A Biblical Perspective on Suffering – 2 Timothy 1:8-18

Series: God Alive Church – a journey through 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus

Last Sunday we started with 2 Timothy and Jinson took us through chapter 1 verse 1-7  (Full sermon on Be Bold in the Lord – 2 Timothy 1:1-7) where we looked at the whole aspect of been bold. Being bold in our witness, being bold in confronting sins within the church, being bold against false teachers.

And we become bold by first remembering each other in prayer, by expressing our faith and exercising our gifts & by relying on the Holy Spirit.

This Sunday we will look at the rest of the verses in chapter 1 i.e verse 8 to 18.

Let’s open our bible to 2 Timothy 1:8-18

In this passage Paul is encouraging Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. What he is saying is do not feel ashamed to be a witness of Christ. But instead he says “share in suffering for the gospel”.

I believe the suffering Paul is talking about is not just a general suffering caused because of sickness and pain in our physical body. But Paul is specifically talking about the suffering caused
– because of the Gospel
– because of our salvation & calling in Christ
– because of us pursuing the purposes of God
– because of us living under the grace of God.

Where do I get that? – I get that from verse 9-12

Share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to[a] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,[b] 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,12 which is why I suffer as I do.

Paul talks about his suffering for the sake of the gospel in 2 Cor 11:22-33

The aspect of suffering is often misunderstood or misinterpreted in our Christian context. It is either perceived as something that every Christian should endure to the extent that they beat their bodies to death or something that needs to rejected and looked upon as a curse from God. Most prosperity gospel preachers will tell you that suffering is not from God and that God only blesses.

And therefore I think it is important that we have the right perspective about suffering before we look at the rest of the verses in 2 Timothy 1.

The truth about Christian suffering is all Christians suffer. Either you have, you are, or you will
Acts 14:22“through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

Romans 8:28 contains some comforting words for those enduring hardship and suffering: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In His providence, God orchestrates every event in our lives—even suffering, temptation and sin—to accomplish both our temporal and eternal benefit.

The psalmist David endured much suffering in his time, and this is reflected in many of his poems collected in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 22, we hear David’s anguish: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry out by day but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’”

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said to his disciples ,”If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Matthew 10:38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me”

Suffering is not just physical but even mental & spiritual. Suffering for the sake of righteousness. Suffering to keep our lives holy by denying ourselves of all our fleshly desires.

Before we look into some practical advices by Paul in the rest of the verses let me share some important biblical truths about suffering.

1. Suffering may come in many forms

The apostle Paul wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).

In these two verses, Paul lists several types of suffering — it includes mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Each of these are different ways that we can suffer, and when suffering comes, often several of these types of suffering are involved.

The Bible doesn’t whitewash our experience of suffering by saying that it’s only one kind of suffering. Rather, it recognizes the multifaceted ways that suffering can come upon us.

2. Suffering happens in community

What I mean by that is suffering should be a shared experience within the local church community or as body of Christ. Galatians 6:2 encourages us to bear one another’s burdens.

Which means when one member of the church body suffers for the sake of the gospel then the whole body needs to carry that person’s burden by empathizing, praying & encouraging one another.

Within the local church body suffering for the gospel should be a shared experience. We don’t suffer alone but we suffer as a community. This truth should give us comfort knowing that we are not alone to carry our burdens.

3. Suffering prepares us for ministry

The third biblical truth about suffering is that it prepares us for ministry

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

A minister of God – David Powlison in his book “Suffering and sovereignity of God” writes

“When you’ve passed through your own fiery trials, and found God to be true to what he says, you have real help to offer. You have firsthand experience of both his sustaining grace and his purposeful design. He has kept you through pain; he has reshaped you more into his image. . . . What you are experiencing from God, you can give away in increasing measure to others. You are learning both the tenderness and the clarity necessary to help sanctify another person’s deepest distress.”

Our suffering when endured with joy and hope equips us to bless and encourage another brother or sister who is going through the same situation.

4. Suffering is a battleground

Wherever there is suffering, there is a battle — a battle for our soul.

The book of Job teaches us that there can be two outcomes of the suffering that come upon our lives. We can either lose our soul by cursing God because of our present suffering or we can preserve our soul by praising God even in the midst of suffering.

5. Suffering prepares us for future glory

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Our natural response to suffering is often avoidance. But God brings suffering in our lives for the sake of our eternal joy — yes, even glory.

I like some of the shared observations and comments that were posted on our bible reading whatsapp group when we were going through the passage 1 Peter on suffering. Let me mention some of them just in case you missed reading it.

One of Jinson’s comment was “Suffering can apply in various ways today. Being insulted or ridiculed because of our commitment to Jesus. Made fun of because we don’t use shortcuts or compromises to get things done.”

Jane’s comment said “suffering is not a surprise but it’s a plan or will of God for our testing, it strengthens our faith. Our sufferings are not just our own but Christ’s which indicates we are united in Christ and He is glorified in our actions and attitudes. When we rejoice, it shows that Christ and not other things are more desirable and precious and that Jesus is the source of the joy we experience”

Suffering is a Plan – I love that statement

And therefore, the prayer that we need to make while we go through suffering is not for God to take away the sufferings from our lives but to ask for help to endure sufferings with joy and rejoicing.

In Romans 5:3 onwards Paul says we need to be rejoicing in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In the light what we now know about suffering what is the encouragement does the rest of the verses in 1 Timothy 1 gives us.

The first encouragement Paul is giving to us is

1. Do not be ashamed (verse 8)

Do not feel ashamed and feel distressed when you suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

Paul is saying this to Timothy as a word of comfort because probably Timothy himself is going through fear and shame.

Imagine, someone like Timothy who Paul laid hands on and identified his gifts, called by God to pastor this influential church in Ephesus actually suffered from the same things we do today — fear and shame in gospel living, gospel ministry and gospel sharing.

The world ashamed is used 4 times in this letter. The fact that it is used this many times in such a short letter shows that it is a natural tendency for Christians to be ashamed of the gospel.

Shame is a powerful deterrent to righteous action. To identify in the presence of others with something they disapprove of is always difficult.

Shame defined:

Feelings associated with (but not limited to) failure, public exposure, disgrace, embarrassment, social rejection, ridicule, and dishonor.

Shame and fear go together.

Pauls teaching in v.7that God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power, love and self control is foundational to what follows. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel!

The second encouragement we get from Paul is found in verse 12 where he mentions “I am convinced that He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me”

Suffering may kill our physical body but it can never destroy the hope within us that has been entrusted to us because God himself and God alone is the one that guards our heart. Which is why we need to have total dependence on Gods sovereignty and plan. Being prayerful at all times asking God to guard and protect our soul from been corrupted by the world and the things of the world.

In times of suffering our dependence should be on God’s ability and not ours.

In Romans 8:28 Paul reminds us that in all things God works together for our good.

The third encouragement we receive from Paul is found in verse 13 where he says “Follow the pattern of the sound words (or teaching, or doctrine) that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”

Especially in times of suffering and hardships it is important for us to guard the truth of the gospel. It is during these times that we easily get swayed away by false doctrines, wrong teachings that take our focus away from Jesus and we make ourselves the center of attraction.

We need to hold on to the truth that Jesus is sufficient, we need to be satisfied in Him no matter what happens around. In times of loss, in times of need, in times of pain, in times of distress, we need to respond in faith and stick to the pattern of sound doctrinal truth that will guard our heart from getting corrupted.

Even in the darkest moments of our life we have to treasure the fact that we are a child of God, loved by him, treasured by him, preserved by him. We need to echo the words of Paul in Phillipians 1:21 no matter what happens “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

To remember that any which ways “My life on earth is temporary” – like grass that withers, flower that falls off. “My suffering is temporary” because in Christ I have a new hope, hope of an eternal life spent in heaven.

When you suffer for the gospel refuse to believe the condemning words of the world, refuse to believe the lies of the enemy that says you are not loved, you are not special, refuse to believe that God is incapable to save you from your suffering. But believe in the sounds words of the scriptures that give us hope.

Ephesians 1:11-14 says The day we put we our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we were destined and appointed to live for the praise of HIS glory. In him we who heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, we who believed, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire the possession of it, to the praise of HIS glory.

These are the words of sound teaching that we need to treasure at all times.

The fourth and final encouragement we receive from Paul is found in verse 14 where he says “By the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you”

Remember, we have been entrusted with the same Gospel, the same truths, the same doctrines, the same deposit that Timothy was. So if it is important for Timothy to hear this word, it is important for us as well. Especially in times of suffering.

This Deposit is good news!
• It ought to be treasured for what it is
• It ought to be boldly shared with …
• dying colleagues,
• dying friends, loved ones & family members
• dying neighbors,
• dying cashiers,
• dying postal workers,
• dying classmates,
• dying commuters
• dying strangers
• dying flight attendants,
• dying peoples in 196 countries of the world.

Just because we’re going through some kind of suffering doesn’t mean that we stop preaching and sharing the gospel.

As parents we need to guard the gospel truths for the sake of our children
As friends we need to guard the gospel truths for the sake of our other friend
As church leaders we need to guard the gospel truths for the sake of our congregation
As members of the body of Christ we need to guard the gospel truths for the sake of our brothers and sisters.

The gospel truths are entrusted to us by God so that we preserve it for our next generation, through suffering, through calamity.

Let’s remember the stalwarts of our faith who endured suffering and even gave their lives for the sake of the gospel.

Acts 6 & 7 records the story of Stephen who was stoned to death for speaking the truth of Jesus Christ.

Peter, the disciple of Jesus was martyred under Nero’s reign. Tradition holds that he was crucified upside down.

A man named Polycrap, who was the disciple of Apostle John. Historians say that Polycrap may have been responsible for compiling the new testament of the bible that we have today. He was burnt alive for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.

John Wycliff, a 14th century theologian responsible for translating the Latin bible into common English. He was killed & His body was exhumed and burned along with many of his writings.

John Huss, a Czech priest was burnt alive for standing the heresy of the catholic church.

William Tyndale, known for his translation of the bible into English was choked to death while tied to the stake and then his dead body was burned

Jim Elliot and his four missionary friends were slaughtered to death for reaching out to the Auca tribe with the gospel of Jesus.

Brothers & sisters, there is huge price that has been paid for Christians martyrs because of which today we are gathered here to celebrate the gospel. People who stood the test of time to guard and preserve the gospel from reaching out to nations.

Finally, as I close I want to encourage each one of you to search your heart this morning and ask these following questions to yourself.

How do you view suffering for the sake of the gospel? What do you believe the word of God says?

Is your heart ready to endure sufferings that glorify God?

Do you feel ashamed to be called a follower of Christ?

Are you convinced that God is able to guard your heart?

Are you holding fast to the sound doctrines of the bible in times of trouble and pain?

Are you guarding and preserving the gospel that is entrusted to you?

And lets come to God and allow him change our hearts this morning and help us live faithfully for the sake of His kingdom.

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