No, I wasn't speaking for myself there. Yes, I was trying to give expression to what I hear a lot of these days. Sickening, isn't it?
For a few months now, I've been teaching a Wednesday-night adult class that's surveying the New Testament. A couple weeks ago, getting ready for our time with Second Timothy, I sat down and spent about fifteen minutes or more slowly (and I mean slowly) reading through this short letter. Here's some of what I noticed, or noticed again. . . .
It seems that by the time he writes this letter, Paul has managed to get himself into prison in Rome (1:16-17). At an earlier stage in his life, when he wrote to people like Philemon and the Philippians, Paul told them to get a room ready for him. Even though he was confined for awhile, he said he would soon be coming to see them (for example, Philippians 1:12-26 and Philemon 22-23) But this time around, usually referred to as his "second Roman imprisonment," he doesn't seem to be hopeful about getting out (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Timothy, on the other hand, is apparently at Ephesus (1:18), which is where Paul had left him according to 1 Timothy 1:3. From the first letter, it seems like Timothy was having to deal with a lot controversy. The second letter continues this theme. In a situation like that, says Paul, Timothy must teach his people to avoid disputing over words (2:14). Timothy himself must have nothing to do with these stupid, senseless controversies. And, he must avoid falling into the trap of becoming quarrelsome. He should be kind to everyone (2:23-24).
Apparently, handling this sort of assignment will not be easy for Timothy. Why? Because he is not one for taking the bull by the horns, so to speak. Running all the way through 2 Timothy is the hint that this young evangelist is very uncomfortable with conflict. At the beginning of the letter, for example, Paul says that he remembers Timothy's tears (1:4). What Timothy had been crying about is not clear. But what does seem clear is that Timothy is prone to being timid. Paul needs to remind him that the Spirit that God gave to us is not one of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control (1:7). Paul goes on to tell Timothy not to be ashamed. Neither he, Paul, nor his helper, Onesiphorus, were ashamed (1:12-17). From there, Paul goes on to issue several related examples and words of encouragement:
- be strong (2:1)
- take your share of suffering (2:3)
- I am suffering (2:9)
- I endure everything (2:10)
- You have witnessed my persecutions and sufferings. Now you endure (3:10-15)
- endure suffering (4:5)
1. What is the most difficult thing you've ever had to endure? I'm not asking about just anything that was hard or painful. I'm thinking about enduring hardship for the sake of someone else, or for the sake of something that was important to you.
2. What is the most difficult conflict you've ever had with another person or group of people?
3. In those circumstances, what helped you or inspired you to hang on?