Stay Focused on What Matters Most

Learning How To Have Hope And Strength In Hard Times.

George Wright
Mar 28, 2021    36m
Are there times you feel like there is no hope? We all can feel that way at times, and this message, based on the Book of Timothy chapter 2, can help us learn how to have hope and strength in hard times. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, thank you worship team. What an incredible gift to be able to share this time together on this Palm Sunday. Can you just join again in just lifting up some praise the Lord, just thanking God for what we are able to celebrate, and just the gift of coming together, what a privilege it is on this Palm Sunday.

George Wright: 00:20 I do want to ask you now, if you would turn your attention to the Word of God, join me in Second Timothy. That's where we'll be spending some time this morning, Second Timothy chapter 2. And if you're new to Shandon, or if you're joining us online or here for the first time in a while, we're actually walking through a series right now, going through the Book of Second Timothy. We've made our way to chapter 2 here this morning, and what we see here in chapter 2 is the Apostle Paul speaking to Timothy, a man that he loves dearly, a young man that he has been mentoring in the faith. Paul is the older, wiser, more mature follower of Christ. Timothy's the young mentee, the young disciple, who has been coming after Paul, who has been learning ministry and learning the faith through Paul's example and Paul's influence. And we see here in chapter 2, after a very difficult conversation about the reality of suffering in the Christian life that we see in chapter 1, it's like Paul is now coming to Timothy through this letter, in this portion, and saying, Timothy, I know it's not always easy. In fact, I know as a follower of Jesus, there will be struggles, there will be suffering, there will be difficulty, Timothy, there will even be persecution. But in this reality, we do not lose hope. And in this reality, Timothy, I want to remind you of what is truly most important, I want to remind you where to put your attention and your devotion. I want to encourage you to stay focused, stay focused on what matters the most.

George Wright: 02:10 And so that's what we see as we begin to step into chapter 2 of this letter. I'd like to invite you, if you're willing and able to stand with me. I know we were just standing in the sing, but let's stand for the reading of God's Word. We do this each week as we turn our attention to God's Word, the reason we stand is so that we can be reminded as a people of God, we stand on the authority of scripture. The Word of God is our foundation. The Word of God lays before us what God says is right and good and true. So listen to the word of the Lord in Second Timothy chapter 2, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus."

George Wright: 03:10 Will you pray with me as we consider God's Word together here this morning. Father God, on this Palm Sunday, this very significant day that we get to celebrate and honor in the life of the Christian faith. Lord, I pray that you would have your way among your people, and have your way in our lives, as we turn our attention to your word. Holy Spirit, guide us through this time, show us what we need to see, tell us what we need to hear. And Lord God, we pray on this Palm Sunday that we would have even greater clarity, and greater understanding, of the incredible gift that you have offered to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. We commit this time to you, we are thankful for it, Lord, we pray that you would speak. And we pray all these things in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 04:19 So I want to begin with a question just to think about for a moment on this Palm Sunday, the question is this. How do you respond when you are faced with unmet expectations? How do you respond when you are faced with unmet expectations? When the plans that you have had do not come to fruition. When the dreams that you have been dreaming appear to come crashing down. When the vision that you've had for the way things should go, or the goals that you've set for the things you want to see in your life, when they don't come to light, when they do not play out the way you hoped, how do you respond to unmet expectations?

George Wright: 05:10 This is a very important question for Palm Sunday, because Palm Sunday, even in the midst of the celebration that it is, Palm Sunday is a reminder of how quickly a celebration can turn into unmet expectations. Palm Sunday is the day where Jesus entered in to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, at the observance of the Passover. As thousands upon thousands had gathered in Jerusalem, they pack the streets to see Jesus coming into town, believing this certainly was the fulfillment of prophecy that the Messiah had come. We call this the triumphal entry, and as we just sang, they were shouting Hosanna, they were screaming out their voice of worship and excitement, as the Messiah comes into town.

George Wright: 06:09 But their excitement was actually misplaced, their excitement was not what we see here play out in Holy week, their excitement was in what they thought they wanted the most, their excitement was all about a king. The people of God had been oppressed for many years, they had been under the very difficult rule of the Roman empire, and the people of God were longing for the day when the Messiah would come and restore their nation of Israel to the prominence they had once known, they were looking back to the glory days and they were saying, we want that again. We remember, we've heard what it was like with King David and King Solomon, and we want those days, we want a King to be crowned, to sit on the throne, to push Rome out of the way. We want to be restored to the greatness that we want to experience as a nation.

George Wright: 07:05 But instead, instead they face unmet expectations, as they realize Jesus came for a very different reason. Yes, the Messiah would be crowned the King, but he would be crowned not just the King of Israel for that day and time, he is crowned the King of Kings, the King overall. And he is coming not just to give the people what they want, no, God has sent the Messiah to bring the people that which they truly needed. And yet their vision, it does not play out the way they hoped it would go. These plans they have made for the Messiah do not come to fruition, instead of getting what they wanted, they are given something altogether different, and they are confronted then with these unmet expectations.

George Wright: 08:08 So here's the question, on this Palm Sunday, when we face unmet expectations, will we allow those unmet expectations to lead us away from God? The way many people walked away from Jesus when they concluded, he's not giving me what I want. Or will we allow unmet expectations to be an invitation in our life to see the true Jesus for who he really is, and to see the incredible gift of what Jesus has truly provided, that we could never achieve, accomplish, or gain, on our own. For God is showing the people, and God is showing us on Palm Sunday, in the midst of unmet expectations, that what God has for us is better than anything that we could have planned on our own. And sometimes this plays out in difficult ways. Sometimes this plays out in ways we never would have thought possible for our lives, but God always knows what's best. And God wants to bring us to the place where we see that he is providing what we truly need, because what we truly need is greater than any plan we could have crafted on our own.

George Wright: 09:36 So on this Palm Sunday, with this in mind, we return to Second Timothy chapter 2. Because here Apostle Paul is meeting young Timothy in the midst of some unmet expectations. And he's saying, Timothy, I want to remind you of what matters most, I want to remind you to stay focused on what you know to be true through the good news of the gospel. Let me remind you Timothy, to that which you have been called. Because I know right now, and this is what we've talked about in these last few weeks, as Timothy's receiving this letter, he's in the midst of a struggle. He's in the midst of some people in his church in Ephesus who are working against him, he's in the midst of some people in his church in Ephesus who are speaking heresy, and so he's struggling as a young pastor. And Paul saying, Timothy, I know it's not easy, I know you're dealing with some unmet expectations. I know this was not the vision, or the plan, that you had as a minister of the gospel. But let me remind you, God's got something even greater, God is at work in the midst of this struggle, these unmet expectations are an invitation to see God's best for you.

George Wright: 11:03 Step back into the scripture with me, Second Timothy 2 verses 1 and 2, again, "You then my child, Paul writes, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." I love the two things that Paul points out here. He says, Timothy, remember, remember this was never about your strength, and this was never about your plans to begin with. This is all about what God has invited you into, that you certainly do not deserve, and you certainly could never earn or achieve on your own. This is about the grace of God, return to the grace of God, and be strengthened by the grace of God, and allow God's grace to fuel the way you live, the way you operate, the way you lead and minister as a follower of Jesus. For Timothy, when you are faced with these unmet expectations you're always faced with choice. Will you trust that God is in control and is it work in the midst of this struggle, or will you allow the disappointment you feel right now to actually lead you away from God and lead you into things that you never should be a part of at all? Paul is saying, no, timothy, let grace be your strength, let what God has done be the strength you need in the midst of your unmet expectations.

George Wright: 12:52 And then verse 2, and I love this, the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy, Timothy, I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but let me remind you, you are not alone. You are not alone. Isn't it true that when we face a struggle, or when we have some difficult people that we're dealing with in our lives, we just feel like that's the only thing going on at all in our lives and we can lose sight of everything else. That struggle is painful, it's difficult, it can be overwhelming, it can consume our thoughts, it can consume our focus, and the Apostle Paul it's like he's kind of putting his arm on Timothy's shoulder, saying, Timothy, let me remind you, you're not alone. There are faithful men around you, there are faithful followers of Jesus in your church, in your midst right now, Timothy, trust them. Trust them, stand with them, they are standing with you. And Timothy, teach them the good news of what God's Word reveals, that they might be able to teach others also. For this is the way the great commission happens. Teach others, who can teach others, who can teach others, go make disciples, teach the Word of God, that others can see the good news of what God has done. The great commission happens as faithful followers of Jesus entrust the gift of the gospel to faithful men who can teach others, Timothy, you're not alone.

George Wright: 14:38 Now I hope and pray that speaks to you, I know it speaks to me as a pastor. I'm so thankful for this reminder because the reality is there, there are times for me in ministry, to be sure, that I do feel alone. You know, people have a way at times of looking at a pastor a little bit differently than other people. I don't know if you've ever thought about that, or encountered that before. But you know, when a pastor walks into a room, many times the conversation changes altogether. All right, don't talk about that in front of the pastor, don't share that story, I know it's hilarious, but the pastor won't think it's funny. You know, you've got be different around the pastors, that's what people think. I know there've been times when I've been playing golf with my dad, or family members, or something over the summer when we're at the beach and we get partnered up with some strangers at a golf course, you know, that kind of awkward thing that sometimes happens at a golf course. And I always, always try to go as long as possible without them finding out what I do for a living. Because I know the moment they realize they're playing golf with a pastor, who happens to be a Baptist pastor, man, the conversation is going to change, it's going to change quickly. And I want to see the real person, I want to just know them and know their story, and yet it's going to change when they find out that a pastor is in the foursome. And that can feel lonely at times, I'm just being honest, what do you do with the pastor?

George Wright: 16:10 But I love this, I love what the Word of God is saying, not only to a pastor, but to a follower of Jesus, Timothy. Timothy, you're not alone, you are not alone, this is not a solo sport at all. No, God has surrounded you with faithful followers of Jesus, trust them, trust them, and entrust to them the gifts that are laid before us in the Word of God. Be strengthened by the grace of God, be reminded you are not alone, and then he takes Timothy on a little journey and takes us with him. And he says, let me just tell you again, what the Christian life is like. Paul gives three very practical, very simple, examples to help Timothy and to encourage Timothy's faith. And these are such a gift to us as well, as we are reminded of what the Christian life is really all about.

George Wright: 17:07 First, we get the example of the soldier, verses 3 and 4. We see this in Second Timothy chapter 2, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. What a great example, the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy, Timothy, let me remind you of what it's like in the Christian faith. There is a very real battle that is being fought, a spiritual battle. Timothy, you need to understand this, you need to be aware of this. I know sometimes you don't want to think about it, you want to ignore it, you don't fully get it, so it's easy to live your life as if the battle's not happening. But Timothy, the battle is real, the battle is spiritual, you need to see this. Paul also writes about this in his letter to the church in Ephesus, the very church that Timothy is pastoring as he receives the letter that we're walking through in Second Timothy, is the church in Ephesus.

George Wright: 18:16 And so there's a letter also written to this church called Ephesians in your Bible. Look at what Paul says to the church in Ephesus about the spiritual battle. Chapter 6, verse 11 and 12, of Ephesians, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, church." Church, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. So where's the battle? "It's against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." It's as if the Word of God, through a through Ephesians, through Second Timothy, is reminding us, you are in a battle. And Timothy, you need to know your role in this battle, in this spiritual battle, you are a soldier do not lose sight of this. And as a soldier, you need to know who your real enemy is. Timothy, I know it's hard to feel this right now, but it's not the people who are against you. Timothy, it is not those who are making your life difficult, that the battle is with. No, it may come in that package, but the battle is a spiritual battle, and the enemy is a true enemy, the enemy of God. The schemes of the devil himself are what is waging war against you in the spiritual realm, the only way, Timothy, to fight a spiritual battle is in the power of the Spirit, standing on the authority of the Word of God. So do not get distracted.

George Wright: 20:08 Verse 4, "The soldiers do not get got up in civilian pursuits. Why? Because the soldier has a mission, the soldier knows what matters most, and the soldier knows his responsibility, and his role, and his assignment, is to listen to the commander in chief and to do what the commander in chief says to do. Timothy, don't forget this, this is at work in your faith, in your life, right now. Know your role as a soldier, you're not the commander in chief, don't be confused. You're not the general, you're not the captain, no, you are a soldier, and the soldiers responsibility is to listen to the commander in chief and do what he says. For that's how this battle is fought, in the power of God.

George Wright: 21:06 But then secondly, we see the example of an athlete. Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 5, "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." Now think about how simplistic this example is, but how important this example is. Every athletic competition has some sorts of rules, and the only way the game can be played is if the rules are followed. In fact, the game would not be enjoyable at all if the rules were ignored. That's why have referees, umpires officials, and I know we like to yell at the officials for the bad calls that they make, but the reality is the officials have an important role in the game because they keep the game enjoyable, they keep the game in such a way that it's very clear what the outcome of the game can be based on the rules.

George Wright: 22:04 I can remember when our kids were younger, and we would have game night, or be playing games at the house, and they would start to come up with kind of their own version of the game that we were playing, parents you might can relate to this. And in the midst of the game, if they thought they were not going to win, they would just start to change the rules. And I'm like, hold on, it doesn't work that way. I mean, I know you're three, but I'm still going to crush you. I'm going to win this game because I'm playing by the rules, and you don't get to change the rules on me, no, that's not how this works. The rules matter, the rules keep us engaged in the game, as it is intended to be played. And the rules actually provide the enjoyment in the game, without the rules, it would be total chaos. Can you imagine football without some rules? I mean, it would be chaos, it would be carnage. No, the rules are incredibly important.

George Wright: 23:08 And here, the Word of God is reminding us, and this is something that's really hard for people to hear in our culture today, the Christian life has rules. Some of you are even going to push back against that statement right there, God has rules for his people. And certainly we live in a culture now that wants to change the rules, that wants us to believe you just come up with your own rules, because the rules, according to God, are irrelevant, or out of date, or they're old fashioned, they don't apply to 2021. That's what our culture wants us to believe, you just create your own rules, you know what's best, figure it out. The problem with that is chaos, that's what we see in our culture day, chaos. God has laid out rules for his people, please don't miss this, not to rob us of our freedom or to kill our joy. God has laid out rules for his people, in his word, to invite us into true freedom and to give us true joy. He knows how the game should be played, he created it. He knows what's best for us, he created us. The rules of God's Word are for our good, and they invite us to live in true freedom. For God knows what we need, and God knows what we desire, and God knows that our truest needs and our deepest desires will only be found in him, in his design, in his best for our lives. The only way the athlete is crowned, is if he follows the rules in playing the game. For the follower of Jesus, please hear this, obedience to the Word of God is one of the greatest gifts you can ever experience. God wants you to experience his best for your life, and so he's given you his word to show how much he loves you and to show you where true joy can be found.

George Wright: 25:42 But then third, we see the example of the farmer, again, a very simple example. Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 6, "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." If you know anything at all about farming, which I do not know much. I can tell you that I've never lived on a farm, I've never worked a farm, I've been to farms and I really like looking at farms like in Southern living or something, but I've never worked a farm before. Okay? Farming is hard work. You're up before the sun comes up every single day, there's no weekends in farming, you know that, right? I mean, it's hard work, working the ground, doing the things that need to be done to make sure everything is operating correctly, for the sake of a harvest that is coming, it is hard work.

George Wright: 26:39 We live in a culture where many people in the Christian faith mistakenly believe that if it's hard, it must not be from God. No, no, if I'm following God, it's supposed to be easy. No, if I'm trusting God in faith, I'm supposed to have everything I want in comfort and ease. No, that's not it at all, it's like Paul is shaking Timothy, going Timothy, did you think this was going to be easy? You live in a broken world, this is a spiritual battle, man. This is not easy, it's going to be hard. But the hard work is so necessary and so beautiful, for it is hard work that matters, it is hard work that produces growth in your heart, it is hard work that leads to a harvest in the lives of others, if you trust God in his word,

George Wright: 27:37 I love this quote from Dave Carson, I stumbled across this a couple of years ago, it's been a real gift to me in thinking about this statement of Second Timothy. Listen to what Carson writes, he says, "People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift towards compromise and call it tolerance. We drift toward disobedience and call it freedom. We drift towards superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation. We slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism. We slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." Basically, Carson is saying, if just left on our own, without any intentionality, and without any discipline in the Christian faith, we just drift into laziness in our faith, we just drift into compromise.

George Wright: 28:53 You know, the spiritual disciplines are called discipline for a reason, they're not easy, but they're so necessary, so important, and so beautiful because the disciplines invite us into the joy of the Father, prayer, time in the word. I honestly believe, and this is a personal opinion, you can't find a verse for this one, but I honestly believe that for a man or a woman of God, just like the farmer to really grow in their faith, they need to be up with the Lord first thing every single day. I would even argue before the sun comes up, now some people are going to argue with that, but the first thing every single day to be the discipline of time with the Lord. That produces such a beautiful harvest in a life. I believe that sharing the good news, living the mission, what we talk about often, leveraging who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel wherever we are and wherever God takes us, that's going to involve hard work. But it also leads to a beautiful harvest, as people see and hear the good news of what Christ has done through our testimony, through our example, through our faith. The follower Jesus is called to do the work of the ministry, and to do the work of the disciplines, and that's where faithfulness through obedience leads to freedom. Do the work, for the one who created us is worthy, the work is worth it because of what we get to enjoy in the fellowship with the Father.

George Wright: 30:57 Verse 7, we conclude our time here in the passage today, we'll stop here and pick it up next week. Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 7, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." It's as if the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy, Timothy, I know right now it's hectic, it's a little chaotic, I know you're busy, I know you're just getting started, I know it's a struggle, but Timothy, don't blow past this; it's so important that you hear what I'm saying, it's so important that you listen to the good news of what God is laying before you, reflect on the gift of the gospel, reflect on the power of God's Word. And Timothy, be intentional, ask the Lord to show you what you need to see, ask The Lord to tell you what you need to hear.

George Wright: 31:54 I can think of no better way to enter Holy week, quite honestly, than to just have a resolved commitment, all of us, just to say, we want to go into this sacred space of Holy week with a mindset that says, Lord, we want to see what you want us to see, we want to hear, Lord, what you want us to hear. Would you be willing to ask that? Would you be willing to intentionally lean in, and say, Lord, right now, this season of my life, with all the circumstances that you know better than I do, with all of that I'm walking through, Lord right now in this sacred space of Holy week, what is it that you want me to see, and what is it that you know I need to hear? Would you invite the Lord to speak into your life through the power of his Spirit this week, as we look forward to the celebration of Easter?

George Wright: 32:56 With that in mind, I just want to pray over us, and then we're going to have a very special opportunity to end this service with baptism before we go here today. So pray with me as we consider what the Word of God has laid before us. Heavenly Father, I am so very grateful for the opportunity to dive into your word here on this Palm Sunday. And as we have certainly been reminded through what happens as a result of Palm Sunday and the days that followed, Lord, there are so many times that we are faced with unmet expectations, and those unmet expectations can lead to disappointment, they can lead to discouragement, they could even lead us away from what you say is best. Lord, I pray that you would open our eyes to that reality, and remind us of this beautiful good news that it is in unmet expectations that you show us something greater altogether. You teach us so much, you invite us into something that allows us to experience even more of you, Lord, give us the faith to believe that, give us the faith to trust you.

George Wright: 34:10 And I pray, Lord God, that this week, this Holy week, would not be just like any other week in our lives. I pray that this would be a week where we very intentionally say to you in faith, Lord, we want to see what you want us to see. Lord, I want to see what you want me to see. Lord, we want to hear what you know we need to hear. So Lord, please say, say to us, what you know we need to hear. Father, I pray that you would grow our faith. And just the way Paul speaks to this young minister that he loves so much, Timothy, and encourages him, hey, stay focused on what matters most. Lord, I pray that you would keep us focused on what matters most, that our faith would grow, and that there would be a beautiful harvest that comes as a result of our faith.

George Wright: 35:12 Lord, as we look forward to Easter, we pray that there would be many people who would experience the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a real, true, way in their own lives. And we recognize that there are some among us here on this Palm Sunday who have never experienced the joy of the resurrection in a personal way, because they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. And so I pray, Lord God, that today, for whoever that may be, would be the day that they would say, Jesus, I am ready to follow you, I am ready to trust my life to you, I need your forgiveness of my sin. I'm ready to turn away from what I've been doing, I want to turn to something new altogether, Jesus, I'm turning to you.

George Wright: 36:05 Oh how we thank you for the gift of salvation, a gift that we now get to celebrate through testimony and baptism. Lord, we are thankful for what you are doing in our midst, give us eyes to see what you desire for us to see. We lift all of this up in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
Read More
Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206