Him, and make Him known to as many as we can.
–Train like an athlete. An athlete has to compete according to the rules laid out. No compromises. No shortcuts. Likewise, there are no shortcuts in the Christian life. You never outgrow prayer. You never outgrow your need to read the Bible. You never outgrow your need for ongoing fellowship with other Christians. There are no shortcuts to sanctification. Not only that, but prayer, and scripture and fellowship, those are gifts by God to be enjoyed and embraced, not to be replaced.
–Work like a farmer. A farmer has to plow the ground, plant the seed, water the seed, keep wild animals away, pray for good weather…and wait. What a fitting picture of a faithful Christian. In our call to share the gospel with others, we plow hard ground by getting to know others, developing friendship and trust. Then, whether it’s one long conversation about who Jesus is and what he’s done, or a hundred brief conversations, seeds of the gospel are planted. Then, that seed is watered, sometimes by other Christians who come along and encourage that person, pointing them to Jesus.
3. Endure for the elect. (vv. 8-10)
Remember the big picture. Jesus has risen from the dead. He’s the Messiah God promised from the beginning. He’s the one we preach. And He’s the one we suffer for, even now, while Paul is in prison, bound in chains like a common criminal. Paul is reminding Timothy, Jesus is worth it all.
And then Paul adds this powerful reminder: I may be bound, but the word of God is not bound! I may be in chains, but the gospel is not chained. Because God is sovereign over all things, even over our trials and suffering, we can rejoice in it all, knowing that His purposes will come to pass. His gospel will go forth.
We endure for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of the “elect”. This reminds us that we had nothing to do with our own salvation. You didn’t work for it. You didn’t earn it. And the only reason you chose Jesus is because He chose you first. Praise God for His amazing love! God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean our choices are not important. They are. It just means that you and I can’t get the credit for our faith. Jesus gets all the glory.
Paul is enduring suffering, and he’s encouraging Timothy to endure, for the sake of the “elect”, those who are not yet Christians, but who will be. Those who have been chosen by God, who haven’t heard the gospel yet.
4. Remember God is faithful. (vv. 11-13)
In all the encouragement and emphasis on the Christian being faithful to Jesus, the real encouragement is that Jesus is faithful to us.
 “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him.” Because Jesus died on the cross for the sins of His people, when we place our faith in Him, that means we died with Him on the cross (past tense). We died to our old nature, our old desires. And the life we now, we live to honor and glorify Christ.
 “if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.” Now we’ve moved to present and future tense. The theme of all these verses, and the majority of this letter, is the encouragement to not give up, but to endure suffering and trials for Christ. And if we do endure as faithful servants of our King, we are promised that we will one day rule and reign with our King. But if we deny Him, he will grant or desire, and deny us as well.
“ if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Even when we fail, God does not. Even when we stumble and fall short of our faithfulness to God, He remains faithful. He is faithful to His word. He is faithful to His covenant. He is faithful to His children.
In our weariness, in our suffering, in our trials, God is reminding this church that He saved you by His grace. He called you by His sovereign will. He strengthens you to share the gospel and endure hardship for the sake of His name and for His elect. And even when we fall, He is faithful, and always will be.