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(2 Tim 3:10-15a) Standing Firm Terrible Times


Standing Firm in Terrible Times

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures…

2 Timothy 3:10-15a

How can we stand firm in terrible times?

In 2 Timothy 3:1, Paul warned Timothy of the terrible times that would happen throughout church history. People would be lover of themselves, lovers of pleasure instead of God; they would be abusive, unforgiving, and having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. There would be many false teachers that would lead people astray (v. 2-9). Just as Paul warned Timothy, Christ warned his disciples as well. Satan would plant tares among the wheat and yeast in the flour (Matt 13)—the church would be full of false believers and false doctrine.

Because of this reality, many have become angry at God, bitter at the church, and some have fallen away from Christ all together. These are very important realities to be aware of in order to protect ourselves and persevere. How can we stand in these times?

Paul says to Timothy, “You, however,” or “But, you” (v. 10) and he calls him to “continue” in what he had learned (v. 14). Timothy was to be different from these people with an empty religion. He was called to “continue” being faithful—essentially to stand firm—even while others went from “bad to worse” (v. 13). In this text, we will see four principles about standing in terrible times—not only do these apply to difficult seasons in the church but ultimately bad times in our lives.

Big Question: What principles can we discern about standing firm in terrible times from 2 Timothy 3:10-15?

To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Remember the Faithful

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

2 Timothy 3:10-11

After sharing with Timothy about the ungodly people and the false teachers in the church (v. 1-9), Paul encourages Timothy with his example. He says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life…” Though there were dark times and evil people in the church, Paul was faithful and his faithfulness was meant to encourage Timothy. Similarly, when Elijah was depressed and no longer wanted to live, he cried out to God, “I’m the only one left!” However, God reminded him that he had preserved a remnant that would not bow down to Baal (1 Kings 19), and God has done the same today. Satan often tempts us to feel alone and therefore hopeless, but we are not because God is faithful to preserve his people in the dark times. We need to recognize this to stand firm.

First Peter 5:8-9 says,

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

We should resist because we have a family of believers around the world enduring suffering as well. Though many have only a form but no reality in their lives (2 Tim 3:5), there are many who follow God faithfully. And if we are going to stand in terrible times, we must remember them.

In Hebrews 12:1, the author says something similar to persecuted Hebrew Christians:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

The “therefore” points back to chapter 11 where the author describes many heroes of the faith—Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, and others. He essentially says that remembering these witnesses help us get rid of sin that entangles us and also run with “perseverance” the race before us. Perseverance means “bearing up under a heavy weight.” When we feel like giving up during terrible times in the church or life in general, we must remember godly examples. We must remember how God allowed Joseph to suffer betrayal from his family, slavery, and prison before he exalted him to second in command over Egypt. We must remember how God allowed Job to suffer financial pain, family pain, and physical pain, but how God’s ultimate purpose was to bless him.

We need to remember the faithful if we are going to persevere during hard times. Hebrew 12:1 explicitly reminds us of the importance of reading Old Testament stories. They are not just for children; they are for us. They help us get rid of sin and persevere in difficult times.

But also it reminds us to look at the faithful around us. We must watch them and their integrity and faith during hard times. It will help us to stand. We need to intimately “know” other faithful believers so we can draw strength from them.

Who are you watching to draw strength from in times of difficulty? Often in times of difficulty, we tend to focus on the storms or difficult people which only further discourage us. However, we need to focus both on God’s faithfulness and those walking faithfully so we can persevere.

Application Question: Why is it so important to remember the faithful when going through difficult times?

To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Follow the Faithful

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them… But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it

2 Timothy 3:10-11, 14

Not only must we remember the faithful to stand in terrible seasons, we must follow and imitate them. The word “know” Paul uses can also be translated “follow” (v. 10). Kenneth Wuest said that the word means “to follow a person so closely that you are always by the person's side, conforming your life to the person.”[1] It was literally used of “following a person as he goes somewhere and of walking in his footsteps.”[2] Timothy wasn’t just aware of Paul’s example, he had been following it for decades.[3] In addition, other teachers imparted into Timothy’s life—enabling him to stand. This is clear from verse 14 as he calls Timothy to continue in what he had learned because he knew “whom” he learned them from. “Whom” is plural meaning that Timothy owed a great deal to many teachers who imparted into him (v. 14).

This is true for us as well. If we are going to stand in terrible times, we need to follow the godly example of the faithful. Paul said this in Philippians 3:17: “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” He also said this in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” We must keep our eyes on godly people and imitate them if we are going to stand in terrible times.

Often Satan does the opposite as he seeks to corrupt the world and the church. What he does is parade and promote ungodly examples in the media and through entertainment. If you look at those who get the most attention in our cultures, it’s usually ungodly examples—ungodly reality TV stars and actors and musicians and athletes with no morality or conscience. They are paraded and promoted in order to affect the culture in a negative manner. The primary time good examples are exalted is typically when they stumble or fall—pastoral failures, corruption amongst cops or politicians. It’s all meant to discourage people and lead them into similar path ways.

However, if we are going to stand in terrible times, we must remember the faithful and follow their footsteps as Timothy did Paul’s. We must allow them to invest in us through discipleship and follow their teaching and lifestyle. What are characteristics of the faithful? This is important to ask as there are so many bad models. We should model those who have the following characteristics, but we should aim to have them in our lives as well.

Observation Question: What are characteristics of the faithful as demonstrated through Paul’s characteristics?

1. The faithful live transparent lives.

Again Paul said you “know” my teaching and my way of life. He lived a life of transparency and invited others to watch. This wasn’t because Paul was perfect; he wasn’t. He said, “The things I wouldn’t do, I do, and the things I would do, I don’t do. Who can save me from this body of death?” (Rom 7, paraphrase). He wasn’t perfect, but he was pursuing perfection and we need examples like that.

One of the results of sin was people hiding from one another. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from one another and from God. However, the more that we come to know Christ—the more we begin to live in the light. We may be far from perfect but we follow a perfect God. Also, we realize that God uses our imperfections to encourage others who are similarly imperfect. While an ungodly example practices hypocrisy and puts on a charade to appear holy, a godly example lives a transparent life which includes his successes and failures. Christ said this, “‘I have spoken openly to the world,’… I said nothing in secret” (John 18:20). Paul said this in Acts 26:4-5: “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time…”

Are you living a transparent life or practicing a secret life?

2. The faithful teach God’s Word.

Paul said that Timothy knew his “teaching”. One of Paul’s goals was to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He didn’t duck difficult texts, soften their tone, or change them to not offend the church or the culture. He preached the Word of God when it was popular and not popular. Paul will soon warn Timothy of how many in the last days, instead of preaching the whole counsel of God, will itch people’s ears and try to make them feel good (2 Tim 4:3).

This teaching doesn’t only refer to public teaching but also private teaching. These godly models challenge us with God’s Word when we’re in sin. They encourage us with it when we are down and affirm us with it when we are doing right. We must follow these kinds of people, and we must become these kinds of people.

Are you teaching God’s Word to yourself and others?

3. The faithful practice what they preach.

Paul said you know “my way of life.” There are many who are orthodox in their doctrine but their life doesn’t match what they say. Therefore, they push people away from God. Timothy was keenly aware of how Paul used his time, his recreation, his work life, his devotion, his prayer life, and his ministry. All of that was bare to Timothy and all of it matched his teaching. We must model these types of people to stand in terrible times.

Are you practicing what you preach?

4. The faithful focus on knowing God and pleasing him.

Paul said Timothy knew his “purpose.” In Philippians 3:8 Paul said that he counted everything a loss to know Christ. That was his primary goal in life. Even his ministry was driven by this unflinching goal of knowing Christ and pleasing him by completing the mission the Lord gave him. Philippians 3:12-14 says,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The faithful are not driven by money or the applause of men, but only knowing and pleasing God. Is your goal to know Christ and please him?

5. The faithful bear the fruits of the Spirit.

Paul then names several fruits of the Spirit that were prominent in his life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). He mentions faith, patience, love, and endurance. These were divine characteristics that were born out his relationship with God.

  • Faith probably refers to faithfulness before God—he was faithful to the task God had set before him. It also may refer to faith—a growing trust in God.

  • Patient probably focuses on how he responded to difficult people. He was patient with them.

  • Love refers to an increasing love for God and love for others. It is amazing to consider that right after Paul’s conversion this love was radically demonstrated in his love for Christ and Christians—who he previously persecuted. He also loved Gentiles who conservative Jews, like himself, hated. He also exalted women which Jewish teachers wouldn’t normally teach. Timothy witnessed this love, and we should see very clear characteristics of this love in those we follow.

  • Endurance means to “bear up under” something difficult. His ministry opened the door for criticism, mocking, poverty, and many other hardships; however, Paul endured them all.

Paul was a man of character worth modeling. We must model those who are clearly filled with the Spirit and demonstrate it through their lives. Are the fruits of the Spirit in our life?

6. The faithful willingly accept suffering for Christ.

In verse 11, Paul adds various sufferings he endured that Timothy was aware of: “persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” He mentions three specific sufferings in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra:

  • In Antioch, Paul was kicked out of the city for preaching the gospel (Acts 13:50).

  • In Iconium, Paul was almost executed by stoning (Acts 14:5).

  • In Lystra, Paul was actually stoned and left for dead, but God miraculously healed him (Acts 14:19). Through all these, God delivered him.

Obviously, it must be noted that in those specific cases, it wasn’t God’s will to keep him from those persecutions. Instead, God gave him grace to endure them, and it’s similar for us. There are many things that God keeps us from. Just like in the story of Job, there are many things that Satan asks to attack us with but God says, “No!” and sets the limits. He says, “You can only go this far.” God knows what we can bear and what we can’t. He also knows what we need to experience trials to know him more and glorify him. Trials are part of the Lord’s sanctifying process in our lives, and we must humbly accept them. Those who are godly examples typically have been through various trials that God used to build them up and help them to know him more.

Paul willingly accepted these trials without being angry at God or others. How do you respond when you go through trials? Do they draw you to God or away from him?

If we are going to stand in terrible times, we must not only remember the faithful, we must also imitate them. We must step in the same steps that they did as we follow the Lord.

Application Question: Which characteristics of the faithful stood out to you most and why? What godly examples have made the most impact on your life? In what ways have you followed their steps?

To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Expect Persecution

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

2 Timothy 3:12-13

Interpretation Question: What types of sufferings will godly believers experience?

Paul not only shares his experience of persecutions, but warns Timothy that everyone living a godly life will experience them (v. 12). These persecutions will come from outside the church as seen through Paul’s experiences in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, but they will also come from inside of the church. This is implied by Paul’s reference to evil doers and impostors going from bad to worse right after mentioning his persecutions (v. 13). People in the church attacked Paul. The book of 2 Corinthians is him essentially defending his apostleship to a church he founded. Christ was attacked and killed by the religious establishment of that day, and we’ll experience this in the church as well. There will always be those without true faith who oppose the truth in the church (v. 5-9).

Not only will there be persecution from without and from within, but also spiritual warfare. We must remember that Job’s trials were attacks from Satan which came simply because he was righteous (Job 1:8-9, 2:3-4). He suffered financial loss, family loss, and physical suffering which were all demonic in origin. Let us hear Paul’s words again, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v. 12).

Interpretation Question: Why will believers be persecuted—what causes the animosity?

In short, John 3:19-20 says this:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Macdonald explains it this way:

The reason for this persecution is simple. A godly life exposes the wickedness of others. People do not like to be thus exposed. Instead of repenting of their ungodliness and turning to Christ, they seek to destroy the one who has shown them up for what they really are. It is totally irrational behavior, of course, but that is characteristic of fallen man.[4]

Calvin adds: “they who wish to be exempt from persecutions must necessarily renounce Christ.”[5]

Timothy needed to hear this, and we need to hear it as well: If we are going to stand in this evil age, we should expect persecution. It is coming, and it will only get worse as we get closer to Christ’s return. This doesn’t mean that we will all be beat, stoned, and crucified. It may be as simple as being thought strange or hated for our belief system (cf. 1 Peter 4:3-4). We must expect it so we don’t become disillusioned and fall away (cf. Matt 13:20-21).

Application Question: In what ways is Christian persecution growing in the world and why is it growing?

To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Continue in God’s Word

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures…

2 Timothy 3:14-15a

Paul calls Timothy to “continue” in what he had “learned” and become convinced of, because he knew “whom” he had learned it from (v. 14). The word “continue” can also be translated “abide.”[6] Timothy needed to make his home in Scripture to stand. As mentioned, “whom” is plural; it probably refers not only to Paul (v. 14) but also to Timothy’s mother and grandmother who were mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5. They were believers who taught Timothy the Holy Scriptures from infancy (v. 15). Holy Scriptures can literally be translated “The sacred letters.” This might suggest that Timothy learned the Hebrew alphabet through studying the Old Testament.[7]

As a side application, this is important for Christian parents to consider. The word for “infancy literally refers to a “newborn child.”[8] Parents should read the Bible to their children from birth. They may not be able to fully grasp it yet, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hear it. Right after birth, parents should begin to saturate their infants with Scripture. Throughout early childhood, children are like sponges. It is then that they can most easily pick up languages; it often becomes harder as they get older. Therefore, Christians parents should saturate those early years with reading God’s Word to them and helping them memorize it. When they get God’s Word as infants, it will be easier for them to continue in it as they get older. Just like learning a language, it won’t be foreign to them. It will be their native tongue.

With that said, Timothy needed to continue in what he had learned from infancy if he was going to stand, and this is true for us as well. God’s primary way to make us holy, encourage us when we are down, and protect us is through God’s Word. It both makes us wise for salvation and trains us for every good work (2 Tim 3:15-17).

When Paul warned the Ephesian Elders of these terrible times and how many of them would fall away into cults and become false teachers, he said this in Acts 20:32: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” It was the Word of God’s grace that would make them strong during these difficult times.

The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Christ said, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth!” (John 17:17). Apart from daily continuing in God’s Word, we won’t be able to stand in terrible times. Evil character will replace godly character; we’ll slip further and further away from God, and take others with us.

Application Question: How can we continue in God’s Word?

  1. We must believe it. Paul said Timothy had become convinced of it (v. 14). Many don’t believe it. They don’t believe in creationism. They don’t believe what the Bible teaches about sexuality and homosexuality. They don’t believe it is inerrant as Scripture proclaims (John 17:17, Ps 19:7). We must be convinced as Paul and Timothy were.

  2. We must read it daily.

  3. We must meditate on it throughout the day (Ps 1:2-3).

  4. We must memorize it so we can recall it when tempted or discouraged (Ps 119:11).

  5. We must obey it, even we don’t feel like it (John 14:15).

  6. We must teach it so we can better hide it in our hearts and also to protect others (Matt 28:19-20).

Apart from continuing in God’s Word, we won’t stand in the terrible times. Our house will be built on sand and it will be destroyed when the storm comes (Matt 7:24-27). Are you building on the rock of God’s Word? Any other foundation won’t last.

Application Question: What are some major threats to Christians continuing in God’s Word? What disciplines have you found helpful in studying the Bible?

Conclusion

How can we stand firm in terrible times? This has specific applications for the terrible seasons in the church, but it also broadly applies to any difficulty we experience.

  1. To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Remember the Faithful

  2. To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Follow the Faithful

  3. To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Expect Persecution

  4. To Stand Firm in Terrible Times, We Must Continue in God’s Word

[1] Teacher's Outline and Study Bible - Commentary - Teacher's Outline and Study Bible – 2 Timothy: The Teacher's Outline and Study Bible

[2] Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 93). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 125). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2122). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Accessed 11/26/2016, from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-16-spiritual-faithfulness-2-timothy-310-15

[6] Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 3:13–15). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 252). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W., Jr. (1996). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 2, p. 48). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson.

#StandinginTerribleTimes #2Tim31015

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