Sermon for Sunday, October 13th, 2019, the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-11; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
The Text: 2 Timothy 2:8-13
The Topic: Enduring trials with the Lord Jesus Christ
Endurance is essential to the Christian life. St. Augustine wrote a treatise on perseverance, in which he said:
“He who falls, falls by his own will; and he who stands, stands by God’s will.”
Here is a story about endurance:
‘In the thirteenth century, there was a disagreement between Scottish leaders about who should be king. England’s King Edward I stepped in and took the honor for himself, stripping Scotland of its crown, its royal regalia, and even the sacred Stone of Scone on which the kings of Scotland had always been crowned. The latter he placed in Westminster Abbey in London.
The outraged Scots secretly crowned Robert Bruce their king, but they seemed no match for the English army. Scottish troops were scattered, living in the mountains, living on eels, salmon and deer, and under constant attack from their enemy. Robert Bruce himself was wounded, and his capture seemed imminent. The English had even captured one of his bloodhounds and were using it to search for him.
After madly careening through the Scottish woods, exhausted, frightened, and bleeding, Bruce suddenly came to a stream. Plunging in, he waded alongside the bank until hoisting himself onto the limb of a tree. There he stayed, and the dog lost the scent.
Bruce spent the ensuing winter hidden away in a hovel in the mountains, keeping himself alive on a bag of old potatoes. One cold, gray afternoon, he felt almost hopeless, spirits badly draining. But he noticed a spider trying to weave a web in the corner of the window. The creature was having a hard time of it, since the wind kept blowing away his threads. Time after time, the spider made another effort until finally the thread held.
“I might be that spider,” said Bruce. “I, too, have failed. Like those threads, my lines have been broken and blown away. But you have shown me that there is always one more time – a time for one more attempt, and with perseverance, a winning one!”
Bruce left the hovel to gather his scattered troops, and by the Spring he had an army that was tougher than ever. Battle after battle raged until their lines finally held and they drove the English out of Scotland. Ever since that time, it is said, no-one by the name of Bruce has ever killed a spider.’
ENDURANCE WITH CHRIST
The first of St. Paul’s trustworthy sayings (2 Timothy 2:11a) occurs in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (KJV).
The second of these trustworthy sayings appears in in 1 Timothy 4:9-10 and gives as the reason for the Apostle’s labor and for the reproach which he suffers, the trust Christians place in the living God as the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
The third saying is found here in our Second Lesson/Epistle:
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13, KJV)
In the first of these sayings, the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming into the world is proclaimed, the purpose being to save sinners by his death on the cross. In this third trustworthy saying, the point made is our unity with Christ must mean that we have been united with him in his death through Baptism, and this death to sin and worldliness must be reflected in our lives, if we are to live with Him. We must also endure the trials of our calling as Christians, if we are to reign with Christ in His kingdom forever. On the other hand, if we deny Him, He will deny us, and if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. The third saying therefore contains a promise and a warning. The promise of living and reigning as kings with Christ if we have died with Him and if we have endured trials for his sake is set in opposition to the warning that if we deny Him, He will deny us, and that if we are unfaithful to Christ, he remains faithful.
Endurance shows steadfastness of character, but what must Christians endure? To answer this, we need only look at the first few verses of our Epistle/Second Lesson, where St. Paul directs his readers to remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead according to the Gospel, in which he suffers evil, even to the point of being a prisoner in chains, like an evildoer (2 Tim. 2:8-9a). His imprisonment was directly as a result of preaching the Gospel. Though the word of God cannot be imprisoned, but is always proclaimed and shared, preached and taught, the bearers of the word may at times suffer because of their call to proclaim the Gospel. In addition to the general trials of life, then, the faithful are called to bear the trials of being faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Paul set us all a noble example in suffering persecutions and imprisonments for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and for the Gospel.
In the Parable of the Sower, the Lord Jesus himself warned that the word of God would be received with joy by some, who would later fall away on account of persecutions and trials that come because of God’s word (Mark 4:17). Again, in Matthew 10:22 (KJV), the Lord predicts:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
In the message to the Church of Smyrna recorded in the Book of Revelation, the Holy Spirit tells them not to fear the things which they are about to suffer, and then near the end of his message, he urges:
Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
(Revelation 2:10c, KJV)
What trials are you enduring for the sake of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you standing firm in these trials?