An old Bulgarian proverb reads as follows: “God promises a safe landing but not a calm passage.”
1. What are some ways we’ve seen this to be true in our lives? (One example comes right out of the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery but in the end recognized that what his brothers meant for evil God used for good.)
We’ve all been through difficult times in our lives and wondered how God could possibly use it for good. One example from my life: In 1987 I was part-time Minister of Music in a church in Lawton. I realized I could no longer in good conscience work with the pastor. I resigned my position and we moved our membership to a sister church in Lawton. There God opened up an opportunity to serve that would not have been there had I stayed at the other church. That opportunity led to full-time ministry just three short years later.
(Read the following paragraph out of the Personal Study Guide for this quarter page 73.)
“We all face seasons of disappointment. As followers of Christ we don’t receive an exemption card that allows us immunity from hardships and heartbreaks. The Lord assured us that we would face tribulation. He also promised that He would never forsake us no matter how menacing the tribulation. Every trial provides us the choice to focus on the problem or to focus on His empowering grace. The decision we make can make a difference between victory and defeat.”
2. What factors contribute to a hardship sharpening or souring a person’s view of life? (Our focus makes all the difference in the world. If our focus is on ourselves our view will be sour, but if our focus is on God and His will for our lives we will be sharpened spiritually.)
Consider Peter and the other apostles in Acts 5:40-41.
Today we’re going to learn how God’s grace and the gospel help us face the trials of life and remain focused on living for Christ through all circumstances.
Future Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Paul ended chapter one by mentioning those who had deserted the faith. “Therefore” in verse 1 is saying, “In light of what I told you about them, you need to stand strong.”
1. Why did Paul encourage Timothy to stay strong? (Because it is so easy to become weak in our spiritual walk, especially when we face trials and opposition. It takes intentionality to stay strong in our faith.)
2. What is the source of strength to which Paul pointed Timothy? (The grace of the Lord Jesus. I heard a song recently that encouraged people who thought they had sinned beyond God’s grace to forgive. There is a phrase in the song that says, “There is nothing stronger than grace.” In other words you can’t out-sin God’s grace.)
Timothy’s strength would not be found within himself. Only because he understood and relied on God’s unmerited favor toward him would he succeed. Not only is our conversion a gift of God’s grace, but also our ongoing victory in living the Christian life.
Paul called on Timothy to pass on to others the things which had been taught to him, who will in turn also teach others.
3. Why was it so important for Timothy to prepare another generation to lead? (As we mentioned last week, we are only one generation away from paganism.)
4. What was Timothy to teach this next generation? (The truths that Paul had taught and preached, not only to Timothy but “in the presence of many witnesses…” Of course, we would expect Timothy to also teach the truths Paul wrote to him in his letters.)
5. How would you describe the process Paul laid out for Timothy to follow? (Disciples making disciples who make disciples!)
6. What were the character traits of those Timothy was to disciple? (Faithful men who would be consistent and able to teach the truths they were taught.)
7. If our class started a new class every 18 months what would our Sunday School Department look like in ten years? (If each averaged 10 that would be another 70 people. That is what disciples making disciples looks like!)
Deciding early as Christians what kind of impact we want to have on our families and communities demands we order our steps accordingly. Without a plan for passing on the faith, the church decreases in power with each succeeding generation. Christians can’t complete their part in God’s redemptive plan without a strategy for reaching the next generation.
Mission Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Paul used three metaphors as symbols of the Christian life: the faithful soldier, the disciplined athlete, and the hardworking farmer.
These three illustrations show us, not simply a way to make a living, but a commitment to a way of life.
The reference to “recruiter” in verse 4 is a term that meant not only recruiter but commander. In Paul’s day, soldiers were everywhere you went in the Roman Empire. There were approximately 28 legions of some 6,000 troops each. Everyone knew what Paul was talking about when he mentioned what was required of a soldier!
1. In what sense are Christians to be like soldiers? (The “Recruiter” and “Commander” is Jesus Christ, Himself. Our entire lives are to be centered on Him and His will for our lives, focused on the task, totally committed. Not a way to make a living but a lifestyle!)
2. In what sense are Christians to be like athletes? (Disciplined, striving for the very best, trained, and being obedient to God—following the rules for a godly life.)
3. In what sense are Christians to be like farmers? (They have an investment in the crop—their hard work. They must stay focused on the harvest and the rewards of the harvest.)
4. How is discipline applied to the Christian life? (Just as we discipline our bodies for exercise, we discipline our minds and our actions to be obedient to God, to make Him our #1 priority. We must remember that the activities we call disciplines, like prayer, Bible study, worship, etc are not an end in themselves. They are all designed to help us know God and know Him more intimately. When we practice these disciplines, it should be from a desire to know Jesus better, not to simply mark something else off my checklist of religious activities.)
Timothy was to strive to see the truth of the illustrations: beyond warfare lives victory; beyond athletic effort lies a prize; beyond the farmer’s work lies a harvest. Because this message has been preserved, it applies to us as well.
5. What insight did Paul give Timothy that can increase our focus of the mission? (Meditation on Scripture increases understanding. Think deeply rather than being satisfied with a shallow reading. Suffering and endurance are part of the Christian life, but we can lean on God for His guidance and grace.)
6. What helps you remain focused on Christ’s mission, especially during difficult days? (Bible study, prayer and seeking God’s direction each day.)
Paul challenged Timothy to remain focused on Jesus and His resurrection. He explained that any hardship faced must be balanced with the potential of sharing the gospel with others.
Christ Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:8-13
Remembering Jesus’ resurrection served as proof that He was fully God; remembering He descended from the lineage of David pointed to Him as the Messiah and fully man. Furthermore verse 9 reminds us that Paul saw the message of the gospel as something not to be bound. Then in verse 10, Paul counted the cost of obedience and remained faithful because the salvation of others was at stake.
Paul knew that God had chosen the proclamation of the gospel as His means to bring people to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. What was Paul’s situation as he wrote this letter to Timothy? (He was bound in chains like a criminal.)
2. What was Paul’s assurance about God’s message he was bound for preaching? (God’s message was free to do its work. Can you imagine what it was like for the soldiers manning the jail, hearing Paul constantly sharing the gospel!)
3. How can opposition serve as a means for sharing the gospel? (We have opportunity to speak the truth of God’s Word and it is living—see Heb. 4:12. If we but speak it, the Word will do the work.)
Read the four “if” statements in verses 11-13.
4. How does focusing on Christ’s faithfulness to us help us persevere in faithfulness to Him? (We have assurance from God’s Word that He will be with us though whatever happens to us. God is faithful and cannot deny who He is!)
God continues to seek us, even when we are not faithful to Him!
Living and dying with Christ depends on both Jesus’ power and our acceptance. Likewise, rejection of Christ inevitably becomes a two-way street. When our humanity and fallen nature overtake us Jesus again steps in to save the relationship.
We must always rely upon the strength of Christ and His faithfulness as our main focus!
Summarize and Challenge!
1. When it comes to living out your Christianity, what do you do to stay focused?
Focusing on the right things results in a strong, enduring, and others-centered faith. On the other hand, when we focus on the wrong elements, we’re more likely to end up as distracted, disillusioned, and wondering souls.
A focus on the future helps us do our part to evangelize and disciple the next generation of believers.
Unless we keep our minds on Jesus, we’ll lose heart; by His example we find fresh strength!
2. Would you say that you’re focused on the right things?
3. What are your goals for you Christian life this next year?
Whatever God leads you to do, stay focused on the task!
1. Verse 12, 13. What happens if we disown Him? Is a backsliding Christian still saved?
This is a question that has been debated endlessly over the years. The word “backslider” or “backsliding” does not appear in the New Testament and is used in the Old Testament primarily of Israel. The Jews, though they were God’s chosen people, continually turned their backs on Him and rebelled against His Word (Jeremiah 8:9). That is why they were forced to make sacrifices for sin over and over in order to restore their relationship with the God they had offended. The Christian, however, has availed himself of the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ and needs no further sacrifice for his sin. God himself has obtained our salvation for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and because we are saved by Him, a true Christian cannot fall away so as not to return.
Christians do sin (1 John 1:8), but the Christian life is not to be identified by a life of sin. Believers are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have the Holy Spirit in us producing good fruit (Galatians 5:22–23). A Christian life should be a changed life. Christians are forgiven no matter how many times they sin, but at the same time Christians should live a progressively more holy life as they grow closer to Christ. We should have serious doubts about a person who claims to be a believer yet lives a life that says otherwise. Yes, a true Christian who falls back into sin is still saved, but at the same time a person who lives a life controlled by sin is not truly a Christian.
What about a person who denies Christ? The Bible tells us that if a person denies Christ, he never truly knew Christ to begin with. 1 John 2:19 declares, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” A person who rejects Christ and turns his back on faith is demonstrating that he never belonged to Christ. Those who belong to Christ remain with Christ. Those who renounce their faith never had it to begin with. 2 Timothy 2:11–13, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” — Got Questions Ministries, Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002–2013).