Paul’s Advice For the Discouraged Christian
Where do we go when following Jesus is hard? Where do we go when a congregation complains that our messages our too applicational? Where do we go when we patiently care for our sick loved one and receive only private complaints and public criticism? And where do we go when we our friends reject our biblical counsel and then mock us publicly for being unable to help them save their marriages? Where do go?
We go to our salvation. Paul tells Timothy to stir up his gift by remembering his salvation.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:6-7.
The “this reason” in verse 6 is tied to verse 5 where Paul praise Timothy for his “sincere faith.” When people oppose our expression of our gift(s), we should find comfort by remembering our salvation. We should recall that day and time when God transformed our hearts. We should remember how much we enjoyed and practice sin and how much we now enjoy God, his Word and his people. We remember that God has saved us. And the great news of salvation does not end at conversion; it does not end when we repent and believe.
We were saved to do good works. Paul tells Timothy’s church in Ephesus that all Christians, “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Like Timothy we have been given spiritual gifts for God’s glory. Our salvation is a promise and a guarantee of our ability to exercise our gifts. God saved us not to be depressed, inactive pew warmers. No, he saved us to do good works, actions, and deeds ordained before we were even born.
The context of 1 and 2 Timothy reveal that Timothy had been given the gift of teaching. And teachers of the Word certainly need to be encouraged to recall their salvation. If they look to their church or to the world for encouragement they will often find discouragement. Timothy had to regularly deal with false teachers, argumentative people, people who look down on his youth and those who hated sound teaching. As Luther noted in his 95 Theses long ago the people want preachers who preach “Peace, Peace.” But there is no peace. Men who divorce their wife to marry the young secretary are in rebellion with God and must be told so. The prideful, argumentative deacon who turns every business meeting into a shouting match has to be directed to humility. Sinful men and women will not love sound preaching. For the preacher to preach well, he must find his comfort not in the souls of others but in God who endows the pastor with radical power, love, and discipline.
But Paul’s encouragement is not limited to preachers. All believers have gifts. All face hardships and opposition. All will be discouraged at times. The woman with the gift of hospitality will be accused of selfishness by her guests. The man with the gift of service will be accused of being power hungry. And the woman with the gift of giving will be accused of being stuck up and prideful.
When those attacks come, we must cling to our salvation. We must remember that we exercise our gifts not because others are lovable, deserving, and supportive. They often aren’t. We preach, give, and open our homes because we have been redeemed, equipped, and called to do good works. We serve because we have been served by the God of the universe.
Where do you go when you are discouraged? How do you fan your spiritual gifts back into flame?