2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
I want to speak to you on some of the marks of a Spirit-filled life, just a sample of the lifestyle one must call a Spirit-filled lifestyle. I am conscious that there could well be a man burdened with guilt and feeling suicidal here in the congregation today, and that when I announced this text and the theme of my sermon he might have sighed. This message offered no resolution to him, he’s concluded. He wants to know of forgiveness and mercy and power and hope from God to live a new life. “Can there be mercy for me?” he’s asking. He wants grace not law. I will speak to you. I will tell you where hope lies, that it is in the one and only man this world has ever seen who kept his head in all situations, endured the most unspeakable hardships, is an evangelist who loves to speak to all who are weary and heavy laden and he gives them rest, the one who never forgets to do that duty that was his calling when he came into the world, which was and still is to seek and to save that which was lost. Our help is in Jesus Christ, God’s great definition of a man, who lived just like this verse describes, who died the death of the righteous in the place of sinners, suffering the condemnation of those who have messed up their lives completely. Jesus alone can help you!
God has brought you here, trembling guilty sinner, to hear this message. I am telling you, and all who are here, of the possibility of new life for you, life to the high standard of what these four staccato commands describe. You need not go on limping along without hope. Whatever God commands us to do he can enable us to do. Take courage! What’s been wrong with you is that you’ve not lived as this verse requires, have you? You’ve failed to keep your head in different situations, and you’ve caved in and turned to drink when you were in a time of hardship, and you knew of no good news of forgiveness and mercy to pass on to others and you never did, and you were a failure in your duties as a son and husband and father and workman. Little wonder you are depressed, but I can tell you today how you can change, how you can live a Spirit-filled life.
Let me remind you by way of introduction of the four areas of our lives where we need to be Spirit-filled.
i] You are Spirit-filled in your grasp of the truth. You must know who God is, how he created the world, that our first parents fell into sin, that God announced that he would send the Lord into the world to seek and save us. The Son of Man came and accomplished redemption by his righteous life and atoning death and we are delivered from destruction when we turn from our sin and unbelief and entrust ourselves to him as our merciful High Priest. He then lives is us and we are in him. You must know and cleave to Bible truth if you are to be a Spirit-filled person. You must sit under Bible preaching. Jesus has prayed for his people, “Sanctify them by the truth; thy word is truth.” Spirit baptism is by the truth.
ii] You are Spirit-filled when your emotional life – the life of your affections – is characterized by love, joy, peace, contentment, deliverance from worry and fear. Elijah, suicidal, lying under the juniper tree, is challenged by God as to what he is doing there like that? Elijah may not answer, “Well, that’s my personality.” Our personalities need to change. The psalmist also challenges himself, “Why are you cast down O my soul? Why this restlessness and unease?” That whole mysterious area of our affections must be brought under the authority of God’s requirements if we are indeed filled with the Spirit.
iii] You are Spirit-filled when your devotional life is characterized by regular praying, by personal devotional times. We are to pray always and not give up easily. Pray briefly and often. Pray as long as you can, warmly with determination. There are lessons you learn that can only be learnt at the feet of Christ. Do not neglect the assembling of yourselves together with your family of faith and pray with the people of God. If the world is to know that we are Christ’s disciples then it is by our love for one another, and we begin loving one another by knowing one another. How can you love someone you don’t know?
iv] Finally, you are Spirit-filled when you live a God-pleasing, Christ-like, obedient and holy life. And this is why Romans chapters 1 through 11 is followed by chapters 12 through 16. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
In all those four areas you mustn’t be lacking – if you are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
It is no good to excel in three of them but, for example, to be ignorant of truth and deny some major doctrines, or to be good in three but live a prayerless life, or be good in three but to be a joyless, melancholic, angry and bitter person. It requires maturity in every area of the new life to be judged as being full of the Holy Spirit. There are various phrases and concepts in the New Testament that are used to describe this fullness, for example, denying yourself, taking up your cross and following the Lord, or, presenting your body a living sacrifice to God, or, being clothed in all the armour of God, or, seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, or, being God-like, or, fearing God and keeping his commandments. When you grasp and then explain what such compact phrases are referring to – the consequences for the theological, the devotional, the affectionate and the moral – then you will and must eventually come to these four areas of the Christian life, and to growth and maturity in them all. You must. What folly to imagine that if you have glossalalia, that is, if you speak in tongues, that you believe what you’ve been told by someone that then you’ve been filled with the Spirit of God – would that it were so! The great sections in the New Testament that describe new life and the fruit of saving faith, are much more demanding than ecstasy. You say that all Christians in a sense are filled with the Spirit in that the Spirit has access to each part of our bodies and minds and affections, and I agree with you, but there are also ‘novices’ in the Christian life and there are mature saints, and when the early church chose seven deacons they did not choose novices, they chose men who were full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Men who were conspicuous in their spiritual maturity in the Jerusalem congregation.
So, here in the text before us, Paul is reminding Timothy of a single one of those four areas of life, that is, Paul homes in on holy living, a transformed new lifestyle, and it is the one that is amplified so exhaustively throughout the Bible – in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, maybe particularly in the Old Testament. You find this lifestyle outlined comprehensively in the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs with all sorts of pictures, vivid metaphors and similes, to make it memorable. It sometimes says, “Don’t be like the slothful man, and don’t be like the fool, and don’t be like the adulterer.” This new lifestyle is again found described in the preaching of the prophets, and again in another of the wisdom books, Ecclesiastes, and again in the descriptions of the way of the righteous in the book of Psalms, and again particularly in the book of Deuteronomy. It runs through the book of Job, the insistence that if you know God and God is in you then your whole lifestyle is different. But, of course it is in the New Testament, in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7, and in the last chapters of some of the epistles like the ones to the Romans and to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. It is there in the book of James where the obedience of saving faith is spelled out. “Faith without works is dead” – that is the insistent message, and what are these works? They are those that are here before us this morning, Paul choosing four sample, typical virtues of the mere Christian, maybe particularly relevant to Timothy, but certainly to most of us – keeping your head in all situations, enduring hardship, doing the work of an evangelist, discharging all the duties of your vocation at home and employment and church. Let us examine them one by one.
- THE SPIRIT-FILLED MAN KEEPS HIS HEAD IN ALL SITUATIONS.
Some of you remember how Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’, begins. It is the most popular poem in the English language. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . . you’ll be a man my son” If Timothy can maintain and nurture these four virtues then he will show that he is a man of God. ‘Keeping your head’ is the N.I.V. translation. The phrase is more generally translated being ‘sober,’ which is quite a common word in the New Testament letters. Twice Paul tells the Thessalonians to keep their heads or be sober, and three times Peter charges his Gentile readers to do the same. It is encouraging the very opposite posture to being drunk and losing control. “Be steady!” he is saying. Or, be level-headed. Be well balanced, or be self-controlled. Probably the Christians around Ephesus were getting giddy and emotional when they gathered together. The crowd dynamics were such that people were prepared to do things when swayed by a crowd that they’d never do thoughtfully and rationally if they were alone. And the churches in Asia Minor were being intoxicated with heretical novelties. So, “In all situations keep your head, Timothy.”
Notable American preacher, Kent Hughes, writes how one afternoon Alistair Begg was meeting with a number of pastors, including himself, and he quoted this very verse to them all, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry,” and then he said to them, “I increasingly find that verse to be the anchor point for all of my days. I wake up on aMonday, and say, ‘Well, what will I do now?’ Then I say, “Well, I think I’ll try to keep my head, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of my ministry. And then, when I am lifted up by a little encouragement which sometimes comes, I say to myself, ‘Well, what shall I do?’ The answer is to keep your head, endure hardship, and so on.” He paused, then went on, “And when the waves beat on me and I feel just like running away to the hills somewhere, what should I do? Well, Alistair, just keep your head, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of your ministry.’” Then Alistair Begg concluded, “So, that’s a word in season for us to take away and think of.”
“And so it is,” adds Kent Hughes. “The years will fly by like the fence posts on a farm road as you drive along – years quickly become decades. You and I will change with those years. But God’s call will never change. Jesus – your Judge, your Saviour, your King – will always be present, charging your call with divine voltage. And his charge will always be, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. . . . As for you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (vv. 2, 5). [Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, Preaching the Word. 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway, 2012, pp.271 & 272].
Jesus of Nazareth kept his head when thousands of men and women flocked to hear him preach day after day. He never got proud for one single moment. He never wrote a word about his experiences and his popularity. He kept his head. When women ministered to him, and adored him, and poured perfumed oil over his head and wept over his feet he never took advantage of their love. Mohammed took a number of women and married them all, some very, very young. But Jesus did not claim that as the patriarchs had taken many women as their wives, and David had, and Solomon had. Didn’t he have the right to do that too? How can it be wrong when it seems so right? Jesus did not! He kept his head. When God kept him for thirty years in Nazareth, a one donkey village on a hillside helping his father make tables and window frames and sharing a bedroom with his brothers year after year then he didn’t sulk, increasingly asking through his 20s what was God doing keeping him there. Had he come from the glories of heaven to make fence posts for Galilean farmers? No. He didn’t question the will of God. Jesus kept his head. And when they blindfolded him, and punched him, and whipped him, and spat on him and drove nails through his hands and feet then he didn’t curse and scream at them. He kept his head. He loved his torturing neighbours like his tortured self. He prayed for them that God would forgive them. He kept his head. Things go wrong with us and we mess up when we fail to keep our heads, and that is why your own righteousness is deeply flawed and the only righteousness that can cover you and be acceptable before God is the Lord Christ’s righteousness because it is the righteousness of someone who always kept his head. Take it! This righteousness and this salvation is offered to you now. Don’t go on a day longer without it.
- THE SPIRIT-FILLED MAN ENDURES HARDSHIP.
It is actually the fourth time for Paul to write of this grace to Timothy in this letter. In fact he says it once in every chapter – endure ‘suffering’ verse 8 in chapter 1, endure ‘hardship’ verse 3 in chapter 2; he speaks of ‘the things I endured’ verse 11 in chapter 3, and again here in the verse in front of us in chapter 4. He does not pull any punches, “Timothy, you are going to suffer hardship in this life because you are a Christian and also because of the common sufferings of the whole groaning human race –from which no Christian is promised exemption.” Babies in the wombs of Christians are not promised deliverance from it, nor the mothers who are carrying them. Be prepared for what might lie before us and endure it all.
Think of the Lord Jesus. Here is God the Son. Holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. Where is he? Nailed to cross, forsaken and alone, in the dark. A horrible impenetrable darkness without a friend in sight. And how is he? What is he doing? He is enduring it all. He is keeping going, keeping on, bearing our sins so consciously and taking their guilt and shame and despising it all. He is not thinking for a mini-second that if he’d known that redeeming us would have cost all this anathema and horror he’d never have contemplated it. His whole life was one of enduring what God had decreed, being totally misunderstood by his mother and family and disciples and converts. All of them discouraging him from going to the death of the cross. And yet he is enduring it from enemies and friends. John says about Jesus that in him was life and that life was the light of men, and he endured that life being put to death, and that light being extinguished.
The Christian life is all about endurance. Think of Abraham enduring it when he gave Lot the opportunity to choose the lands for his flocks and he chose the best valley pastures. Abraham loved Lot like himself and he endured that choice. Sarah endured her husband making the most awful decisions putting her in danger by forcing her to tell people that she was her brother, not her husband so that rich, powerful men take her into their harem. She endures her husband’s folly like many Christian wives must. Joseph endured his own brothers selling him into slavery in Egypt, and there he endured. He did not let a root of bitterness go down into his heart so that when they came into his power he killed slowly the lot of them. “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good,” he said. That is a man who endures. Moses endured 40 years in the backside of the desert caring for his father-in-law’s sheep – 40 years. David endured the hatred of King Saul and his attempts to kill him, and when he had the opportunity to kill the King he would not touch him. That is a man who endured. Think of Daniel daring to stand alone in Babylon serving four kings for sixty years, the object of resentment and opposition from all the Babylonian courtiers but trusted by the Emperor because Daniel endured faithfully loving his enemies, forgiving, turning the other cheek and loving the God who had put him there.
Consider the endurance of the British martyrs in the flames of Cardiff and Carmarthen and Tyburn and Oxford, being burned alive for the sake of biblical truth. Think of the endurance of Wesley and Whitefield and Spurgeon. Think of the endurance of Keith Underhill for forty years in Kenya bearing the cares of all the churches. You can endure. They were men of like passions to ourselves, flesh and blood believers, going to the same throne of grace, casting themselves on the same Saviour, finding mercy from him and grace to help them in their time of need. You are going through a tought time? Deal with it! Endure hardness as your Saviour did leaving you an example that you should walk in his steps.
- THE SPIRIT-FILLED MAN REACHES OUT IN EVANGELISM TO OTHERS.
There is the ‘Great Commission’, the words that our risen Lord Jesus spoke, when he told his followers to go and persuade people to become his disciples. God has made us evangelists to the world. We have the sinners’ gospel, and if we have it then it’s to give it to others, and if they go to hell then it is in the teeth of God’s mercy in Jesus. Timothy is being exhorted not to be guilty of disobedience to the words of his Saviour. He was a preacher, teaching the word of God, and so he, above all Christians, must never forget to do the work of an evangelist. Debbie Allan of Glasgow is today the wife of a minister. She was not raised in a church-going home but began to attend when she met her boyfriend as a teenager, but it was a decade before she was converted. When she was 24, a few weeks before Christmas she was in church in Alness in the north of Scotland and she heard her minister, Bill Murdoch, say to the congregation these words; “If you died today, where would you go?” Now that is basic Christian evangelism. Men and women are not annihilated at death. Our bodies and our souls are separated the one from the other. Our bodies are consigned to the dust. Our souls appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the divine evaluation on our lives and hear our destinies. Debbie says, “Dread and fear came over me because I knew that I’d go to hell.” Bill the preacher was doing the work of an evangelist.
But her fears and convictions did not mean that she had been converted. This was a week or so later at a New Year’s Eve social in church when she was still burdened by her sin, She was speaking to Bill’s wife who said to her, “Do you want to ask Jesus into your heart?” “Yes,” she replied, and so the pastor’s wife took her to her husband and they went into the vestry where he said to her, “Do you want Jesus to be your Saviour and to repent of your sins?” “Yes,” she said again. Then he prayed with her and when she joined him in saying ‘Amen’ at the end it was as if a great burden had been lifted off her shoulders. She went back to the gathering and she told everyone, “I’ve become a Christian . . . I’ve become a Christian.” She says, “I wanted to shout it out in the streets and I told all my family. My mother was not convinced. She told me that my husband had forced religion on me, but it was not that at all.” Nine years later the family went through a great trial when her sister Kathryn was stabbed to death by her ex-husband, and her three little nieces came to Alness to live with Debbie’s parents. But she kept believing. She never once felt that God had left her throughout these years or that she was alone. She held on to his promises during her bleakest, darkest days. Today, as I say, she is a minister’s wife in Glasgow. A minister of the gospel remembered to do the work of an evangelist when he was speaking one Sunday.
But this exhortation to spread the good news of Jesus Christ is not just for the work of preachers. Dr. Francis Collins is an American who was the head of the Human Genome project in the 1990s, one of the most respected scientists in the field of genetic research. He describes himself in his student days as an ‘obnoxious atheist’ believing that science had all the answers. When he was at medical school he was meeting various patients with their illnesses and a woman one day cheerfully described to him how her religious beliefs were supporting her through her suffering, and then she challenged him as to his own beliefs. That was the beginning of his pilgrimage. Soon he was reading C.S.Lewis’ Mere Christianity and that wakened him up to the reality of a God who has made himself known in Christ. Some months later he made a commitment of himself to Christ. He puts it like this; “I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful autumn afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me a frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me, and it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth, that God is God, that Christ is his Son, and that I am giving my life to that belief.” He is now a keen Christian doing all he can to share his faith in writing and speaking with others. He heads the American National Institute of Health. His whole pilgrimage to reconciliation with God started like this, a seriously ill woman in hospital shared her faith with him from her hospital bed. Now if he’d been a Christian and had shared his faith with her then he’d probably have been arrested, and charged, and fired. These are the crazy days we live in, but she could share her faith with him. She did not realize it, but she was doing the work of an evangelist. Are we all doing the work of an evangelist? There can be no growth unless we are 100 evangelists here, not one or two. When Rhodri Brady starts here as pastor in September will we be preparing ourselves for his coming? Are we thinking of how we will be inviting people to come along and hear our new minister?
- THE SPIRIT-FILLED MAN DISCHARGES ALL THE DUTIES OF HIS MINISTRY.
So where do you have your ministry to others in the name of the Lord? Is it at school, in the home and the kitchen, in your place of work, in the science lab. Working for the television company, in a cring profession, or is it as a Member of Parliament, or living in the old people’s home, or as you drive your taxi, in your work as a painter or a plumber or a musician? There are people who depend on you week by week, and you have duties, we all have duties every day. The Bible speaks of our duties frequently. For example, Paul tells members of the Colossian church, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him . . . do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord . . . Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Cols. 3:22&23). Then again there is a little phrase in the shortest letter in the New Testament, the third letter of John, where he writes, “You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God” (v.7). When you send your children off to school, when you send your husband off to work then you send them in a manner worthy of God. Now that can mean, if it were God our loving heavenly Father sending them how would he do it? Or it can mean that if we were sending the Lord God on his way how careful we would be in the way we did it. I can remember after a visit of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to preach here that the next day I was going up to London to speak, and I did so on the same train and so in the company of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. He always stayed with Dr. John Williams, and Mrs. Williams sent him on his way with a box of salmon sandwiches some of which he shared with me. But another friend, Henry Miles, had come to the station to see him off and he had also presented the Doctor with a big bar of chocolate. The Doctor took that chocolate home with him! Send them on their way refreshed and feeling loved and appreciated in a manner worthy of the God who has loved you and given you all things richly to enjoy.
All of us are to discharge the duties of our various ministries as parents, husbands and wives, friends, neighbours, church members and citizens. All the privileges of life bring their own responsibilities. Think of the Lord Jesus, how he said those familiar words, that he had not come into the world to be served by scores of servants and flunkies and yes men. He had come from the heart of God to this dark world in order to serve sinners. He told his disciples that the greatest of them would be the one who served best. He washed the feet of his disciples he did not wait, glaring around, drumming his fingers, until one of them got the message and then washed the others’ feet. He knew his ministry was to serve, and the greatest service that he gave us was to lay down his life for us. And though they brought pressure to bear on him not to do it he went ahead and he gave his life even in the death of the cross, as the Lamb of God. He reconciled a holy God to us by appeasing his wrath and satisfying his justice, that God could be just and yet justify them that believe on him. What we cannot do because of our imperfection he freely did because he loved us.
So four duties; four marks of being real Christians; four evidences of being spiritually filled men and women. “ . . . keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” This is how a Christian desires to live; none of us does so perfectly, but there is not a Christian who would not do it perfectly! These are our aims in life as followers of the Lord Jesus. Are you desiring to live like this, and know the help of the indwelling God to assist you day by day? Do you know illimitable access to this Saviour to help you and assurance of his pardon when you fail? Won’t you begin to pray now, “Lord, make me a real Christian. Help me to keep my head, and endure hardship and have a message of your saving love to tell others, and discharge all the duties of my ministry in life?” And you keep praying those things until you know that God has heard you and God blesses you with strength and energy from heaven to live like this. What a truly happy life it is, to live like this! The only happy life!
17th July 2016 GEOFF THOMAS