Unbound in the Pandemic
2 Timothy 2.8-10
Someone asked me the other day if my productivity during this pandemic was greater or less. I immediately responded that it was greater thinking of the hours spent attempting to record, edit, and publish sermons online. However, if I am being honest I am antsy and tired of interacting with my phone and tv. The video production is fun but I am eager to get back to the normal rhythms of life 3 weeks ago. I want to coach soccer, meet with my Community Group, and worship together with my church family. Everything is disrupted and it is easy to feel bound.
As I pondered these things I though of the Apostle Paul. He was bound repeatedly during his ministry. Our current bondage is nothing compared to that of the Apostle Paul, but I felt there was something we could learn from him at this time. If Timothy, who was not bound, needed to hear Paul's confidence and hope, I am certain we do as well.
In 2 Timothy we read that Paul is in chains, perhaps under house arrest or imprisoned in some jail-cell (2 Timothy 1.16, 2.9). Despite his imprisonment he is not discouraged but remains hard at work as a minister of the Gospel. Paul’s confidence in 2 Timothy is echoed in Philippians 1.12-13 where he reminds the Philippian church that his imprisonment has resulted in the advance of the Gospel! The whole letter is a reminder to the Philippian church that no matter the circumstances God remains hard at work growing his kingdom, and that is a cause of rejoicing.
Thinking about this over the past couple of days I returned to 2 Timothy 2.8-10 seeking to understand Paul’s mindset and hoping to glean a bit of it for myself. I know that we are not imprisoned or facing the type of threats that Paul was facing. Still, I think Paul’s hopefulness and optimism is needed in any difficult situation. Timothy certainly needed to hear such trust and hope and he wasn’t imprisoned.
The first thing I noted is the instruction to remember Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t lead with his chains but with his savior. He didn’t fill his letter with complaints about the prison food, the terrible conditions of the cell, or how he might have been treated by the jailer. Instead he put his focus upon Jesus. Timothy needed this reminder and so do we.
What do we remember about Jesus?
HE IS RISEN: Jesus has risen from the dead delivering all who believe in him from sin’s power and penalty. The wrath of God is satisfied and Jesus is our only advocate before the Father. Through him sinners may boldly approach God’s throne and find help in time of need. The empty tomb (which we celebrate in a few weeks) boldly proclaims forgiveness, new life, and God’s triumphant victory secured in his Son. No matter what befalls us in this world it is temporary. Christ and the promise of his resurrection lift our nearsighted gaze beyond this momentary light affliction (2 Corinthians 4.16-18).
JESUS IS THE OFFSPRING OF DAVID: This phrase is packed full of Old Testament promises given to David and expanded in the prophets. God promised David that his throne would endure forever (2 Samuel 7.12-15). This primarily refers to Solomon, but as is common with prophecy Solomon foreshadows the greater fulfillment in the messiah (Christ). By stating that Jesus is the offspring of David Paul is urging Timothy to remember that God’s redemptive plan promised in ages past is being fulfilled today through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. God is still powerfully at work even though Paul is in chains.
JESUS IS AT THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL: The final phrase of verse 8 points us to Gospel preaching. Paul has not stopped proclaiming Christ though he is bound in chains. He continues to proclaim Christ to every guard and every visitor. Although we are not bound in chains, or restricted because of Christ, we have a platform to proclaim our hope in Jesus the risen King. It could be a phone call to a friend, a post on social media, a letter to a loved-one, or a conversation with family. Whatever avenue God gives you it is a chance to proclaim Christ. Even if you are talking with another Christian you can follow the example of Paul with Timothy and encourage them by remembering Jesus together!
We remember Christ, Paul declares, because “the word of God is not bound!” Nothing can stop God’s work in the world, not a fearful Christian, or a quarantined church! The word continues to spread and take ground against the kingdom of Darkness in this world. Because this is true we can “endure everything” for the sake of God’s people. We can endure a bit of isolation. We can endure some of the difficulties that will come as a result of our response measures.
Think of what Paul endured (2 Corinthians 11.16-33). Shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings with whips and rods, and stoning. He faced dangers from rivers and robbers. Dangers in the wilderness, city, and at sea. He endured sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and cold and exposure all for the sake of Jesus. We can endure a warm house, Netflix, and scrolling social media. We can endure a bit of economic difficulty, being ready to represent Christ with our words and our acts of compassion to those deeply effected by this pandemic.
Paul’s words are a needed reminder to me that I can trust the goodness of God in the troubles of this world and stay busy remembering Jesus and the promise of his resurrection. You can too. 😄