“God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” from the second letter to St. 2 Timothy 1:1-14
This is probably the last letter written by St. Paul, during the time of his second imprisonment in Rome, perhaps from 66 to 68 AD. He knew that he would not escape punishment this time, and that he was nearing his death.
In chapter one, he praises God for giving Timothy his faith, just as he did for his mother and grandmother. And if that faith began to waver, he advised Timothy to rekindle it, light a fire under it! This faith was the gift given to Timothy at the laying on of hands, presumably by Paul, which was also his consecration as a bishop. Consecration mean to make holy, or to set apart for God’s purposes.
Faith is one of those things that we talk about, but we might have some doubts about what it really means. The apostles themselves did not a clear understanding of faith. When they asked the Lord to increase their faith, he answered with a very curious statement;
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
This might be seen as an insult to the apostles, who had received the Lord’s teaching, followed him near and far, and listened to his every word. He might have well said, “What faith? You don’t have any!”
What did he really mean by this? He followed up his statement with a teaching on duty. Servants ought to do their duty, and should not expect any special thanks. As I have spoken about before, duty is something one does because he takes an oath to do so. We know our duty as Christians, to pray often, to attend church, to give of our time, talent, and treasure for the work of the kingdom. We just have to dig in and do it.
The Lord might be teaching the apostles that faith means doing what is commanded, without knowing the specific reason, and not expecting anything in return. Faith is not something that we as believers have to generate ourselves.
When someone says to you, “you just got to have faith,” they mean just keep on going, following the Lord, knowing that he has your best interests at heart. Be faithful to Jesus, and he will lead you through the darkness toward the light. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen, from the letter to the Hebrews.
St. Paul wrote this verse to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
This is a verse that I quote often because it helps me keep going when things seem difficult or scary. I urge you to memorize that verse, too. Romans 8:28.
So by faith, we press on, or as goes the popular British saying, “Keep calm and carry on.” We might not know what is ahead, but whatever it is, our Lord is preparing us for it. Our obligation is to continue to be faithful. Be faithful to your marriage vows. Be faithful to your Church fellowship. Be faithful to your brothers and sisters in Christ. And be faithful to our Lord Jesus, walking in love as he loved us.
Do not be ashamed, wrote St. Paul, to speak up for the Master, because you and I are his servants. If you suffer for the message of the Gospel, you are in good company with all of the saints! We have been given a precious gift, which is grace, in our holy calling to be his servants. And it’s not because of anything we did to deserve it, but it is of his own purpose for us. We were given this grace before the world began, and it was revealed to us in the appearing of Jesus Christ, who defeated death, and brought life and immortality to light in the Gospel.
St. Paul tells Timothy that he was appointed by the Lord to proclaim this Gospel, and to suffer for it, too. He did it because he put his trust in the Lord to be sure this Gospel would be proclaimed and taught everywhere. St. Paul then tells Timothy to keep the standard of sound teaching that he received from him in the faith and love of Jesus. This is a treasure, says St. Paul, to be guarded with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
And remember, God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. We, too, have been entrusted with the message of salvation, and it is up to us to keep up the standard of the teaching, not allowing it to be changed to suit the culture around us. We must keep calm and carry on doing what the Lord has willed for us, no matter the cost, not fearing the outcome or doubting the Lord’s purpose, as we await his coming to gather us into his kingdom for everlasting life. Amen.