Category: confidence

Living it Together 3

Living it Together
1 & 2 Timothy Sep 12 – October 24, 2010.
Pentecost 19C, Week 3

2 Timothy 1:1-14
Confidence in Living Faith

We continue delving into the Timothy journey this morning and we switch to the Second Letter Paul writes to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. The situation is very different for Paul now.

We know that Timothy’s situation has remained the same. But Paul’s situation has gotten much worse than when he first wrote to Timothy.

When Paul wrote the first Timothy letter he was under quite an easy, “house arrest” kind of captivity. People were able to visit him as they pleased in the fair city of Rome and he could teach and preach to anyone and everyone who turned up.

Scholars suggest that Paul was eventually released from this house arrest and spent some time on another missionary journey; maybe West of Rome toward Spain.
But then that crazy megalomaniac, Caesar Nero, came to power and began the first serious persecution of Christians, blaming them for the burning of Rome, which he himself actually ignited in AD64.

It seems that Paul now is in no comfy house arrest – he is in the darkest dampest dungeon, in rags, among the rats of Rome. We can tell from this letter from the dungeon that Paul knows his work and his life are nearly complete. The pathos of the language suggests great pain at being lonely and especially cut off from his “son”, Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (New International Version)
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This first part of this final letter of Paul is very much concerned with  confidence in the Christian faith. Paul encourages confidence in God despite seeing his end and suffering almost alone. A co-worker in Rome, Demas, has “deserted me and gone to Thessolonica”, says Paul. Another co-worker in the gospel in Rome “has gone to Galatia, and also, “Titus has gone to Dalmatia” he says. Only one remains with Paul in this last part of his work and life – Luke (2 Tim 4:10).

Joy in suffering for the gospel
So, despite his suffering and loss, Paul thanks God for his life and says to Timothy, “Recalling your tears (presumably when they last separated) I long to see you (Timothy) so that I may filled with joy”.

You can feel the pain and the longing of a man who has fought the good fight and now waits to receive the reward of Jesus’ final affirmation and call home to rest. You can sense the strongest bond between “father” and “son” as the father finally departs and the son takes up the mantle for which he has been trained.

As the mentor and “father” speaks to his “son” he even asks Timothy to come and visit him one more time (and bring with him Paul’s cloak that he left with another co-worker, Carpus in the city of Troas some time earlier – 2Tim 4:13) Paul wants to sure up Timothy’s faith for his ministry, which is under pressure and may be flagging a little.

So, we are speaking about confidence – confidence to live without fear or shame in Jesus in our time and place. Paul points Timothy to three streams from which he can draw confidence to live this faith-life together. We are directed to put your confidence in God’s presence and activity in your life prior to this day.

Remember God’s Old Testament people, and for us, his New Testament activity and tradition. Paul says he serves God as all the Old Testament people did(v3). Paul points to Timothy’s mentors and sponsors in the gospel. Paul affirms Timothy as one who has inherited his Mother’s and Grandmother’s strength and faith.

Paul directs Timothy to remember God’s call on your life. Paul encourages Timothy to remember what God has chosen him for, set him apart for and given him. He speaks of Timothy’s ordination to the pastoral ministry – by Paul’s own hand. “Fan that into flame”, encourages Paul.

For all of us we might encourage each other to remember the Rites of the church; the things God does in the public worship service of God’s people, baptism, Holy Communion, Blessing, Absolution, Confirmation, Marriage, installations to vocation, installations to church roles/callings, rites of transition for the young and rites of belonging in a community – like our Welcome to Membership, rites of grief and loss: funerals. These are tried and tested and they are stable and long-term – things to put great stock in for a long-term living of the gospel faith.

These gifts are what transform our “spirit of timidity into a spirit of boldness and confidence to live in Jesus – in love and self-discipline and God’s power (v7).
We are encouraged here today as Timothy was then to live free from shame, because God has called us and saved us and made us holy in his sight. Confidence comes from God’s call on our life. God’s call overcomes shame.

And finally, confidence in faith comes from God’s presence in other people
Paul raises up his own experience of God’s calling and his response to it. He has done this before, but now for the last time it seems. He tells again of God’s calling on his life to be a “herald and ‘apostle’ (or ‘sent one’) and a teacher” (of the good news of Jesus’ freedom, love and grace of God, not by one’s works but solely by God’s grace and love).

Paul has “believed and obeyed”, he says. Paul has not just toyed around with faith as a theory or something to get into when you feel like it – he has been captivated by it, submitted to Jesus’ word on things and done what he heard God telling him to do in his Word.

Paul has reached the end and the reward of a life well lived and faith fulfilled. He tells Timothy to keep on track and give it all he has got, as Paul has done. A faithful life is possible and really the only life to truly live.

 Confidence in living this faith-life comes from;

God’s presence and activity in your life prior to this day
God’s call on your life
God’s presence in other people

This confidence to live this life of faith shows itself in some ways, according to Paul. Paul says this pattern of living the faith together shapes faithful living and ensures the passing on of the gospel.

This is the goal of what we are doing here through a school and through gathering in God’s presence, as we, like the first Christians, who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

So, the very pattern of a confident Christian life Paul urges Timothy to follow and live out is drawn from the gathering together around God’s Word, the holy meal (breaking of Bread), Prayer, and Fellowship together with the Holy Spirit.
This is our pattern. From here comes the same pattern around the “family” altar in our homes – (the kitchen table!). From there comes our own individual reflection and seeking of God’s Word and prayer. This is our life-long process of being made holy; being conformed to the Way of Jesus; becoming more like Jesus, we might say.

The great thing about the pattern of faith that has been passed on to us is that through our participation in these rhythms of Christian living, the gospel is passed on further and God’s kingdom advances and that prayer of Jesus. Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as in heaven” is being fulfilled in our life-time.
We confidently live free from fear or timidity about our faith as we guard and live in God’s pattern of living with faith in Christ and love for each other.

And we are not ashamed of who we are in Jesus, because we know in whom we have believed, and we are convinced that he is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that final day.

Pentecost 2C
Sunday June 6, 2010.
Galatians 1: 11-24

Confidence to live“Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy”. -Samuel Johnson

I wonder if this might be part of our experience as people with belief in the God of the bible? This belief is often under attack and we sense that somehow this diminishes our confidence in God, our confidence in church, our confidence in ourselves, as Spirit-filled people of God, to live out this faith we have been given?
The question for me is – where do I look to regain confidence in faith – confidence for living this calling fully and freely with all the confidence in God’s world!? Someone said, “Confidence in courage at ease”. I like that. I want to have consistent courage to risk truly living but be at ease – not angry, not judgmental – open, compassionate, strong in faith and relationship with Jesus and others.
As we hear something of Paul’s personal story in this first part of his letter to the Galatian Christians, we hear that he is sharing his story for a reason. He is defending himself and correcting wrong views for the sake of the gospel for which he lives and breathes.

Paul obviously has his detractors. People seemed to have doubted his integrity and his authenticity when it came to being an apostle (a ‘sent one’ called by Jesus himself). I guess that stands to reason. Paul was not actually one of the original 12 and he never suggests that he knew Jesus “in the flesh”. Instead he always recounts that Damascus Road experience when he personally heard the voice of Jesus calling him. He says he is one “abnormally born”, but nevertheless, “an Apostle, sent not my human beings but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead”(Gal 1:1).

Paul had to deal with what all people in any kind of responsible position have to deal with. He had to live with what any leader has to live with. He had to cope with what any Christian living their faith in practice has to cope with: People, who from time-to-time, doubt your skill, your sincerity, your ability or even your integrity – for whatever reason.

This kind of experience is not just some “leadership issue”. When people doubt your calling, your place, your authority and even your integrity, it is personal and it can often hurt. All the little voices of self accusation and self doubt can built to destroy confidence and self-esteem, not to mention puting a dent in one’s faith in the One who has called you and placed you in that role with that authority.
So, Paul, like most of us, had his moments of doubt and pain (inflicted by others). He needed to find the confidence to keep believing, keep hoping and keep doing his calling to be a person “sent by God” to live and tell the good news.

Paul’s confidence came down to trust; trusting that this faith and this calling he had received through no great contribution of his own skills or personality, was not actually only to do with his own mind, or personality or giftedness, but that his life and his role and his gifts came from God’s intervention in his life. In the face of criticism and judgment from others (often very unfair) he seems to look outside of himself to the Word of God he knew and the experience of God he had.

I suspect we tend to live as though it is all up to us and that we have to figure everything else out all by ourselves. We have to draw out all of this confidence to live life in God’s grace and love from inside of us all the time.
We find this less risky. I wonder if we would rather tough it out alone with a lack of confidence and hope in the Spirit’s power and grace than seek a Word from God through a friend, a worship experience, or a personal reflection in the Word of God.

Maybe this is so because we are just too proud to admit we need help and power to live our calling. Maybe we are just too scared. The risk of being judged by God or his people might freak us out? Maybe we just don’t believe that God can really help or that anyone else would give us the time of day?
Paul can give us some practical ways in which we can seek that confidence to live out our calling as his people with confidence – to have ‘courage at ease’.

Paul bears witness to the reality that we gain our confidence to live Jesus’ way of love by not only looking within but looking outside of ourselves to remember who it is that we have been created and called to be.
In prison, in betrayal, in unfair and harsh personal criticism, Paul seems to suggest doing three things. He takes time to process his experience, he looks outside of himself to the Word he knew and he drew on the experience of the Holy Spirit he was given and he internalizes that outside word so that it becomes part of him. We need to do these three things too if we are to live confidently and faithfully in Christ.

Paul took time – a lot of time. First, three years, and then another 14 years of living and working among local people, just doing his work and loving the people among whom God had placed him – before he eventually heads back to the Big time in Jerusalem. He did not seem to be in a hurry to become someone he wasn’t. All this time was the natural process of “working out his salvation”, as he calls it in another letter. He stayed where he was put, constantly processing the huge event of being named and called by God to serve in his world.

Paul looked beyond himself to find God. No doubt, there is a time for self – reflection and even introspection. Paul seemed to automatically know that he needed this time immediately after his Damascus Road experience. He went off to somewhere East of Damascus for three years, he says.

I take this as an acknowledgement that it is okay, and in fact needed, to process what is happening to us, especially when big things happen to us. When life takes a dramatic turn and we sense God’s Spirit doing things that are shifting us sideways in some way, we need to do a Paul and focus on it and reflect internally on it.
But there is no way a man who has been brought up memorizing the OT would have ever only looked inside himself for the confidence to live out the ramifications of what God had done in him. He would have surely looked to Another for spiritual life and wisdom. He would have gone over those well worn stories and events that had shaped him but had now been revolutionized by Jesus in his own mind and spirit. In God’s greater story and experience of God’s presence was confidence to live now.
We can definitely view our baptism as our original “Damascus Road” experience by which we have been given life in God and calling to be his ministers of his Word.

As Paul looks back to his Big moment of calling from Jesus to find confidence to continue on his life’s work in the face of criticism, conflict, harsh words and the pain they cause, so we can look back to our baptism as that sure calling and promise of God that gives us the confidence again that we are still God’s loved people, still called, still having a future in God and a community to which we have the right to belong.

Paul then was able to internalize those big stories of God and his people into his own experience and find integrity, honesty, consistency in world view and yet stay open to “staying in step with the Spirit” as he puts it elsewhere.

Confidence for living the calling of God we have here will come from taking time to process what is happening, consulting outside ourselves, particularly in God’s Word and owning what we find; taking into the heart the things we hear from God through the Word, people and what is around us.

When confident in God and our place in him, we will look in that mirror and overlook the guilt, the trouble, the weaknesses, the pain, the hang-ups and see the “Lion of Judah” instead of a small little pussy cat!

Take time as you sense you need it.

Look outside yourself to the Word and let him speak to you through it and others.

Take what you hear into the heart and let it sit there and practice what you hear.

No need to be in a hurry to become what you are not. The Spirit’s word working in us might take a year or two, or even a decade!

The thing is that we can take the risk of sharing our lack of confidence because He is giving the gift of confidence to live in your place, your body, your history, your skills, all the time.

When we look in the mirror we can see ourselves as the “lion of Judah” and not just that little pussy cat! That’s not because we are so fantastic, but because the Spirit is living and working in us – through the Word, active in others, in our time out, in our pursuits, in the Word, in our relationships.

Courage at ease, today, friends. Confidence to live is ours. Take the time. Remember the Word and the experiences. Remember your baptism, own these internally and put your confidence in the Spirit of Jesus living in you and through you. Amen.