Finishing Well | 2 Timothy 4
Inspect, Expect, and Respect | 2 Timothy 3
The Lost Art of Argument | 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Being Useful for the Kingdom | 2 Timothy 2:20-22
Dealing with False Teachers | 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Remembering Christ | 2 Timothy 2:7-13
Enduring Hardship | 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Defining Discipleship | 2 Timothy 2:1-2
The Last Word: 2 Timothy 1:8-18
The Last Word: Courage in the Cold
2 Timothy 1:1-7
Why would a good and loving God create a world that’s full of tragedy, evil, and suffering? In the second week of The Last Word, Todd Wagner shows us why Christ’s ambassadors desperately need His power, love, and self-control to love and serve others in this broken, hurting world.
Good morning, Watermark family and families that are gathered together in the larger body of Christ that is with us online. We hate that because of the circumstances that are in Texas right now… David already reminded you that when it gets below a certain temperature, we have a tendency to lose our minds, but we don't think we lost our minds this morning. Let me tell you why we did what we did.
One of the things I'm going to talk about in just a second in 2 Timothy is I'm going to remind us that God has given us a spirit of, among other things, love. The Scripture tells us we should not think too much of ourselves. The Scripture tells us we should be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Because thousands of people gather with us on Sunday mornings here, it takes hundreds of us a lot of work to greet you well and host you and care for kids and to make sure our pastors' conference each week goes on in a way that blesses us as we're gathered together.
I'm going to remind you that we're glad we can serve people in this way, but God does want us together. He wants us gathering and reminding each other with, as much as we can, face-to-face, flesh on flesh, to greet one another, not with a holy kiss but with a holy encouragement that should happen as best we can when we're geographically together. So, we're grateful for this technology, but let's not get too comfortable with comfort. We want to be committed to spurring each other on to love and good deeds in every way God intends.
I'm going to give you a chance to think about how you can do that this morning. Kids, we're going to talk about you in just a bit. One of the things we did was we realized there are a lot of people, hundreds of people, that if we went with our "wait and see" mentality, it was going to put a real inconvenience on them. Our parking lot is salted, and we were ready to plow it as much as we could, but we also knew if folks were waiting until 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning to get the call from us, "Hey, you do need to go ahead and come," it was going to be a great inconvenience to them.
So, we, frankly, were willing to look like we needlessly canceled the geographic meeting this morning and look like we were maybe even scared to do something, which we're not. We're more prone to say, "Let's go, let's go, let's go," but we felt like the most loving thing to do was to make this decision in a way that was not going to put people who are faithful servants and want to love and encourage you in a place of greater inconvenience.
So, we can't wait until we're back together gathering, but this morning, what we're going to do is we're going to talk about something that, frankly, has some application for today. When the world is not as it should be, when weather shuts down things you want to do or when something far worse than just weather that's an inconvenience gets in the way… Weather was an inconvenience this week in Dallas/Fort Worth, and on I-35 it ended up costing numerous lives. It wasn't just a weather problem. It led to physical death for some individuals.
We know a lot of you are experiencing trouble in this world. Some of you, on this Valentine's Day, are troubled by the fact that there isn't somebody who loves you the way you desire to be loved in an intimate, adult, committed relationship between a man and a woman. For some of you, as you gather with your family, your mom or your dad is not there. Some of you have lost people you love this year.
You start to look at this world, and you say, "What kind of God would make this world? Why would God have to tell us we don't need to be timid?" Let me just read to you 2 Timothy 1:7. It's where we ended last week. I'm going to remind you that we encourage you to read 2 Timothy every day while we're in this series. You'll start to memorize the book without even trying to. You'll certainly memorize the first parts. You'll see the major themes that go through there.
I would encourage you to use the sermon guide, which reminds you of the truths we teach each Sunday morning. For those of you who want to go deeper, there are application questions and links to other messages that will amplify what we said in that brief time. But what about those of us on this particular time on earth who are hurting?
We wonder why God says through Paul to Timothy and, frankly, to all of us that God hasn't given us a spirit of timidity but one of power and of love and discipline, or self-control is what some translations would say. Why doesn't God just create a world that doesn't require us to be so courageous? I'm going to answer that question this morning.
It is Valentine's Day. God didn't just leave us in this world alone. God ran to us in our timidity, in our fear, in our sadness in the face of death and trouble. God came running to us, and God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. It's why we give ourselves to one another. I want to remind you last week, as David taught through the very first parts of the book, we saw Paul's effort to tell Timothy how much he loved him.
I'm going to stick this in right here. Today while we're isolated from one another, today when you think of people who are not having the Valentine's Day they want, we need to remember one another and reach out to our community, to those who are trying to figure out if there's going to be a place for them to connect and be in community right here.
One of our applications from last week is that one of the ways we know God remembers us is when we remember each other. So, I want to encourage you to remember one another. Shoot a text right now to other people, or as soon as this message and our time of worship is over. Make an effort to run toward people in this world that is not as it should be.
So, why is this world the way it is? What I want to do is answer just for a second why we need courage and why God says, "Rely on my power. In this world you're going to have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world." Why can we grieve in the face of death, but, as we're about to read next week in 2 Timothy, God has abolished death, so we grieve but not as those who have no hope?
God reminds us that he has given us his Spirit of love, so the way he came to rescue and he came to serve and he came to remind us of our value… He wants us to do that with one another, and he has given us the power to be disciplined, or self-controlled, so we don't just move toward comfort and away from danger as we love, because love hurts.
All right, kids, listen to me. Mom and Dad, I'm going to give you an illustration you can use with kids, maybe later if they've already run around and taken off and we've lost them. How can you teach kids about the goodness of God in the craziness of this world? Here's what I would do. Let me give you adults, first, a couple of what's called syllogisms, which is just the way people think about life and reality.
This world God has left us in is a world that needs courage. One wag said it this way: "Courage is knowing it might hurt and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same, which is why life is hard." If you do the wrong thing consistently, it's going to hurt, but if you do the right thing sometimes, it's going to hurt, so we do need the power of God to not grow weary in doing good. We need the power of God to love the way God wants us to love, because love can hurt.
When you give yourself to somebody and say to them, "I love you," they don't always love you back. Sometimes people commit their undying and unending love to you and then their love grows cold. Here's a little syllogism. Someone said (and it's true; we know this) that God is the creator of everything. God is the author of everything. Then people would come and say, "Okay. If God is the author of everything and evil is something; therefore, God is the author of evil. Why would we want to worship a God who is the author of evil?"
The answer to that is there is a little bit of a problem with the premise. We know God is not the author of evil. If you want a fancy word that won't relate to your kids, Augustine said evil is an ontological parasite. Ontology is a heavy philosophical word that talks about the study of being or of essence or of existence. If God exists, the possibility that something that is not God could exist. If God is good, there must be non-good.
Now God is the uncaused cause. He is eternal. He always was and always would be. But when God says he is good and he creates, there has to be the possibility that something other than God would exist. Follow me on this. It's easy to explain this to your kids this morning. When scientists study heat and cold and temperature, they would basically say that all cold is… Cold doesn't really exist. Cold is the absence of something. Cold is the absence of heat. It's like darkness. Darkness is the absence of light.
Evil is not something God created. Evil is something you get when you leave the goodness of God. How about this? We know God made every creature. He's the author of all things, and every good and perfect thing, the Scripture says, comes down from our Father of lights with whom there is no variance, no shifting shadow. Every creature God made is perfect. Perfect creatures, we would say, can't do what's imperfect, but there's a problem again in this.
People will flow out from this and say, "Hey, look. Therefore, every creature must only act perfectly." That's not true. Here's why. God made everything perfect. That's true. One perfect thing God created is free creatures. Now, kids, this is where I want you to listen. God makes people free to make choices. The reason God did that is because if you're going to be a perfect creature, you have to be able to love.
Watch this real quick. This is a big stuffed animal. Kids, if I told you that you could have this stuffed animal as your friend and it would be your best friend… You could name it. You could give it whatever personality you wanted. You could make it laugh when you wanted to laugh. You could make it want to hug you if you wanted it to, and this thing could come up and say, "Oh, it's my best friend."
It would have tea with you if you're a little girl or it could play sports with you and you could tackle it if you're a little guy, or whatever you want to do. But here's the thing. You know at the end of the day this is not a real friend. You can make it so this bear, this friend of yours, would never hurt you, never discourage you, but this is not a free creature. God made everything perfect. Part of what God did to make something perfect is he made it free so it could love.
This little bear can say, "I love you" on it, but it can't love you the way you want to be loved. This bear has to have the ability to choose to love you. Here's the thing. If you choose to have real friends, they're going to hurt you sometimes. They're going to not want to play with you. They're going to want to play something differently than you want to play. They're going to say mean things to you. They're going to choose to not always be everything you wish a friend could be.
But when they do love you, when they do learn to be like the God who created them, and when they make mistakes they seek your forgiveness and make amends and turn from their evil ways, and then they do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, and they learn to be kind and good and gentle the way God wants us to be, you're going to have the greatest friend imaginable. Even though they're still going to be imperfect, you're going to appreciate that kind of love. Real love is not forced and pretend. See, God didn't want to make people to be forced to love him. God gave people the freedom to choose.
So, in that little syllogism, because people have the freedom to choose to love the God who put them in an Edenic situation and showed them his kindness and his goodness… He still said, "Hey, you will by faith see that I am good, and you will not choose to determine what is good and evil on your own. You will believe that I'm good and you will love me. As long as you love me, all will be well. There will be no cold, there will be no dark, there will be no death, because you'll be with me and there will be light and love and the warmth and beauty of God's creation."
The truth is the Scripture says all of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to our own way. The Lord allowed us, when we left him, to move away from kindness and goodness and light and love and death came into the world.
Now, adults, next week, starting in verse 8, you're going to see what Jesus did when we did that, but up here in verse 7, when we're told the reason this world is not as it should be, the reason God wants us to not be timid but to be courageous and filled with hope and to live in the power of the hope we have and to love one another in the same way God loved us and to be self-disciplined and not selfish, is because he wants the world to know about his love, about his goodness.
Kids, it is a fact that imperfection can rise out of perfection, and here's how. It's when we choose to go our own way. When your friends choose to be selfish, when you choose to act in anger or insecurity or out of selfish want, it's going to damage relationships. That's what humans have done. This world is made up of the brokenness you get when you leave God. I don't think Eden had ice storms and broken pipes. I don't think Eden had traffic accidents and death. I don't think Eden had divorce and abuse and loneliness.
Some people would come and say, "Hey, Todd, why doesn't God do something about this?" Here's another little syllogism: "If God was good, he would stop evil. If God was good, he could stop evil. Evil doesn't stop; therefore, God is not God, and I don't think I want to serve him" or "God is not good, and I don't want to serve him." But there are problems with that kind of thinking. Just because God hasn't gotten rid of ice storms and traffic accidents and death and divorce and betrayal doesn't mean he won't.
Here's another way to think about this. If God is all good, he would eliminate evil. And guess what. Next week, when we study verses 8-12 and then the finishing of the chapter, you're going to see he has done exactly that. If God is all-powerful, he can eliminate evil. Evil is not yet eliminated; therefore, we know God will one day take care of this world.
He has overcome evil that's in this world. He has rescued us out of sin and death, but for a while, he has left us in this world of sin and death. Why? So we can love, so we can declare to other people the way out of this world that is waiting judgment. God is going to deal with evil one day, and we have to start with letting him deal with the evil that's in our hearts, the evil of sin that says, "I don't need God. I don't need self-control. I don't need anything but what I want."
That's what creates sadness. That's what creates the world we're in. This is not the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best of all possible worlds that will lead us to a place where we see the goodness of God, the beauty of God, the justice of God, the righteousness of God, the power of God, the mercy of God. Right now, what God wants us to do is to remember his calling us, remember the privilege he has given us, and to be his ambassadors in the world.
Now, as you go and study on your own and as you spend some time, let me just say this to the adults. Go back over last week, and I'm going to remind you that's why you should remind people that God hasn't forgotten them by being a source of that remembrance and reaching out to them. David did a great job last week of encouraging us in that very specific way. Be reminded that timidity or lack of courage is not a part of God's playbook.
God wants us to have courage in this world that has traffic accidents and cold. We're going to see a great example of that in Paul and a friend of his called Onesiphorus, who is a guy we ought to learn to be like, and what he did. If you want to get ahead of me, read 2 Timothy 1:15-18. Adults, look at the verbs you're going to see as you read through this section of Scripture we're going to study next week. Build your own message.
Look at what Paul says when he tells you, "Therefore, in light of the fact that God has overcome the world and rescued us out of death, what should we do?" When he tells us we've been made ambassadors of this incredible message and what we should do, and he's going to say this in verse 13: "Retain…" What should you retain? Go take a look. "Guard…" What should we guard? Go and look. What kinds of individuals should we purpose to be and follow the example they've set for us? That's verses 15-18.
I can't wait to teach it. The reason we're not going to do 40 minutes on it today is because we know many of you are with your families and because we want you to study God's Word for yourself, but we're going to dive in next week. Here's what you need to know for today: this is a world that is dark and cold and filled with hopelessness and despair, because in our free will humankind has turned away from God and gone to his own way.
But as Paul wrote to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8-10, God has done something with that cold, dark world. He has entered into it. He has taken on the form himself of a bondservant, and though all of us have gone astray, the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him. He has abolished death so we don't need to be scared. He has given us hope and life and immortality, the Scripture says. Then you have been made an ambassador of these things.
So, kids, go play with your stuffed animals, but then thank God that he didn't make you a robot, that he has shown you his kindness by offering himself on a cross for you. This Valentine's Day, do you want to know what love looks like? It's not a box of chocolates and flowers. It's him giving his life for you and telling you that he loves you and that you're worth his own suffering to be reconciled back into relationship with him.
If you're reconciled back into relationship with him, then let us continue to be reconciled to one another. Who's somebody you haven't loved well this week who you're going to reach out to? I know you don't want to, but God has not given you a spirit of selfishness. He has given you one of self-control, of discipline, of saying, "I'm going to decrease. Christ is going to increase." Reach out and love them. He has given you the power to do that as you abide with Christ.
So, be courageous in this cold, dark world, even in the face of death. God is going to deal with evil one day, and the evidence that he has dealt with the evil that's in your heart and my heart is that we love, we walk in surrender and self-discipline, and we yield to the power of God that is within us. All right. Play with stuffed animals. Just know that you're not one. You're free to love. You're free to accept the gift of grace from God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I can't wait to be with you in person. We'll put some other fun links out there in this week's sermon notes. You can go watch some Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes on this and other longer messages that develop some of these syllogisms about the problem of evil even more, but I hope you've been encouraged today. We'll be encouraged to be with you again. Let me pray for you, and then we'll close with some other good music that will encourage your heart.
Father, thank you for the chance to gather this way. I pray as we play with stuffed animals today and we can make them do what we want that we would be reminded that you love us so much more than to make us inanimate objects or to force us to do something. You show us your beauty, you show us your goodness, and then you let us, as free creatures, choose to love you.
Thank you, Father, as we'll see next week, that you overcame our will to do nothing but rebel against you and you gave us the freedom by your grace to see you for who you are, to accept your salvation for us, and then to learn to walk in your ways with power, marked by love and filled with yieldedness to your Spirit and your goodness.
Would you bless families today, Lord, that are watching this? Would you be a present friend to those who are experiencing loneliness? Would you show us who to reach out to so we can show them your love today as we remember them? May we be your people, your ambassadors this week, lacking no courage, knowing that you've overcome the world. We pray it in Jesus' name, amen.