“Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
2 Timothy 1:8-9
Decision for Christ [to be a disciple] is one of the most precious decisions one can ever make hence it deserve to be guarded against anything that can derail it. Being a disciple of Christ comes with a great cost to pay; and anyone deciding to follow him must be willing to pay for it. Ridicule by non-believers, being deserted by some of one’s best friends on account of accepting Christ, persecutions which may be both intellectual and physical among others are some of the hard moments one will meet as a result of following Christ. Amidst all these hard times, it is right to remain on the path and never be ashamed of the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.
Timothy, a young man whose faith streamed from his grand-mother Lois and mother Eunice respectively was a dedicated disciple. He being discipled by the apostle Paul who had been through series of sufferings for the sake of the gospel of the Lord Jesus was prone to shy away from the faith. As his mentor was often lashed, thrown out of towns, and imprisoned; it was very possible for Timothy to try to avoid what his mentor was going through by deserting him as others have already done so. We read Paul write; “You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15).
Like many others, notably Phygelus and Hermogenes, Timothy could have been at a cross road; considering whether he should continue in the faith and eventually share in the suffering of his mentor or he quits the faith and avoids to suffer. His mentor – Paul read his mind, he saw what likely could result out of his suffering for the gospel. He knew the impact of his suffering upon a young man like Timothy, who probably wasn’t yet deeply anchored in the faith. He therefore sought to encourage him, he sought to make him build up courage to remain on the path, he sought to make Timothy not follow Phygelus and Hermogenes in walking away from Paul, and not only from Paul, but also from Christ and His gospel.
Paul therefore pens down an encouragement to his son, Timothy. He says;
“Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” 2 Timothy 1:8-9.
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord is a timely message for believers of all time; and especially to us the 21st century believers. We are living in a very intellectual and philosophical time that questions everything and would like an empirical prove of everything. Some will contend the virgin birth, others will contend the resurrection and worst still, some will deny the very existence of God and of Christ. Some will bring religious arguments that are meant to ridicule what we believe. Such human philosophies and intellectualism can easily bring many to a state of crossroad, a state that makes them consider some other ways other than the path in Christ.
Whereas a Christian can proactively engage in an intellectual faith seeking thoughts, it ought to be in subjection to Christ and the revealed word of God. It is for this reason that in his letter to the Colossians; Paul writes:
“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” (Colossians 2:8-9).
May philosophies and intellectualism not hold us captive and cause us to stumble in the faith.
Paul in addition to encouraging Timothy never to be ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus, and of his suffering for the sake of the gospel also invites Timothy to join him in the suffering.
Right from the word go, Jesus has warned his disciples that it wasn’t going to be a smooth road for them in their discipleship. That they are in fact like sheep among wolves that won’t be spared by the wolves.
When the apostles told Jesus that they had left their homes to solely follow him, in response Jesus told them that anyone who leaves father and mother, brothers and sisters and children for his sake will receive a hundred fold here and a hundred fold in the life to come including persecution. It is therefore not strange for a Christian to suffer for the gospel, to be persecuted for his faith and the proclamation of the gospel. At the very helm of persecution is the growth of the church. Historically, the church was stronger when persecuted, this is even true today, in zones where Christianity is persecuted, it is fastest growing. We therefore ought not to shy away because of suffering, when persecuted, we ought not to be ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
When faced with perilous times, we must press on, we must remain true to what we profess.
“Neither the persecuting hand of men, nor the chastising hand of God, relaxed ancient singular saints. Believers resemble the moon, which emerges from her eclipse by keeping her motion, and ceases not to shine because the dogs bark at her. Shall we cease to be professors because others will not cease to be persecutors?” – William Secker
Knowing who we believe, on whom we have thrusted our hopes and trust is very significant in rooting us in the faith. This helps us remain focused and never ashamed come what may. The object of our hope and faith is Christ. It is the very reason why apostle Paul could continue to stand firm, that he was willing to be given lashes of the cane, that he was willing to be thrown out of a city, that he wasn’t ashamed of even going behind bars for his faith. He confidently says, “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” (2 Timothy 1:12).
May we like Paul never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, may we boldly stand in Christ, may we let Christ in us be seen by the world. May ridicule, rejection, persecution never put us to shame, rather may we be energised when faced with hard times. Christ desires that we stand for him, when we stand for him, he stands for us. Christ desires that we never fallout from the path we are treading despite the thorns we may have to walk over, the rivers we may have to cross, the hills we may have to climb and the narrowness of the road. He wills that that until he returns or calls us home, we stand unashamed because when we are filled with shame and deny him, he equally will deny us. So, ““Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” 2 Timothy 1:8-9.
Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway. For pastoral assistance you can email him or check how you can reach him here.