Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, Sunday, October 2nd, 2022
The Lessons: Habakkuk 1:1-13; 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-17; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
The Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
The Topic: Keeping the Faith
A youth pastor had just entered a convenience store with his friend Jeff to pay for the gas he had put in the church van. It was apparent that the woman behind the counter had been crying. The youth pastor looked at her and said, “Has anybody told you that Jesus really loves you?” Jeff freaked out, took off, and dove into the van.
The youth pastor talked to the woman for the next few minutes. After she had asked Christ to come into her heart, her whole face changed.
When he returned to the van, Jeff rebuked him for witnessing to the woman, saying that she had become embarrassed at his question. To this the youth pastor responded, “Jeff, you got more embarrassed than she did. I prayed with her, and she received Christ.”
He took Jeff back into the store to meet the woman, now radiant with the love of God – a complete contradiction to what she had been just a few minutes before.
– Eastman Curtis, Raising Heaven-Bound Kids in a Hell-Bent World (Nelson, 2000)
Today’s Epistle Lesson turns the spotlight on St. Paul’s relationship with St. Timothy in such a way that the reader is left with a joyful recollection of not only St. Timothy’s faith, but also the faith of his mother and his grandmother. Why is this important? It is so since strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is best nurtured by its faithful transmission from one generation to the next. So deep was the relationship between St. Paul and St. Timothy that, though they were far apart, and had not seen each other for a long time, especially since St. Paul was imprisoned at Rome, St. Paul was praying for him without ceasing in his prayers night and day (2 Timothy 1:3), and greatly longing to see him again. The tears of St. Timothy were shed at their last parting. But these tears St. Paul remembered as a sign of genuine affection and the strong spiritual bond between them. But the strength of their relationship arose principally from the strength of their faith and love for the Lord and for each other. The deep faith of St. Timothy, his sincere faith (“unfeigned faith” – 2 Timothy 1:5), St. Paul knows first lived in Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and in his mother Eunice, and now also lives in him. This is a unique picture, for it shows the Christian faith passed through three generations and remaining intact and strong.
STRENGTHENING A VIBRANT FAITH
One would think that this picture of St. Timothy’s faith would be sufficiently exemplary, but it is not, for St. Paul reminds Timothy to stir up the gift of God imparted by St. Paul’s laying on of hands in ordination. Ordination strengthens the ordinand in the Holy Spirit to do the work of ministry. Holy Baptism, which I am administering to Ben and Max Taaffe today also imparts the Holy Spirit to a new Christian for the work of ministry. It is helpful to be reminded by St. Paul of the nature of the Holy Spirit whom we have received at Baptism, and by whom we have been empowered at Confirmation. By stirring up the gift of God, St. Timothy will become bold and active in proclaiming the Gospel, teaching it, and using the spiritual gifts of grace given him by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). The Holy Spirit, then, does not make us afraid of people, or timid, but strengthens us, enabling us to love people, and to have wisdom and self-control in all the temptations, trials, and difficulties Christians face. In view of these virtues of the Holy Spirit, Timothy must not be ashamed of bearing witness to the Lord, nor of the sufferings endured by St. Paul as a prisoner for the Lord’s sake (2 Timothy 1:8). Instead, he should take his share of the sufferings borne by any soldier of Christ, in partnership with St. Paul. He reminds Timothy also of this Gospel by which God has called us, not by our own deeds, or works, but by His own purpose and grace, which though given to all Christians in Christ before the world began, has now been revealed by the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and given us life and immortality through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:9-10). Because St. Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher of this Gospel (2 Timothy 1:11), he had to suffer all the trials that he endured. Though he has had to suffer imprisonment and many other trials, he is not ashamed of the Gospel or of Christ, since he knows the Lord whom he has believed, and is convinced that the Lord is able to guard the deposit of faith which he has entrusted to the Lord through his ministry (2 Timothy 1:12).
The last two injunctions of this Epistle Lesson remind St. Timothy in faith and love in Christ Jesus to hold fast the form of sound doctrines that he has heard from St. Paul and to guard the good deposit of faith entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit living in us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH
St. Paul, though he longed to see St. Timothy again, was facing the possibility that he might not see him again and was giving him final instructions for transmitting the Christian faith. This faith is a treasure which every Christian must faithfully share in his family, teaching his children to share it faithfully with theirs, and so on. If we do not do this, younger generations will be Biblically illiterate and have no knowledge of the Christian faith. None of us is meant to lose the faith, but keep it intact, preserving the truths of it as it has been entrusted to the Church. The task of sharing, keeping, guarding, and transmitting the Christian faith as we have it recorded in the New Testament, and as our Church has received it, rests with each one of us. If we want to see a strong and vibrant faith in Christ reflected in every generation, we must fulfill our role in passing on this sacred deposit of faith. We do not achieve this by being slack about reading the Bible, praying daily, attending church services, helping the poor, being involved in Christian ministry, or failing to do any of our Christian duties.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
(2 Timothy 1:14, KJV)
Will you faithfully guard the noble treasure of the Christian faith entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit? It is not a treasure to be kept hidden! Rather, it must be invested in the lives of others without being changed, diminished, or added to.
 Quoted on p.65, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.