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2 Timothy 1:38, 1314; 2:17 comment (0)

June 22, 2006

By Carol Ann Vaughn, Ph.D.

Related Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:38, 1314; 2:17

Family Bible Study
Director, Christian Women’s Leadership Center, Samford University

Timothy: Faith Keeps God First
2 Timothy 1:3–8, 13–14; 2:1–7

2 Timothy presents Paul’s teachings in the tradition of an elder mentor’s personal advice to a protégé. In the developing second-century church, such letters were intended to be read by wider audiences struggling with competing religious priorities and cultural distractions.

These passages address faith as our primary priority. They emphasize the need for even mature believers to renew their commitment of faith on a regular basis. Like Timothy, we are reminded to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (1:3–7). How often do we pause and recall the energy and direction of our initial commitment of faith? What do we allow ourselves to think and feel about the testing of our faith since that first commitment? Do we reflect on ways in which our faith has grown and matured?

There was a time when Timothy had experienced laying on of hands, but that was not the finale of his faith. Like Timothy, our faith needs to be nurtured and cultivated. This involves effort and time. The metaphors of the soldier, the athlete and the farmer (2:3–6) all have in common themes of effort, endurance, perseverance, cultivation, patience and longevity. In our quick-fix culture thirsting for simple explanations and special purposes, we look too often for easy answers in a single book or an isolated program. “Read this and everything will be explained.”

“Follow these steps and your problems will disappear.” “Follow this leader or join this church and life will become easier.” Many of us want our faith to “fix” everything immediately, or we question the point of faith.

2 Timothy warns us to beware of such spiritual detours that promise shortcuts around life’s challenges. To be human is to experience life that is not always easy or pain-free.  There are difficulties, setbacks and losses. Our commitment to faith helps us to endure such trials. But faith is not an instant quick fix. It is not immunity or protection from trouble. It, however, can assuage trouble, ease pain and take the sting out of death.  

Faith is the grace of God that is stronger than any suffering (2:1). It strengthens us to persevere in pain and survive our own “dark nights of the soul.” It helps us find joy in the inevitable sweat and tears. Faith grows from seeds planted in us by the Holy Spirit. This is why we are to “guard” it (1:14). Its fruit is a spirit inside of us that is power, love and self-discipline, not — as too many Christians seem to believe — fear (1: 7).

Sometimes we confuse our idea of “the faith,” or our own brand of Christian traditions, with the simple act of faith described in 2 Timothy 1:5. Faith, here, is sincere, pure, “unfeigned,” not pompous, self-righteous or even the latest, most popular religious program or church trend. It is not defined by catchy bumper-sticker slogans or shows of public piety (see also Rom. 8:15 and Eph. 1:17). 

We do not create faith. It is a gift of grace that is not bargained or negotiated. We are stewards of it. 2 Timothy teaches us to guard it like a treasure, to nurture it like a garden, to fan it like a flame. So faith becomes our task. To become faithful — or faith-full — is not just to be good church members and follow the rules of a single doctrine or denomination. It is an ongoing process of tending the original spark of our faith so that it provides light and warmth during our dark and cold times. 

Faith is fanned by the study of Scripture and the nurture of fellowship. Pure, unfeigned faith becomes contagious, kindling other sparks of it around us (2:2). And, like the testament of 2 Timothy, it outlives us and grows into many generations (see Heb. 11). 2 Timothy mentions numerous examples of faith: Lois, Eunice, Priscilla, Claudia and many others. In 2 Timothy, we see that genuine faith, its work and fruit, are not gender specific. Men and women alike were, and are, called to the same faith. It is to be our shared foundation and first priority (see also Rom. 12, 13 and 16 and Heb. 12).

Faith is a gift, a choice, a fruit of the Spirit’s work in our life. Such is the witness of 2 Timothy.

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