October 22, 2016
""Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity ...
(2 Timothy 1:8-9)
If you are a sincere follower of Christ, you want to witness more. You long to do more for the spread of the gospel. But, what is holding you back? Many believers go for years, never really sharing their faith with others. Why?
It is the fear that comes from our unwillingness to suffer, pure and simple. Do not try to make it more complicated than this.
Paul constantly exhorts his young disciple, Timothy, to not be afraid. And opening his second letter, he reminds Timothy of a line he must cross—the willingness to suffer for the gospel. This involves our physical bodies, (time, effort, loss of sleep, comfort, etc.), and particularly our emotions, (what people will think of us, our popularity, how it will feel to be ostracized by those who reject us and the gospel we share). It may affect our jobs, our relationships, our families, our friendships. It could affect everything to cross this line.
Look at the people who are constant and effective in their witness for Christ and you will notice that they have purposefully and deliberately made this decision. Here is Paul's great rationale for such a choice.
JOIN WITH ME
Paul was not asking Timothy to go anywhere that he himself was unwilling to go. In fact, he was already there. He was unashamed of the gospel and had suffered and would suffer again for his bold witness. He invites Timothy to join him.
There would be a literal price to pay for this witness and Paul is upfront about the cost. He knew that if Timothy was unaware of this, he would pull back at the first sight of suffering or even the recoil at the thought.
FOR THE GOSPEL
This was the great agenda. There is nothing else worth suffering for, but this was worth it all. The good news had gripped Paul and overwhelmed him, as had the need of those lost without Christ. He couldn’t stop and would pay any price to see this good news communicated because he knew it was the “power of God unto salvation to all who believed” (Romans 1:16).
ACCORDING TO THE POWER OF GOD
Where God would lead, He would also provide. God's power, Paul claimed, would be sufficient for everything that Timothy (or you and I) would ever encounter. We are never alone and never without power when we are in line with God's mission. God will give us the power to witness and the power to endure any suffering that might come.
WHO HAS SAVED US AND CALLED US WITH A HOLY CALLING
This is the greatest incentive. We have been saved by God's grace. And further, we have been called by God Himself with a high and holy calling into God's ""own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus."" How can we shrink back from this salvation and calling?
FOR THIS REASON, I ALSO SUFFER THESE THINGS, BUT I AM NOT ASHAMED
... Paul would say in verse twelve. He was fearless, for He had crossed the line. And he did not merely talk about the gospel, or talk about talking about the gospel, he shared it everywhere, all the time.
I have heard Josef Tson, famous Romanian pastor, share the story of the revival in Romania which ultimately led to the overthrow of communism itself. God showed Tson and other pastors that “taking up the cross” was a physical step. It was the willingness to give your physical bodies to Christ for His use, in whatever way He desired and whatever the cost.
When that line had been crossed and the people cared no more about suffering, they became fearless. What do you do with people who don’t care what you do to them? They began to share everywhere with anyone and became unstoppable. When such unashamed, constant witnessing occurred, the gospel exploded across Romania and a great awakening ensued.
Perhaps the next step for American Christians is to do the same. We are all concerned for our communities and our nation. We are crying out for revival. But the great call to every Christian is to witness everywhere, all the time, with no fear. Our calling is not only to pray for revival, but to die to the suffering that may incur with gospel proclamation, and then get busy gossiping the good news incessantly.
Regardless of what happens in government, elections, media, culture, morality, etc., the bold proclamation of the gospel is the resurgent force we need. What would happen if an unstoppable tidal wave of praying, witnessing believers was unleashed upon our nation?
Paul and our Romanian brothers, (and others where the gospel has rapidly increased), had crossed the line. Will we?
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