“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you. Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:5-7; RSV)
Have you ever had times in your Christian life when you feel like faith is flagging? When there seems to be so much doubt … and any sense of confidence is nowhere to be found? (How striking that the word confidence comes from two Latin words: con = “with” and fide = “faith”). St. Paul offers an excellent prescription for what can often ail us in such times of trial and doubt—as we continue this weekend with our preaching series on the Epistles of I and II Timothy.
First, as with Timothy, we too need to be reminded of those beloved (either now among the “great cloud of witnesses” in heaven or those who we’re still privileged to feel a touch of their reassuring hand or hear their calming voice) … those who’ve nurtured the seed of faith that was planted in our lives by God’s claiming Word at baptism. People who help us remember when we feel so dismembered. And … so it is that St. Paul would have Timothy know, and us … that in our life of ministry and future mission journeys—in all the joys and sorrows—that we are still connected in faith with grandmothers like Lois, or mothers like Eunice (II Timothy 1:5), as well as a father figure in the faith like St. Paul himself, who is writing this letter.
Second, think about such family or friends in the faith this coming weekend at worship, those who like St. Paul, even in all of their brokenness, have been used by God as “watchmen [and women]” (Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4) who’ve been steadfast in faith—with us and for us, in a Christ-like manner. Yes, even in their brokenness and ours. (Consider St. Paul’s own broken-down life at times: reflecting on II Corinthians 11:25 or 12:10). What an amazing paradox! “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity but one of strength and love and self-discipline” (II Timothy 1:7. NIV).
Please join me in prayer: “O Lord, what great mystery and paradox is here! That there are places in our hearts and lives of faith where only brokenness/weakness can get in. Where glory and might cannot enter. Knowing this, you have sent your beloved Son—our Savior, Jesus Christ—in the likeness of a suffering servant (Isaiah 50:4-9a), taking on our frail flesh and the sin of the world. And Christ, having laid aside his majesty and taking the form of a servant, being obedient even unto death on the cross, was crucified in weakness/brokenness (Philippians 2:5-11). And on him, you have laid the chastisement that has made us … WHOLE. Yes, remind us, O Lord, as with your apostle, Paul … in his own life of faith, that: ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.’ (II Corinthians 12:10b. RSV).
Glory be to God.
Pastor John Christopherson