Endure: Letters to Timothy

We’ve read from Paul’s first letter to Timothy these past couple of weeks, and starting next week we’ll read the second letter. So I figure this is as good a time as any to do a sermon series on a book of the Bible.

Paul wrote these letters to Timothy, encouraging him to endure through false teaching, endure through tough times, and endure for the rest of his life.

And as summer is over and life is back to routine craziness, this might be a good time for all of us to be encouraged to endure.

But first a little background on Paul’s letters.

Thirteen books of the New Testament are attributed to Paul, and are either letters he wrote to communities, or in our case today, to individuals.

There’s generally two types of occasions for Paul’s letters….

1: “We are heirs through unfathomable grace to unimaginable glory,” and… 

2: I am, as a personal favor, begging you sick freaks to act normal for five minutes…

The letter to Timothy is probably a mixture of both of those.

We know Paul. He used to persecute Christians, he was struck blind in a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ, and then went on to plant churches all around the Roman empire.

He would set up the churches, leave them in the hands of local pastors, and then move on to the next town. That’s why he wrote all those letters, checking in with the churches in Rome, Corinth, Philippi, etc.

One of those local leaders was Timothy.

We’ll talk more about Timothy’s life next week, but he eventually became the first bishop of Ephesus.

This first letter instructs Timothy on church doctrine, church leadership, and church administration. Basically, it’s an instruction manual on how to run a congregation.

In this first letter, Paul is brutally honest about the realities facing the church. Temptation, false teaching, pride, envy, greed, hypocrisy, shame, brokenness, and sin.

All of it.

Life is hard, and Paul doesn’t sugarcoat it.

The lectionary skips over chapter four, but it has one of the most assuring lines in all of the Bible.

In the midst of all of our hardship and struggle, we have chapter four, verse 10:

For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people…

We have our hope set on the living God, the savior of all people.

All. People.

That’s the message Paul is sharing with Timothy, and that Paul is sharing with us.

That’s the Gospel.

Even in the struggle, even in the heartache, even in the pain, we have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people.

And our hope endures, even when nothing else will…

Maybe you watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday. It was supposedly the most watched broadcast ever.

Can you imagine? An Anglican liturgy is the thing that was watched more than anything else in history.

The beauty of our burial liturgy – of ALL our liturgies, for that matter – is that they are for all people.

Rich and poor. Powerful and weak. Monarch and peasant.

You and me.

As the casket was brought into Westminster Abbey, the choir beautifully sang the opening sentences from the burial liturgy. Two of the are probably familiar to you…

I am the resurrection and I am the life, saith the Lord…

And I know that my redeemer liveth…

But the original 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which is what was used, has a third opening sentence…

We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

That’s from our reading today, from 1 Timothy.

In that sentence we proclaim the Gospel truth that we all stand equal before God.

We bring nothing into this world, and we don’t take anything out.

All we have is the life we live.

The Queen had all the power and privilege and money and fame and everything else she could ever want.

But right now, what does that matter?

What matters for her, and for you and me, is the example she set of a gentle life of faith that endured.

That is our hope, the living God who is the savior of all people.

Rich and poor. Powerful and weak. Monarch and peasant.

You and me.

Paul closes out this first letter to Timothy with encouragement.

These letters are more than an encouragement to endure through hardship.

These letters also encourage us to hold on to things that will endure. And that’s what we’ll look at over the next few weeks.

After six chapters of warnings against false teaching and bad behavior and all the ways we can screw things up, he closes with a reminder of what is important.

Of what is essential.

Of what will endure.

These words rang true for Timothy.

These words rang true for the Queen.

And I pray these words ring true for you and for me…

“But as for you, children of God, shun all worldly things…

Shun power and riches and fame and control and division and hatred and ego…

And pursue good things…

pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, gentleness, endurance….

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called…” (6.11-12)