There is hardly a day without a public shooting or murder of some type that makes national news. People are clamoring and complaining to the authorities saying: “Something must be done!” There is nothing that can be done outside the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His transforming power in the lives of sinful people.
Paul warned Timothy, and us, that in the last days things would get worse and that believers would be persecuted!
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9
This would be depressing except for the fact that we know God is in control and His Spirit living in us provides us the power to endure to the end, as Paul did.
Modern day believers who have faced persecution demonstrate the same kind of resolve Paul demonstrated. We know the greater the opposition the greater the opportunity to honor God through our steadfast commitment to Him!
1. What promises, positive or negative, from God’s Word would you consider to be especially fundamental to surviving and thriving as Christians? (The promise of eternal life dooms unbelievers while at the same time forms the basis for everything we do as Christians. Understanding that God never leaves us nor forsakes His own brings great comfort no matter what happens. Realizing that persecution will come our way prepares us to endure it.)
2. Why is our world in such a mess spiritually? (People either don’t know what the Bible says or don’t care what the Bible says.)
I recently read an excerpt from an article about picking people at random and asking them questions about the Bible. Two young college aged women were asked to state any one of the Ten Commandments. Their response was “Freedom of Speech.” A young man was asked who in the Bible was eaten by a whale. His response: “I know! I know! Pinocchio!”
It would we funny if it weren’t so sad and representative of the younger generation’s knowledge about the Bible.
Let’s see what Paul had to say to Timothy.
Persecution Coming! Read 2 Timothy 3:10-13
1. What positive qualities had Timothy seen in his mentor, which he had adopted for his own life? (His teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance and even persecution and suffering.)
2. Is there a difference between opposition, bullying, and persecution? (Opposition can be as simple as a strong disagreement. Bullying is trying to force your opinion on someone else and/or strongly criticizing someone’s viewpoint. Persecution can be emotional or physical or both.)
3. Why should believers expect this type of treatment? (As followers of Christ, we are going to be different from the culture no matter where we are or what circumstances we face.) See John 15:18-20
Paul knew this truth personally. He understood the lengths to which nonbelievers would go to silence believers.
4. How does seeking to live a godly life lead to potential bullying and persecution? (The Christian life is drastically different in virtually every way to the way the world lives. Simply living a godly life can bring conviction to those around us and their reaction is to strike back at what makes them feel guilty. But the main reason is that Satan is very much involved in trying to silence any Christian’s witness!)
Get Equipped! Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Timothy would have to guard against pastoral pitfalls and doctrinal deviations that could dampen his spiritual fire. As God’s truth took deep root in Timothy, his ministry would bear abundant fruit to the glory of Christ and equip him to tackle challenges at Ephesus.
1. How would you describe the spiritual foundation Timothy had and how did he get it? (From childhood he had been taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. Then Paul came along and strengthened his foundation even more!)
2. The Scriptures Timothy had been taught is what we know as the Old Testament. What is the focus and intent of the Old Testament Scriptures? (It points to the coming Messiah—Savior of all mankind! Even the Jews know and recognize that, but they reject the truth that Jesus is that long awaited Messiah.)
We are blessed to also have the New Testament which reveals the final revelation of God—His Son, Jesus!
3. What benefits do we get from Scripture as mentioned in these verses? (1-Wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus; 2-Teaching: What we must believe. 3-Rebuking: what we are doing wrong. 4-Correcting: How to fix what is wrong. 5-Training in righteousness: How we are to behave.)
4. How much of the Scripture is “inspired by God?” (All!)
What does that mean to you? They are the very words of God. All of them, not just some Scripture, are guidelines for living. They are a blessing and a benefit to us to live out successful lives!
5. How can we avoid the temptation to settle for Bible study for knowledge alone as opposed to living out the truth of God’s Word? (Memorize it! Meditate on it! Study it with the intent of letting God speak to you and apply what He says to your life!)
Only God’s Word can inform us about what God expects of His people. Just as Timothy needed to use Scripture to develop strong moral character among believers at Ephesus, so we also need it to train our thoughts and actions to conform to God’s will today.
6. How can I know that the Bible is true? (We know by what the Bible claims about itself; fulfilled prophecy—61 major prophecies about Jesus alone from the OT; the unity of the Bible—written by 40 authors over 1500 years; the early acceptance of the message; the archaeological evidence. By faith as revealed through the Holy Spirit.)
By continually saturating and nurturing himself in Scripture, Timothy would be thoroughly capable of godly living and effective leadership. He would prove in his own life the reality that Scripture is the tool God uses to develop spiritual maturity.
Preach the Word! Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4
1. What will happen when the truth is not guarded? (Read vs 3-4)
Paul warned about the growing number of people who reject God’s truth in favor of personal preferences. See Jer. 12:2b “You (God) are ever on their lips; but far from their conscience (hearts).”
People who turn from God’s truth and turn aside to embrace fabrications and falsehoods suffer a spiritual dislocation. Myths were fabrications of the imagination that satisfied a temporary preference but dismissed salvation in Christ.
2. What are some contemporary examples of “itching-ear” spirituality? (“Health and wealth” teaching. God wants you to be healthy and wealthy! He only wants you to be happy!)
3. How do these distort God’s Word? (God does want what is best for you, but He’s the One who knows what the best is for you. Sometimes God’s best comes to us through suffering. He wants what is best for us and brings Him glory!)
4. What do we get from Paul’s charge to Timothy on preaching that can be applied in today’s church? (When calling a pastor, churches should pay attention to the quality of the message he preaches, looking less at eloquence or delivery than content and adherence to the truths of God’s Word. Messages that convey God’s principles may be encouraging as well as challenging.)
Hard truths may cause some discomfort, but the preacher who never challenges his listeners shortchanges them!
Finish Well! Read 2 Timothy 4:5-8
1. What four imperatives did Paul give Timothy in these verses? (“Exercise self-control, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”)
2. Should we take these challenges as if Paul was speaking to us? (Yes! All of these can apply to each of us.)
We can only be successful in meeting these challenges if we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit!)
Now Paul turned his attention to himself in verses 6-8. He compared himself to a Jewish drink offering in which wine was poured out alongside certain sacrifices made at the altar. Paul was pouring out his life in service to Christ, and he considered himself an offering presented to God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
3. What term did Paul use for his approaching death? (A departure. He pictured his death, not as a termination, but as a transition from one place to another.)
4. How did Paul summarize his life and ministry? (1-I have fought the good fight; 2-I have finished the race; 3-I have kept the faith.)
5. What does each of these phrases mean in relationship to Paul’s spiritual journey?
There have been few people in history more motivated by achievement than the apostle Paul. He was constantly moving, teaching, building, and motivating. God did not take away Paul’s desire to achieve; rather, he harnessed it so that Paul could serve others. The writer of Ecclesiastes challenges us all: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Eccles. 9:10”
For most of us, our faithful journey isn’t a fantastical adventure as much as a series of small, daily steps. How do we treat our family? Our friends? Our coworkers? Our employees? The people we simply come into contact with by accident?
6. What do you think Paul wanted to do with his crown of righteousness when he received it? (Like the Elders in Rev. 4:10 I’m certain he wanted to lay it at the feet of Jesus!)
7. What did Paul say we had to look forward to as well? (Verse 8. “All those who have loved His—Jesus—appearing.” Receiving a crown of righteousness!)
Paul had not been deterred or defeated. He stayed true to the end and was victorious in Christ!
Summarize and Challenge!
1. Do we really believe open persecution of Christians will occur in our nation in our lifetime?
No one welcomes persecution, but being on the lookout for it helps us endure it when it comes. Meanwhile, you can prepare through absorbing God’s Word and standing on His promises when you’re tested. Surrounding yourself with encouragers who will support you during troubled times also gives you an enduring spirit. Meanwhile, look around to see if there are other Christians who need your support. Whether it’s a word of encouragement or holding up someone else’s arms, it can make a huge impact when it comes to staying strong.
2. If open persecution comes, will we keep the faith as Paul did?
3. How do you want to finish out your life?