Gospel Benefits (2 Timothy 1:8-9b)
2 Timothy 1:8-9b
Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the book of 2 Timothy, chapter 1, taking a look today at 2 Timothy 1:8-9b. The title of our message this morning is Gospel Benefits. We have started a series of studies to the book of 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy really is about trying to get a young man who is sickly and feeble in a lot of ways, Timothy, who was put in charge of an awesome church at Ephesus to finish the race that God had called him to run in the midst of discouragement. So really the book of 2 Timothy is a call to perseverance. We’re all called to do different things and God wants us to persevere in whatever calling we have.
You remember when we introduced the book we said Paul wrote it, Paul the apostle, and the book was written to Timothy; it was written about A.D. 67. This is Paul’s final book that he composes prior to his death. It was written during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment and really the problem or why it was written relates to Timothy’s timidity. You know, we can call Timothy Timid Timothy, and we’re going to see evidence of that timidity there in verse 7 today.
And what is the book about? He’s telling him to persevere in the midst of fear. There’s a four part outline that we started and I’ll show that to you again in just a second, and this again is Paul’s final word before his death. So chapter 1 is a generic call to faithfulness in the ministry, chapter 1, and that’s the section that we’ve entered into; it’s the first of a four part outline. And Paul is basically telling Timothy in this chapter to continue on, to persevere. We’ve looked the greeting, verses 1 and 2, we’ve looked at the thanksgiving, verses 3-5, Paul sort of begins this book thanking the Lord for Timothy.
And it’s sort of interesting, one of the things that Paul brings up is the fact that the gospel… the fact of the matter is that Timothy was the recipient of a generational transfer of spiritual knowledge. But you see, he had a godly mother and a godly grandmother that persevered in their calling to raise him correctly and because of their perseverance truth transferred from one generation to the next. So Timothy’s heart was ripe for conversion because of the perseverance of his mother and his grandmother who taught him, 2 Timothy 3:15 says the Word of God from infancy. [2 Timothy 3:15, “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”]
So now Paul sort of turns the tables on Timothy and he’s saying look, Timothy, you are the recipient of perseverance. Somebody persevered and you were blessed, now it’s your turn to persevere, it’s your turn to take the baton and hand it off to someone else. And I think that’s a powerful motivation for us because when you think about how the gospel actually got to us we think of the perseverance of Christ on the cross, but look at all of the people God used, maybe a Sunday School teacher, maybe a pastor, maybe an evangelist, maybe something you heard on the radio, something you watched on television, maybe it was at vacation Bible school but somebody persevered somehow and got the gospel to you. So now the message of God is now the baton is in your hand and the question is, are you going to persevere and fulfill God’s calling to bless somebody else. And that’s what he’s really getting at in verse 5.
Now we get into verse 6 and after that we’re going to take a look this morning at verse 7 but in verse 6 he begins to talk about Timothy’s spiritual gift and notice what he says there in 2 Timothy 1:6, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” So you’ll notice, first of all, this expression at the beginning of verse 6, “For this reason.” For what reason? Well, that connects us back to verse 5, the transfer of spiritual know¬ledge from a prior generation to Timothy. What is God interested in? He is interested in that knowledge of spiritual truth continuing to be transferred to the next generation. Timothy, the baton is handed off to you by your mother and your grandmother and now your turn is to hand the baton of truth off to somebody else and that is why God gave you a very special gift called a spiritual gift.
This kind of brings us back to the first book where Paul writes this to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:14, this is the first reference to Timothy’s spiritual gift. Paul says in the first letter, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of my hands by the presbytery.” You see that word “presbytery” and you say I didn’t know there were Presbyterians in the Bible. The word “Presbyterian” is simply a translation of the word elders.
So in essence what had happened is the elders got together, and apparently Paul was involved in this. It doesn’t say it in the first book but you’ll notice in verse 6 Paul talks about “the laying on of my hands,” so Paul was involved. They got together and they laid hands on this young man, Timothy, and they began to pray for him and somehow the Spirit of God revealed to these elders and the Apostle Paul through some kind of prophetic utterance that Timothy had a very special gift and a very special calling.
What spiritual gift did Timothy possess? I believe the gift that he possessed the best is a critical gift for the development of the church and it’s called the gift of pastor-teacher. Paul, in his book to the Ephesians, now remember Timothy is in Ephesus pastoring the church at Ephesus, Ephesus has kind of a paper trail, if you will. 1 Timothy was addressed to Timothy in Ephesus, as was 2 Timothy but Paul also wrote the book of Ephesians to this same flock, from prison, in his first Roman imprisonment. And it’s in the book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 11-16 where Paul begins to unfold the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher. You might just turn in your Bible back to the book of Ephesians just for a minute.
Notice, if you will, Ephesians 4:11-16, because I believe this is a description of the spiritual gift that Timothy possessed. Paul says this: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists,” and then it says, “and some as pastors and teachers,” now the Greek reads as follows, when you look at this in the Greek: “some as a spiritual gift of pastor-teacher.” In other words, there are pastors and then there are teachers, but then there is a very special gift called the gift of pastor-teacher. And that’s what Paul is describing here in Ephesians 4:11.
Now why was this gift given? Verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper outworking of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
This is a phenomenal paragraph here because it begins to describe how the church began, with a certain foundation of apostles and prophets, and then it begins to describe a spiritual gift that’s in operation for the continuing edification of the church after the foundation has been laid. And in the process Paul describes this gift, called the gift of pastor-teacher, written to the same flock that Timothy was pastoring over so they were familiar with this gift from Paul’s writings.
Why did God give this gift to the church? It exists to equip the saints for the work of service. Isn’t that interesting? We have this idea that the ministry belongs to the preacher and the piano player but the fact of the matter is the ministry, if you want to really understand this the way God explains it in the New Testament, the ministry belongs to the whole body of Christ. I run into Christians and they say you know, I’m thinking about going into the ministry. And my answer is always the same, are you a Christian? Yes I am. Well, you’re already in the ministry, congratulations!
So the gift of pastor teacher equips the saints so they can be built up properly, so they can begin to use their various gifts and spirits and talents and what happens as a result? The body of Christ is built up and starts to become mature. Well, what does maturity look like? We start to have unity, we no longer say I follow Apollos, I follow Paul, I follow Cephas, we’re no longer divided on silly lines that don’t exist in the Scripture. We have a unity in the faith and we begin to attain, verse 13, “a knowledge of the Son of God,” we begin to grow in our intellectual understanding of the things of God. In other words, we have more than a John 3:16 mentality. [John 3”16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”]
You know, a lot of Christians get saved on John 3:16 and they stay in John 3:16 their whole spiritual life. But the fact of the matter is God has given us 66 books here, hasn’t He? There’s a lot more here than John 3:16. Praise God for John 3:16, but there’s a lot more to learn about Christianity than John 3:16. So we begin to develop a knowledge. The body of Christ starts to become mature and what does maturity look like? “…we are no longer children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” [Ephesians 4:14]
It’s interesting that a young, a very young child, when they’re still crawling on the ground, anything that they see on the ground they will put in their mouth. They have virtually no discernment, you know, this is good for me, this is bad for me. They don’t understand that, anything they see goes in their mouth. And it’s cute when a child is crawling and doing that; when the child is sixteen and still doing that you have a developmental problem. Right?
What is an immature Christian? An immature Christian is someone that anything they hear they just absorb it and take it to heart; anything they hear that’s purported by a spiritual leader, any book they read, anything they hear on media, anything they read on the internet as long as there’s a Bible verse with the name Jesus in there somewhere, they absorb it. So they don’t really understand that there’s true doctrine and there’s false doctrine. But you see, as a newborn babe in Christ begins to develop, as they begin to mature, suddenly they start to develop a spiritual sensitivity, suddenly they begin to develop a sense of screening, and they can start to discern for themselves—I heard something over here and it doesn’t sound quite right because it doesn’t import with what I know about the Bible, so I will keep that out of my mind but someone else over here said something that’s consistent with the Bible so I will absorb that.
And so consequently as we begin to mature “we are no longer . . . tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness” and “scheming.” Now I’ve been a Christian since 1983 and I have seen in my time as a Christian several fads, just like we have fads in the fashion world, sometimes clothes are in fashion and if you just keep them long enough, even though they go out of fashion they’ll eventually come back into fashion, because we have these fashion fads that go through society.
In the same way you have these sort of “fads” that go through the body of Christ; things become very popular and then all of a sudden they die off and they’re replaced by some other fad. I remember just a few years ago the big fad that was in was The Prayer of Jabez, everybody was into this prayer of Jabez, in fact, they had prayer of Jabez study guides and prayer of Jabez small groups and prayer of Jabez sermons, and all these kinds of things. Now today no one even talks about the prayer of Jabez. What happened? It was just a fad that sort of came through the church and disappeared. But the mature Christian can see it for what it is; it’s a fad. The immature Christian just jumps right on the bandwagon.
So he’s giving here a very clear description of the difference between mature Christianity and immature Christianity; mature Christianity also is replicated this way, verse 15, we have the ability to speak “the truth in love,” I find speaking the truth is the easy part; speaking it in love is a little bit more difficult, isn’t it? You see, the mature Christian can speak truth, not in an angry way but in a loving way. That’s a sign of maturity. And consequently we begin to grow up and we begin to be held together and then it talks about, in this paragraph, how each individual part starts to work so the ministry is no longer seen as belonging to a few people, all people begin to minister, and the church of Jesus Christ begins to build itself up “in love.”
And notice what precipitates this whole growth process after the foundation of the church is laid through the apostles and the prophets. It’s the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher. What, then, is the gift of pastor-teacher? I believe you can define it this way: it is the ability to teach the Word of God in a way that’s accurate but understandable to people, in a way that’s relevant to their lives, in a way that helps them to develop and grow and become all that they are called to become in Christ Jesus.
If you’re coming to a church with somebody occupying the pulpit with the gift of pastor-teacher you will find yourself week in and week out equipped. Equipped for what? Equipped for your ministry, equipped for your life, equipped for your activities, equipped for the struggles and the valleys that you’re in. You see, this is a critical and important gift that God has given to the body of Christ, and Timothy possessed it. And yet you get this idea as you read verse 6 that Timothy had shrunk back from the use of that gift, because Paul has to tell him to kindle it afresh.
Now why had Timothy shrunk backwards from the use of this gift, which is so significant and important to the health and the development of the body of Christ? Well, in our first week together we went over many reasons why Timothy had become timid. Number 1, he was young. Number 2, he was sickly. Number 3, he was facing constant opposition. Number 4, his mentor is now in his second Roman imprisonment. Timothy probably thought to himself if I am too bold, like Paul was, I’ll get thrown in jail with him; I don’t want that. So there were a number of forces at work in Timothy’s life that was causing him to shrink backwards. And if Timothy is to shrink backwards in his calling then the church begins to suffer developmentally.
In fact, how does God equip His church. The answer, we are not going to spend a lot of time on this verse today because we’ll be spending time on it later in the series, but the answer is in 2 Timothy 3, same book, verses 16-17, it’s very clear. It says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for” what? “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequately, equipped for” 95% good works… oh, I’m sorry, it doesn’t say that, “so that the man of God may be adequately, equipped for every good work.”
See, the formula here is very simple. God equips His people through His Word. When you spend time in God’s Word, studying it on your own, which is something we all should be doing, you’ll find yourself, as the Spirit of God is illuminating it to you, you’ll find yourself being equipped for life, how to live for God in a hostile world. And as the gift of pastor-teacher is functioning properly and you’re sitting under that ministry week after week, what is happening is you also are being equipped by God’s Word. And yet Timothy was shrinking back in his calling. Timid Timothy!
And Paul is simply making a very simple statement here and he’s saying this: Timothy, you have a gift from God, God gave it to you to use. Isn’t that novel? God gives us gifts to use. And Timothy was not using this gift that had been revealed as the elders, including Paul, had laid hands on Timothy. Timothy, in other words, was a steward of something, because it’s very clear here as you look at verse 6 that the gift is not something Timothy worked up in His own flesh, it’s something that God gave him.
So when God gives you a gift you become a steward. Now what is a steward? A steward is different than an owner. We don’t own our spiritual gifts. A steward is a manager. And Paul, in his other writings is very clear as to what the obligation of a steward or manager is. It says in 1 Corinthians 4:2, one of Paul’s earlier books Paul writes this, 1 Corinthians 4:2, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Or another way of saying it is faithful, or consistent.
It’s very interesting to me that stewards are not even called to be successful; see, we’re so focused on success and yet the standard of God is not even success, however you define that, it is in being faithful to what God has given you. Remember what Jesus said? “Well done, thy good and” successful servant? Oh, I’m sorry, it doesn’t say that, “Well done, thy good and” what, “faithful servant.” So Timothy was shrinking backward and consequently he was not being a good steward over what God had given to him.
Now this raises a very interesting subject and that’s this whole issue of spiritual gifts because as you get into this what you’ll discover is the gift of pastor-teacher is not the only spiritual gift. In fact, there are spiritual gifts of many different varieties that may never lead you to stand behind a pulpit and publicly proclaim or teach the Word of God.
What is a spiritual gift? A spiritual gift, simply put, is a Spirit-empowered ability to serve God in a special way. It’s interesting that Jesus, in the Upper Room, in John 13 got down on his knees and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Jesus, in so doing, exemplified servanthood. What, then, are spiritual gifts? They are abilities that God gives us to wash the feet of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. These are not gifts given to gain popularity, they are not gifts given to make money, their primary purpose is to allow a person to serve the body of Christ, to serve a fellow Christian in a very, very special way. And so this subject of spiritual gifts doesn’t just affect Timothy, it affects all of us, doesn’t it? Spiritual gifts are expressions of the grace of God.
Peter gets into this act here of spiritual gifts, and in 1 Peter 4:10 he says this: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards,” there’s that word again, stewardship, “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice this concept of “the manifold grace of God.” Sort of the idea here is the different colors of the rainbow—technicolor. Think of all of the different colors of the rainbow.
That is what begins to appear in the body of Christ as we each become faithful in the use of our various spiritual gifts. When I use my spiritual gift one color of the rainbow appears; you being to use your spiritual gift, another color of the rainbow appears. The person next to you uses their spiritual gift, another color appears. And as we all become faithful in simply doing what God has called us to do, in other words, being ourselves and how God has designed us or wired us, a beautiful tapestry emerges; a beautiful rainbow emerges.
But if I shrink backwards and stop using my spiritual gift, one color of the rainbow disappears. If you stop using your spiritual gift another color of the rainbow disappears. If the person next to you stops using their spiritual gift, for whatever reason, another color disappears. And the manifold grace of God, which God wants so abundantly displayed in his church begins to disappear.
How would you discover the concept of spiritual gifts in the Bible? It’s very simple, you just memorize the pneumonic device, 12, 12, 4, 4. Those each stand for chapters in the Bible. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. One more time, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. If you were to sit down this afternoon and you were to just spend, I don’t know… five minutes, ten minutes, reading through those four chapters you would have in front of you all of the data that the Holy Spirit has revealed concerning the various gifts of the Spirit. All kinds of different gifts, helping gifts, speaking gifts as in teaching or preaching, mercy, hospitality, giving and on and on we could go, evangelism.
These are all gifts that God wants in operation in His church. And one of the things that’s very interesting to me when I study the spiritual gifts is the repetition of the word “each.” Peter, in 1 Peter 4:10 says this, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another,” notice the emphasis on serving, these gifts exist to serve “one another.” But notice that Peter says, “As each one has received a special gift,” and you might look at yourself and say well, I don’t have any gifts, I don’t have any special talents or calling. Well, I’m just telling you what the Bible says, it says the word “each.” You’re gifted; you may not see yourself as gifted but the Bible declares that to be so.
Paul repeats this word “each” in 1 Corinthians 12:7, he says: “…each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” There’s the word “each” again. Ephesians 4:7 says this: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
What are your responsibilities related to spiritual gifts? What is the responsibility of Timothy related to the unique spiritual gift of pastor-teacher that God had given him? Three simple steps, these all begin with the letter D. Number 1, discover; number 2, develop; number 3, deploy. Those are our responsibilities. Number 1, discover because it says each of us has a gift or gifts. Number 2, develop, number 3 deploy.
Now how do you begin to discover your spiritual gifts? I think it’s not as complicated as everyone makes it out to be. I remember in high school the kids that were good at high jump in track would just sort of gravitate towards that sport. The kids that were good at football would just sort of gravitate towards that sport. The kids that were good at mathematics would just sort of gravitate towards those classes that emphasized mathematics. Or whatever someone happens to be good at it’s sort of something that just calls you, you just sense it, and you’re sort of drawn into that realm or that arena and I believe that this concept of spiritual gifts sort of works the same way. You just sort of have a natural yearning, a natural calling for, a natural drawing to a particular area of ministry that God has gifted you in.
And there is another factor that I think also has to be at work because unfortunately our hearts can be wicked and many people want to have a particular gift and use a particular gift for some kind of self-serving motive. Some people want to get up and sing or preach and teach, not because they are particularly gifted at it but because they like to be in front of other people. So having a desire to do something is really not enough because what is the purpose of these spiritual gifts? 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” See, the gift isn’t for you. Certainly you’ll experience a very deep level of satisfaction when you are in your realm of giftedness, but God didn’t give the gift just for you. He gave it for somebody else that He wants to bless through you.
1 Corinthians 14:26, of spiritual gifts says this: “Let all things be done for edification.” So when you find yourself drawn to a particular area of ministry, whatever it might be, and you think of this church, think of all the different things that go on here. You know, administration, financial issues, PowerPoint, lighting, the folks are going over there after the service to minister in the nursing home, missionaries that were just up here speaking of their time in China, I mean, there’s just a lot of variety and diversity.
So you find yourself being called to a particular area and we learn that these gifts exist to edify somebody else, so what begins to happen is you start to receive, in an unsolicited manner, comments from people. You know, gee, when you do such and such I’m really blessed. When you do so and so I’m really blessed. And once you have a desire to do something and feedback begins to come your way that somebody else is blessed because of what you’re doing, now you’ve got not just one factor working, a desire, but you’ve got two factors working. And once those two factors begin to work then you begin to enter, and I believe the Holy Spirit is showing you what your particular area of giftedness is. That’s how you discover your gift or gifts; you are drawn to something and it begins to bless somebody else when you do it.
I believe this, that most Christians have more than one spiritual gift. Don’t put God in a box on this. Don’t say I’m only going to do X or I’m only going to do Y. God can use you in a variety of different areas, and how those areas need to be filled for the proper functioning of Christ’s church. So that’s the discovery stage.
Then you begin to develop your gift. You begin to develop your gift through perpetual use. That’s how the gift is developed and that sort of becomes a life plan. Some people might be thinking about seminary or Bible college; seminary or Bible college is a good thing but it’s not for everybody. It really relates to what your specific area of giftedness is. Once I discovered that basically God had gifted me as a teacher and I didn’t want to stand up in front of people and say wrong things. Then you begin to say well, maybe I need some education in this. I mean, after all, the Bible wasn’t written in English was it? It was written in Greek and Hebrew and so maybe I should learn a little something about the original languages of the Bible. Now that is a developmental stage for me but it may not be a developmental stage for you. Your area of development really relates to what God wants to produce through your life.
And then you begin to deploy your gift; you begin to understand what ministry assignments you say yes to, because you can’t say yes to everything. Some people try to do that but they don’t last very long in the ministry or in the life of any church, they quickly burn out. You can’t do everything, so what kinds of things do you say yes to; what kind of things do you pursue? That really relates to how God has equipped you and how God has wired you.
Proverbs 18:16 puts it this way: “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” It is shocking, once you’re in your realm of giftedness, where God will take you. It will take you places that you never thought were possible. Why is that? Because the function of gifts is to bless other people, and God will begin to deposit you, once He finds you as a faithful steward, in the presence of individuals who need what you have to offer. And all of this relates to this realm of stewardship; once again 1 Corinthians 4:2, it says, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” One of these days God is going to say what did you do with that gift I gave you? Did you bury it in the sand or did you begin to actively use it as I was seeking to use you to build My church.
You see, because gifts are not ours and they come from God, there is a time in history when God is going to bring us to an accounting and wonder what we did with those gifts, gift or gifts, that He has given us. And you see, Timothy was going the exact opposite direction. He was not being a faithful steward at this point in his ministry. He was being unfaithful. That’s why Paul says, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
And Timothy’s gift was not an ordinary gift; it was a gift, as Paul has already explained in the book of Ephesians, of extraordinary development for the growth of the church, particularly important as the apostles and the prophets were leaving the scene, because the foundation had been laid. And if the gift of pastor-teacher in that next generation does not come into operation then what can be built on the foundation that has been laid? Nothing! And that’s why Paul is concerned about Timothy and his timidity.
Now how do we know that Timothy was timid? We know that from the very next verse. Notice, if you will, 2 Timothy 1:7, right after Paul deals with this subject of spiritual gifts, or gifting in Timothy, what does Paul say? “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Nero was on the throne, the Neronian persecution had started, Paul was in prison and he was about to be executed. Timothy was young, Timothy was sickly, beyond that people within the church at Ephesus were rising up constantly against Timothy. Timothy probably felt he was way in over his head given the prominence of the church at Ephesus in the first century world, and you could see how this young man was succumbing to fear.
And many of us are just like that, we never really arrive at what we’re supposed to be doing because there is something that stands in our way blocking us constantly, called fear: fear of rejection, fear of being ostracized, fear of failure. There are any number of insecurities that can overwhelm us and cause us to shrink back and consequently not be faithful in our calling.
And so consequently Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear. What, instead has He given us? He has given us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, love, discipline, and power. So Timothy, if you feel afraid, if you feel intimidated, if you feel insecure, if you feel you’re in over your head, then those feelings are not coming from God. They’re not coming from the Spirit of God within you because the Spirit of God within you wants to give you love, power and discipline.
Fear is not part of the package God has given you. In fact, 1 John says perfect love casts out all fear. [1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear….”] So if we’re in a state of fear over the use of our gifts and service to Christ you can bank on this for sure, that those feelings of insecurity don’t come from God. Well, if they don’t come from God, where do they come from. There’s only three other sources they could come from. Number 1, the devil himself and the fallen angels who are trying to neutralize us constantly. Number 2, the world system that we live in, which is controlled, as 1 John tells us, by lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. [1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”]
The world system makes this whole subject of Christianity and service to God look strange and weird. Well, of course it’s strange and weird to people who don’t have the Spirit of God in them. But we are so afraid of being mocked or laughed at by the world system that we shrink backwards. You know, even at this conference that I was at one of the speakers said you know what the biggest fear of people is today, under the age of 20, why they’re not stepping forward and serving Christ the way prior generations have, is because they are afraid of being made fun on Saturday Night Live. That’s what’s holding back a whole generation. In the meantime you’ve got Christians on the chopping block through ISIS, being decapitated and we have a whole generation coming up that’s afraid of being made fun of on Saturday Night Live.
What’s going on here? It’s the world system that’s coming in and producing fear and insecurity. If this fear doesn’t come from God where does it come from? It comes from the devil, it comes from the world system, or it comes from our fallen nature, the sin nature that’s within us, that is within us at the point of conception, that will be in you until the point of your resurrection. The old fallen nature, the old fallen man, constantly rebels against the things of God and produces feelings of doubt and insecurity and fear.
And consequently Paul tells Timothy that these feelings of insecurity that you are no doubt experiencing do not come from the Spirit. You know that you are acting consistently with the Spirit if you are operating out of power, love and discipline. But what if I’m not operating out of power, love and discipline but instead timidity? Then you are not operating out of the power of the Spirit; you are operating out of the spirit of something else, whether it be the world, the flesh or the devil.
I started to think about this, this subject of fear. And by the way, this is a wonderful website and you can find this on our sermon page, archive page, I have the PowerPoint there, but on this single page this particular individual puts every verse in the Bible that deals with fear on one page around the giant red words in the middle which says FEAR NOT. I was sort of shocked to discover that the Bible tells us not to fear at least 80 times, it might even be closer to 100 times. As a matter of fact, almost every time Jesus turns around and speaks to his disciples this expression comes out of His mouth, fear not, do not be afraid, do not let your heart be troubled, these kinds of things.
Just a few examples, don’t worry, I won’t give you all 80, but just a handful. A very famous one is Joshua 1:8-9b, you need to pray this over your kids as you’re sending them out for school during the week, and you need to audibly speak this to them. This is what it says: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” And I understand, we’re not under the law of Moses today, don’t worry, I haven’t thrown out my dispensationalism. But the trans-dispensational perspective goes all the way through the Bible, “Be strong and courageous” in God.
Proverbs 29:25 comes to mind, it’s also on this giant chart that this individual created. “The fear of man brings a snare,” what’s a snare? It’s a trap. When we’re afraid of man, when we elevate man’s opinion more highly than God’s opinion and that causes us to shrink back in our calling, we are in a trap. “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”
I am also reminded of Matthew 10:28, as Jesus was sending out the twelve disciples in a hostile environment to preach the good news of the kingdom as the kingdom was being offered to first century Israel, this is what Jesus said: “Do not fear those who can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Many times in our thinking we’re so intimidated by man’s point of view and man’s perspective when in reality the very worst thing man can do for you is take your life. That’s the worst they can do. They have no authority, a man has no authority over your eternity, he has no authority over your soul and so Jesus reminds these disciples as they are being put into this hostile environment, “Do not fear those who can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” In other words, fear God rather than man. How different American Christianity would be if we placed a greater premium on God’s opinion rather than on the fallen world system and what it thinks of us.
Isaiah 41:10 says this, God says this: “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” And of course, as I mentioned before, the teachings of Jesus, John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hear be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Apparently God is somewhat serious about this subject of fear because let me give you a historical example of a generation that caved in to fear. It’s the first generation that came out of Egypt, you’ll recall they were in this land called Goshen, for about 400 years, you know the book of Exodus, you know about the ten plagues, you know about the drying up of the Red Sea, how they miraculously passed onto dry land, God drowned the Egyptians in their rear view mirror and God sustained them through manna and water and miraculous provision all the way to Mount Sinai. And they heard the voice of God and received God’s Law at Sinai, sometimes in the Bible called Horeb.
Now how long of a distance is it from Sinai to Canaan, which was their destination? Deuteronomy 1:5 says it was eleven days. [Deuteronomy 1:2, “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.”] I mean, God has sustained you all for 400 years, and by the way, look at what He did to bring you out of Egyptian bondage and sustain you and give you the Law, you can surely trust Him for eleven days, can’t you?
We know how that ended up, it was tragic. They got there to the southern border of the land of Israel, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land that God wanted to bring this generation in and they looked into the land and what did they see? They saw giants. And what they should have done is say to themselves, well, what’s a few giants, I mean God just parted the Red Sea, didn’t He, He can help us with these giants. But you see, the Bible teaches, and here’s the key, they became grasshoppers in their own eyes.
They stopped looking at life’s problems through the divine point of view and began to look at life’s problems through the limited finitudes of man. And of course if you look at life through your own resources you get fearful because life is bigger than we are. Circumstances in life are bigger than we are. Yet if you look at those problems through God’s resources, suddenly our problems don’t look so big, do they? And they took their eyes off God and they put their eyes on themselves; they fell into fear and God said I’m done with you all; none of this generation is going to enter the land.
Now many people will teach these people all died and went to hell. I don’t think that’s what it’s teaching at all. You have a big problem theologically if you say that because then you have to also say Moses went to hell because Moses didn’t enter either. What they forfeited was not salvation, they already had salvation, they already had initial faith. What they forfeited was a blessing which was within their fingertips, which they could have had if they had just trusted this God who had proven Himself so faithful for eleven days. So eleven days turns into forty years and God says okay, I’ll let you all, a million and a half of you, walk around here in the desert until you all drop dead. Now somebody has calculated the number of funerals per day there was, I don’t remember that number, but you can do the math, I mean, they had a lot of memorial services, a lot of funerals.
And God says all right, I’m going to work with your children. Everybody, I believe the Bible says twenty and under I’ll start working with, a new generation. Now Caleb and Joshua, you’re going to be allowed to enter with the kids as senior citizens, you’re going to be in your 80’s, because you are the only two that trusted Me. The rest of you are shut off from a blessing.
Numbers 14:11 puts it this way, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” Numbers 14:27 says, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.”
So the root cause of it is unbelief; unbelief is the root of the problem. That lead to fear, that led to evil, Numbers 14:27, that led to grumbling and complaining. You see, if you’re constantly, as a Christian, grumbling and complaining and some people apparently feel their spiritual gift is grumbling and complaining, then the root of the problem is really something going on in the heart which is related to unbelief. And you look at that whole story and you say is God serious about caving into fear? Apparently He’s very serious about it. It’s a great offense to Him because an entire generation was cut off from Canaan because of this.
In the New Testament, Revelation 21:8 also shows us the seriousness of God about this because it describes the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire. It describes the characteristics of the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire. This is what it says: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
That is a verse that I just find fascinating. Why is that? Because before it mentions “murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars,” before it mentions any of those terrible characteristics it mentions these two characteristics, “the cowardly and the unbelieving.” If I were writing the Bible I would probably put murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and liars first on the list. God doesn’t do that. The very first characteristic that describes the unbeliever is someone that is a coward. Where does cowardice come from? Cowardice comes from unbelieving, or lack of faith. “Without faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.” [Hebrews 11:6]
How do you know that you are operating in faith? Your level of fear starts to subside. How do you know that you’re not walking in faith? Because you’re afraid and fearful and intimidated and sometimes we can get scared of our own shadows. That’s not a person operating in faith. In fact, the book of Proverbs says, the wicked flee when no one is even chasing them. [Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”] So the characteristics of the unsaved, which obviously the Spirit of God is not replicating in God’s people, but the characteristics of the unsaved is characterized by cowardice and unbelieving.
Is God serious about this subject of being courageous in our service to Him. I would submit to you God is very serious about this. And let me tell you something about fear; fear is no excuse. God will not accept, as an excuse, fear. How do I know that? I know it because of the parable of the talents. You remember that parable, Matthew 25:14 and following, it says this, Jesus spoke this: “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”
Verse 24 picks up the story this way: As the one who had bestowed the various talents, which are monetary sums, but we can analogize this to spiritual gifts, one of the individuals that received just one talent, God calls him to an account for how he used that single talent, and this is what the Bible says.  “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.” Watch this,  “‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’  But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave,’” wow, those are sharp words, aren’t they? “‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.  Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”
You’ll notice that this guy was afraid and that was no excuse as far as Christ was concerned. I am completely aware of the dispensational issue here, that this governs the nation of Israel under the prior dispensation and I understand that we have to make a dispensational transition as we apply it to ourselves. So this may not be directly on point but there is a trans dispensational principle that applies throughout time. And that trans dispensational principle is God will not accept fear as an excuse. If you find yourself fearful and not investing your spiritual gift or gifts the way God wants you to and you are shrinking back the same way Timothy was here, that will be no excuse on the day of judgment, in this case the judgment of rewards, the Bema Seat Judgment.
And the fact of the matter is, we all have feelings of fear, all the time. But we have to reach a point where we start to behave our way into good emotions. See, a lot of people won’t do anything unless they have the proper emotion, and I think that’s completely backwards. We have all kinds of emotions. How many of you can’t wait to get up and go to work on Monday morning. I mean, if you just followed your emotions or your feelings you would never get out of bed, at least I’d never get out of bed, because many times I don’t want to. But isn’t it interesting that when you get up and you get productive and you start doing what God wants you to do how the good feelings follow many times.
So we don’t sit around and wait for good feelings before we serve the Lord, we behave our way into good feelings. We step out, we take a risk, we try something that God, we think, is calling us to. And it’s very interesting that when we step out and do that how the proper emotions and the proper feelings start to follow.
Just as a way of personal testimony, public speaking is the greatest fear, according to surveys, next to death. When people are asked what are your two greatest fears they say, number 2, dying, but number 1, public speaking. Public speaking was something and if you talk to my wife, as I was a basket case on the way over to Denver, you don’t see that side of me, is, was and is, a fear of mine. In fact, I remember in college I would pick a class, I would sign up for the class, I would go the first day, I would look at the syllabus that was passed out and if there was anything related to a public class presentation, a public speech, even something like a book report, I would drop the class and try to take another professor, another semester who didn’t have that requirement.
Public speaking was a fear. And I was very irritated in that state because God kept putting me in a position where I had to stand up in front of people and talk. Even in Campus Crusade someone would get sick, oh, let’s have Andy get up and pray. I mean, why are you picking on me, I’m just a quiet guy in the back. And I began to see through this, over and over again, that God wanted me to stand up and talk. I didn’t want to, it was a fear. And yet you have to reach a point where you begin to crash through the fear.
If there is something, and it’s kind of hilarious today because basically all I do is go around and talk in front of people, that’s my whole life. And yet that was like a major phobia, if I can use that word, or a fear, in my youth. It’s not just me plagued with that, many people are plagued with that. Maybe God is calling you to get up and speak; maybe He’s calling you to do something else. But the fact of the matter is there’s fear associated with that and here’s how you know that God wants you to do something: you’re afraid to do it, but you feel something inside of you compelling you to do it over and over again. And the circumstances keep arising where you’re forced to do it but you don’t want to do it.
If that’s happening in your life over and over again at some point you start to have to be honest with the Holy Spirit and say you know, God, are You calling me to this, I don’t want to do it. But then we are reminded of 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of timidity. [2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”]
God told Jonah, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to go to Nineveh, which is in the east. What did Jonah do? He went to Tarshish, or Spain, which is in the west, 180 degrees outside of the will of God. He was afraid to do something. And yet, we know how that story ended, how God worked in his life and he ended up doing what God called him to do.
Let me tell you something, God will pester you until you do what He has called you to do. And as you start to do what He has called you to do, do you know what you’re going discover? It wasn’t that bad after all. As a matter of fact, I kind of like doing this. I remember when I was at a Baptist Church and the Sunday School teacher and the pastor was leaving for a week and he asked me to preach the message, and I did not want to do it. I got into the pulpit shaking like a leaf, but then the sermon came and went, people were blessed, and you know, it really wasn’t that bad. And I started thinking to myself, man, I hope he gets sick more often, I kind of enjoy this. And see, that’s what you discover as you being to crash through the fear barrier and we begin to behave our way into proper emotions.
The two lessons from today are the use of spiritual gifts, the importance of spiritual gifts, and the need to courageously apply those gifts in the proper use and functioning of God’s church, which is what Christ wants.
And of course, you could be here today and have no relationship with God at all, you don’t know anything about spiritual gifts because you don’t have a relationship to the gift-giver. And if you’re in that situation our answer to you is called good news, which is what the gospel means. It’s good news because Jesus did it all. Everything necessary to usher us into a relationship with God Jesus did. There is no human merit or work that can be added to it. So we simply trust, or another way of saying that is to believe in the transaction of Christ. We’re no longer trusting ourselves, our own merit, our own goodness, our own denominational background, our own stellar performance, to get us right with God. We trust in what He has done in our place.
And it’s something you can do right now in the privacy of your own mind and heart and thoughts as the Spirit of God is placing you under conviction. The Spirit of God has come into the world to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment; sin, hamartia, singular, is defined later on in the passage as unbelief. We need to believe or trust in Jesus Christ; that’s what gives us a relationship with God through what Christ has done. And now in that relationship with God we begin to grow further and we begin to discover these teachings about spiritual gifts, and our need to discover, develop and deploy in a courageous manner.
Becoming a Christian is not a ten step program, or a twelve step program, it’s a one step program, it’s something you can do in the privacy of your own heart, mind and thoughts as the Spirit of God places you under conviction. The best you know how, trust in Christ, it’s not something you raise a hand to do, join a church to do, pledge to do better to do, it’s a moment of privacy between you and the Lord, where you trust exclusively in what Jesus has done. And if it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. If it’s something you’ve done in the past or something you’re doing now, then you’ve changed your eternal destiny. Shall we pray.