Faithful Endurance 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Preached by Rev. Alan Cummins
Despite having a very sporting father who could play any sport, and did, his only son was born without a sporting bone in his body!
My father did everything he could to encourage me in sport – hockey, yachting, soccer, tennis, badminton – but alas my attempts and my success were certainly nothing to write home about.
However, as an eleven year old I was part of a winning soccer team, for our grade, three years in a row. I’ve even got the ribbons to prove it! I think that says more about the strength of a team, rather than the ability, or lack thereof, of the individual players – or certainly in my case!!
During our married life Chris has taken our children, at various stages, on overnight tramps, both on the West Coast and in Marlborough. I was always happy to stay at home with the remaining children and I usually had church services to lead as well.
Chris has also enjoyed competing in half marathons – the Buller Gorge and in Christchurch. She has done about three or four. On a couple of occasions she took two of our children with her for moral support. Again I was back at home with Sunday duties.
I can’t remember how we came to this decision, but in February, 2017, Chris and I decided to compete in the Buller Gorge half marathon. I think it was also the 35th anniversary since the first one. Our little group grew and finally consisted of our son, Mark, his then fiancé, Hilary and Chris’ younger sister, Lynette.
We did lots of training in the months leading up to it - jogging and running mainly around our backdoor reserve, the Otipua Wetlands, and we bought ourselves some flash, state-of-the –art running shoes – which nearly broke the bank!
The day dawned and we were all set for the challenge – all looking keen and eager like John Walker or Dick Quax, or so we liked to pretend!
We got off to a good start just after 8 a.m. from the starting line back up the Lower Buller Gorge with Victoria Park in Westport, as our target.
We had registered for a half run/half walk to be kind on ourselves. We soon let Chris’ sister race off ahead and we left our son and future daughter-in-law in our wake. We were to beat them! That did wonders for egos and little for their pride. Mark wasn’t too bothered, but we certainly heard Hilary announce that that would never be happening again!
Along the route there were plenty of water bottle stations and dousing stations where you could squeeze over your head a wet and dripping sponge-full of water. We were certainly told to drink plenty of water and there was no shortage of it. The day was overcast, but came out nicely sunny and fine.
Chris and I were very pleased with our finishing time – just a whisker under three hours. The promise of a nicely chilled bottle of Monteiths and a freshly cooked whitebait pattie certainly spurred us on!
So we, or certainly I collapsed on the nice cool grass having entered the park and run the final straight to the finishing line being cheered along by friends and strangers alike!
It was then I felt a bit woozy! I didn’t really feel like a beer or even some whitebait! ‘More water’ came the suggestion and a nice lie down on the grass. I wasn’t going anywhere fast! Meanwhile, and unbeknown to me, Chris raced off to the St. John tent and smartly returned with a paramedic.
By this time I was sitting up; the water had done the trick and I was feeling much better. The nice St. John lady offered me a bed in the tent and a saline drip, should I need them. Miraculously I suddenly felt a whole lot better!
The whitebait pattie and the Monteiths were certainly enjoyed!
Needless to say we haven’t done another marathon since – knees and joints seem to be the excuse or reason Chris has to offer.
It was a remarkable experience and having lived in Westport for six years a couple of decades earlier, it was nice to return and compete!
Today’s theme, as we turn to 2 Timothy 2: 8-15 is entitled ‘Faithful Endurance.’ Well, on my first ever half marathon attempt I learnt a lot about that, or not! I made it; I endured the task, but at what expense?
In this letter, the older, imprisoned Paul, is writing to his young apprentice, his up-and-coming successor, his younger colleague and assistant, Timothy. Timothy is being reminded he’s in this for the long haul. The Christian life is a marathon and calls for faithful, steady, committed endurance.
We know from Paul’s writings in general that he uses athletic imagery a lot.
Running the race, being focussed and not easily distracted, eyes on the finishing line, claiming the prize, running the race with endurance, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses always looking unto Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith – to name some.
Timothy is advised and encouraged to keep on witnessing faithfully to Jesus Christ, to hold the true teaching of the Gospel and the Old Testament, and to do his duty as a teacher and as an evangelist, all in the face of suffering and opposition.
Timothy is especially warned about the dangers of ‘godless chatter’ and of becoming involved in ‘foolish and stupid arguments’ that do no good and only ruin the people who listen to them.
In all of this, Timothy is reminded of the example of Paul’s own life and purpose – his faith, patience, love, endurance and suffering in persecution.
Paul reminds Timothy to ‘remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and descended from David.’ Jesus is set in history, born of the Virgin Mary and to Joseph, his earthly father and of that great line of David.
Timothy is to find inspiration with the reminder that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, not only by his human birth, descended from David in fulfilment of the prophecy, but much more by his resurrection from the dead. He really is a Living Lord, as we often sing.
This is Paul’s gospel, which he urges young Timothy to go on preaching. Paul is in chains, in prison, - all very undignified and humiliating, but Timothy now has the task of carrying Paul’s work on. Paul may be in chains and restricted, but the gospel can never be chained and Timothy must preach it!
God’s word and God’s work lives on in the lives of all Christians since the work of Paul and Timothy.
Paul urges Timothy to not be distracted by petty things, but to present himself as a worthy worker for God.
Paul invites Timothy not to be ‘ashamed and to correctly handle the word of truth.’
Verses 11 and 12 contain a powerful message and a cautionary reminder. ‘If we die with him, in baptism, in dying to self, daily, we will live with him. If we endure, hang in there, suffer persecution, we will also reign with him.’ Good News – the easy bit, you could say, but now for the ‘sting in the tail!’
If we disown him – remember Peter and the rooster crowing three times? He will disown us – ouch! He will deny ever knowing us if we deny knowing him!
If we are faithless, or rather when we are faithless – Good News – God will remain faithful to us! Whew!!
These verses, probably taken from a familiar hymn, are intended to inspire faithfulness unto death and the hope of sharing in Christ’s eternal glory.
The reward and the crown for being faithful in God’s service.
What does this passage say to us? How easily am I distracted from my main mission and calling in life?
What ‘red herrings’ – sorry Vicar – get in the way?
Let us be challenged to read the Gospel, treasure the Gospel, handle it well and put it into practice!
This Christian life, Paul tells us, is not for the faint-hearted.
It requires stamina, endurance and a reliance on the Holy Spirit.
By God’s grace we can do it!
So to conclude……
Back to the imagery of the marathon. We train for a marathon, buy the right equipment and then on the day, ‘run with perseverance the race set before us….’ And drink PLENTY of water!!!!!
How do we endure, run the race and reach the finishing line? What is our water, preparation, training and equipment?
· We have a relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
· We read the Bible regularly and pray.
· We worship God together weekly and we meet in small groups for study, nurture, fellowship and pastoral care.
· We meet with other Christians ecumenically to see what amazing things God is doing throughout His Kingdom and all around the world.
That’s our recipe isn’t it? That’s how we endure the Christian marathon and receive the crown of life which Jesus has waiting for all who trust in him. All the time we are spurred on and we spur one another on as well. We encourage, support, love each other, come what may, and we pray!
Can we do it? Is it worth it? Yes we can and absolutely! Amen.