Guard the Deposit

During The Struggles In Life, Find Your Strength In God's Word.

George Wright
Mar 21, 2021    36m
During the struggles of life, it can be easy for us to get caught up in the earthly circumstances rather than remember the truth found in God's Word. In the Book of Second Timothy, the Apostle Paul lovingly reminds Timothy of this as they both are suffering from hardships in their lives. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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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 You can grab a seat, and let me encourage you if you would to grab a Bible, or open the Bible app, whatever you have access to, and join me in the Book of Second Timothy in the New Testament. If you are new to Shandon, or just joining us for the first time in a while, we just began last week, a series walking through the Book of Second Timothy. And so this is week two, and we're going to pick up right where we left off last week in verse 7 of Second Timothy chapter 1.

George Wright: 00:29 But before I even step into this, I just want to say, what a gift it is, specifically this week, to be gathered together as a church. I recognize many of you are joining us online, we're so thankful that you are, but to see this many folks gathered together here at Shandon is such a privilege and such a gift, considering it was this time, this very week, a year ago, that the world as we know it got flipped upside down. And it was this time a year ago that we, as a church, went online exclusively for 17 Sundays in a row. And so I'm so thankful, so thankful that we're at the place where we are now, where we can come together, where so many have come back. We want to encourage those of you who have yet to come back, hey, this is a great time to come back. Especially as we look forward to Easter Sunday, we'd love to see you. And we realize there's many circumstances that may prevent you from joining us in person, you can join us online, but we want to gather together as a body, as a church. I got my vaccine this week, so I'm feeling good, I'm ready to go out into the world. I know many of you have done that as well, but what a privilege it is to be together as a church.

George Wright: 01:46 And certainly over this last year, the Lord has taught us so many things. There've been so many difficult lessons to learn, so many struggles to navigate and walk through. And as we keep that in mind, that's actually what we're stepping into here this morning in Second Timothy. This morning in the Word of God, we are entering into a very difficult doctrine of the Christian faith, a doctrine that many times, we just struggle to know what to do with all together. For today we are stepping into the doctrine of suffering, and suffering is not a fun topic to navigate. In fact, I realize many of you are walking through a season right now of hardship, or difficulty, or suffering, of some kind, and it can be overwhelming, it can feel like everything is caving in on you in the midst of suffering.

George Wright: 02:44 And we here in the American church, especially, often don't know what to do with this topic at all. Because many times we just want to believe that, hey, if you live the right way, and do the right things, and live the Christian faith to the best of your ability, then that suffering is just going to go away altogether, and life's going to get easier, and you're going to get everything that you want. But the reality is, the scripture says something very different altogether. As we step into Second Timothy, I want to just start with a quote that I came across in my study for this message. In one of the commentaries I looked through on Second Timothy, on this passage, listen to this quote. It says, "Suffering, rather than being removed by the gospel, is actually part of the gospel." That's not easy to consider, this is some deeper water that we will be entering into in this text today. "Suffering, rather than being removed by the gospel, is actually part of the gospel." This is a central theme that runs throughout Second Timothy, it's a theme that runs throughout the Christian message.

George Wright: 04:08 And so with this in mind, let's turn our attention now to the Word of God. Second Timothy chapter 1, beginning in verse 7, let me read verses 7 and 8 to get us started. I'd like to invite you if you're willing and able to stand with me as I read from God's Word. And the reason we stand, if you're new to Shandon, is so that we can be reminded that the Word of God is our authority as a church, as God's people. The Word of God is our foundation, the Word of God is what we need to hear, the Word of God lays before us, what God says is right, good, and true. Even as it relates to suffering.

George Wright: 04:48 Listen to the word of the Lord, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-
control." That's where we landed last week, that is very good news for those who are followers of Jesus. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the spirit of power love and self-control. And then the Apostle Paul builds on that and says, and here's why, you need to understand this Timothy, "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God." Suffering is part of the gospel, and we need to understand this with greater clarity.

George Wright: 05:38 Let's ask the Lord to speak into our lives what he desires for us to hear today as we spend time in his word. Pray with me if you will. Father, we thank you for this time, we thank you for the privilege that it is to gather together and to turn our attention to your word. And we believe to your believe, according to your word, that every time we turn our attention to your word, as the spirit moves among us, you have something specific that you desire for us to hear. So I pray that your word would fall on fertile soil in our hearts and our lives, I pray that we would receive that which you desire for us to receive here in this passage of scripture today. Have your way among us, this is a challenging, challenging topic to navigate. And there are many who are walking through the struggle right now, who are experiencing suffering of some kind, and Lord, it makes it very difficult for us to hear. So I pray that you would open our ears, and use this time for your glory. We look to you. It's in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 06:58 In this message on suffering, in this text of Second Timothy 1, I want to begin with a quote that has been very significant and meaningful to me personally in different seasons of my journey of faith. This is a quote by CS Lewis, it's something that was said many years ago. Listen to what Lewis wrote, and listen to how this might apply to suffering. He says, "It seems that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." We are far too easily pleased. What does that have to do with suffering? Well, Lewis here is talking about how quickly and how easily we can miss out on God's best because we settle for cheap substitutes. We settle for things that cannot even compare to the infinite joy that could be ours if we would trust in what God alone can provide. And so instead of experiencing this infinite joy and the gift of the gospel and the gift of a life that is surrendered and devoted to Christ, instead of experiencing this infinite joy, we settle for something less. We fail to grab a hold of the unmatchable fulfillment that could be found in Christ alone, we settle for the things of this world that cannot compare and cannot compete with what God alone can provide.

George Wright: 09:05 What does that have to do with suffering? Well, I believe this quote actually speaks to suffering in a couple of different ways, oftentimes we see this play out in one of two ways. We can see this play out when quite simply we just become too comfortable, and we become obsessed with comfort. This happens often in the lives of those who are seeking to follow after Christ. This happens often in the lives of those who are in the American church, specifically, our desire for comfort, our desire for pleasure, in the things of this world can become greater than our desire for the gospel and what God alone can provide. As a result, when comfort and pleasure is our primary desire over and above what Christ alone can provide, we begin to live for the glory of self instead of living for the glory of God. And when we begin to live for the glory of self, we begin to be obsessed with comfort or pleasure in the things of this world. If we say we are a Christian, if we say we are his church, if we say we are followers of Jesus, God, in his love for us, wants to get our attention. He wants to remind us of what's the most important, he wants to remind us that there is a joy available to us that is so much better than mud pies in a slum. So sometimes God in his love for us gets our attention. He gets our attention through the struggle. He gets our attention through difficulty. He gets our attention through suffering. Not because he's just out to get us, but because he wants us to see what we're missing. He wants us to see what he alone can provide, and he wants us to experience this infinite joy that can be ours through Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 11:22 Sometimes this also plays out when things do get difficult in our lives, and we see these difficult things happening and are tempted to believe what I would call the grass is greener syndrome, where we look out at others and we think, man, they've got it so much better than us. And if I could just have what they have on that beautiful polished Instagram accounts, then I'd be good to go. If I could just experience this life that I I'm missing, that others have, then I would be good to go. I would be truly happy if I could just have the perfect family, if I could just finally find the perfect house, if I could just be in the perfect church, then I would be fulfilled and I would be able to escape the hardships of this life.

George Wright: 12:19 But the problem with this, is the Bible says something different altogether. In fact, the scripture shows us that struggle is part of the process. The suffering for the Christian, according to the Word of God, is necessary. For you see, there is no sanctification without suffering, that means there is no growth in the faith without the challenge and the struggle. And I know, this is not easy to consider, this is not easy to believe, but you see it's through the struggle, it is through suffering, and it's through hardship, that we come face to face with our need. And when we come face to face with our need, we are invited to come face to face with God's love and grace that needs us in our need. You see, this is where the infinite joy of Christ that Lewis was talking about can become our story, because we are able to see that what God has done for us is truly greater than anything that we could find in this life. I've heard it said simply this way, the only thing you need to get the gospel, is need.

George Wright: 13:53 I've told this story on several occasions, but it had a significant impact in my life and my journey of faith, so I want to share it yet again. When I first became a pastor for the first time, I had been in ministry for a couple of years in different roles, and I was working on staff where my dad was pastoring in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was about to go out and become a pastor of a church for the first time. And one of the sweet ladies in the church at the time came up to me before I transitioned into this new role of being a pastor of a church, and she said to me something that I just haven't been able to get over. She said, George, my prayer is for you, that you will come to a place where God is all you have, so that you can see that God is truly all you need. And over and over again, in my journey with the Lord over the last 15 or 16 years, since that statement was said to me, since that prayer was prayed over me. I have seen time and time again, in difficult circumstances, in times where I'm struggling, in times where I don't know what to do, or which way to turn. And in times where I feel alone, or I feel overwhelmed, over and over again, I have seen the faithfulness of God, when I truly have nowhere else to turn. It's not easy, but it's necessary. It's not always what we want, but God knows it's what we need.

George Wright: 15:41 But here's the reality, and don't miss this, we're going to step right back into the scripture here. The reality is, as the Lord is seeking to meet us in our need in the midst of the struggle, in the midst of suffering, there's also another voice that's whispering in our ear. It's a voice that's fueled by the enemy of God, that is seeking to bring about a war in the heart and the mind of one who is seeking to follow after Christ. It's the voice that says, just give up, just give up, it's not worth it, just throw in the towel, just cling to the things of this world, don't go there with the faith, no, no, no, just give up. Maybe you've heard that voice before. Maybe you're hearing that voice even now. And it's in that tension, in that tension in the midst of suffering, in the midst of the need, where the Lord is inviting us into something greater and the enemy is whispering in our ear trying to get us distracted, trying to get us to quit, that's where we find the Apostle Paul speaking to Timothy here in this letter.

George Wright: 17:08 That's what we see in Second Timothy chapter 1 verse 8, Paul is writing to Timothy saying Timothy, "Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God." Timothy don't give up, do not be ashamed of the gospel, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. No, the gospel, right now in this moment, I know it's difficult, Timothy, the gospel is what you need, the gospel is our only hope, don't give up.

George Wright: 17:53 We're two weeks away from the celebration of Easter, what an incredible glorious gift it is to celebrate Easter. For at the celebration of Easter, we are reminded of what Paul is talking about here with Timothy, the testimony of our Lord. What does the testimony of our Lord, at the celebration of the resurrection, show us? The testimony of our Lord through the celebration of the resurrection shows us that God is at work in the midst of suffering to provide the ultimate expression of joy is found in him alone. For it is at the cross, where we're given the ultimate expression of suffering for the sake of joy, being seen by those who trust in what Christ has done. We see this right in the Word of God, Hebrews chapter 12. In fact, just turn a few pages over from Second Timothy to Hebrews chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, the writer of Hebrews lays this before us. This is what we see Hebrews 12:12, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." And listened to this, "...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Aren't you thankful, aren't you thankful, that in the face of suffering, Jesus did not run in hide? Aren't you thankful that in the face of suffering, Jesus did not tap out and say enough already, I don't deserve this, no, they deserve this. No, I'm doing this anymore. No, that's not what Jesus does. No, Jesus endures the cross, despising the shame of it. Why? Because of the joy that was set before him, the joy of inviting you and me into infinite joy, the joy of inviting you and me out of death and into life, the joy of offering us something that is so much greater than anything this world could provide. Paul is saying Timothy, Timothy remember, remember the testimony of our Lord. Don't give up, stand firm in the gospel, it is worth it.

George Wright: 20:52 And then he lays out this beautiful explanation of the gospel. We see this in Second Timothy 1 verses 8 and following, this beautiful description of what the gospel is, and what it means for you and me if we trust in Christ. Listen to the word of our Lord, "Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." I love what the Apostle Paul does here as he's talking about the gospel, he says to Timothy, who by the way, understands the gospel, hey Timothy, don't forget, this is not about your works. I'm not telling you here that in the midst of suffering, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stiffen your spine, flex your muscles, get strong and just endure it, that's not the message. No, the message is, remember, it is the finished work of Christ that empowers you to stand in suffering. Remember, this is all about what Jesus has done for you. This is not about something you have to earn, or you have to achieve Timothy, no, this is about what Christ has done. The purpose of his grace, that which has been offered to you.

George Wright: 22:25 And then Paul says, "This has now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Here is this infinite joy in the life that has been offered through Christ here today, but also the infinite joy of the life has been offered through Christ in the age to come, this is talking about eternal life in Christ. And Paul goes on, he says, "For which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. Paul is saying it's because I preach the gospel. Don't forget Timothy, that even as I write you this letter, I'm writing this letter from a dungeon, from a prison cell, I've been arrested for preaching the gospel. It's not easy, this is hardship, this is because of what I'm doing as a follower of Jesus.

George Wright: 23:34 I know that's tough to understand Timothy, but hear this, verse 12, "But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me." What an incredible testimony the Apostle Paul is giving to Timothy here as he says, Timothy, look and see what God has done, and stand firm in the power of the gospel for God has not given up on you, so don't you dare give up on him. No, look at what God has done. Hey, I know who I have believed, Paul says, and I know whom I have believed in is the one who is faithful and true, he is the one who is Holy and righteous, he will not leave me, he will not abandon me, he will not forsake me. I'm convinced that what he has done cannot be taken away, so I will stand firm, I will not be ashamed, for I know whom I have believed. Timothy, I know you need to hear this.

George Wright: 25:01 Remember, Timothy is walking through a difficult struggle of his own. It's not like the Apostle Paul's struggle, being in prison, arrested for preaching the gospel. No, Timothy is pastoring the church in Ephesus, where there's a lot of division and a lot of difficulty, and there are people coming against him. And Paul's aware of this, and Paul is saying, Timothy, I know you need to hear this, I know it's not easy right now. There are going to be some that come against you, Timothy, there will probably even be some who tell lies about you, and who slander your name. There's even going to be, this is going to sound crazy, Timothy, I know you don't want to believe this, there's going to be some people who are pulling for you to fail. Timothy, understand it's hard, this suffering seems unfair, I'm writing you from a prison cell because I'm preaching the gospel, that does not seem fair. But let me remind you, our savior hung on a cross, the only innocent man who's ever lived, it did not seem fair, but remember Timothy, it was necessary. And God was at work in the midst of the suffering, even when it seemed completely unfair. Don't give up, do not be ashamed of the gospel, not only is it your only hope, it is their only hope.

George Wright: 26:43 And we end here in verse 13 and 14 for the day, we'll pick up again right where we've left off next week. But look at verses 13 and 14 of Second, Timothy 1, it's so important as it relates to suffering in the faith, "Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, Paul writes, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." See, the Apostle Paul understands that in the struggles and the difficulties, in the suffering and hardships of life, it is very easy for us to begin to view truth through the lens of our circumstances, instead of seeing truth through the lens of God's Word. Because we feel pain, that pain feels intense, that pain is overwhelming, that pain seems to drown out all the other noise and all the other sound, that pain is all we can focus on, and so we often begin to think through the filter of that pain, instead of thinking through the filter of the Word of God.

George Wright: 28:06 And so the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy, guard your heart and guard your mind with the truth of God's Word. Timothy, you know, this truth matters in the church, truth matters in the faith. Timothy, you know this, but I also recognize it's very easy to wander away from the truth because of the pain you're feeling. It's very easy to let the circumstances of your life override the truth, Timothy, don't go there. No, you need sound doctrine, you need the truth of God's Word, and the truth of God's Word is more important than your comfort, the truth of God's Word is certainly more important than your preference, the truth of God's Word is certainly more important than entertainment, or finding pleasure in the things of this world. No, the truth of God's Word is what you need, sound doctrine is essential in the life of a follower of Jesus.

George Wright: 29:14 Here's why, because God never goes against his word. We need to know what the Word of God says, we need to stand firm in the truth of God's Word, we need to ask the Spirit to put the truth of God's Word deep in our hearts So that when the circumstances are difficult, and when we feel alone in suffering, or when we feel like everything's closing in on us, it is the truth of God's Word that drives how we respond. Not just the way we feel, not just the circumstances that we see, no, it is the truth of God's Word, the unchanging, never failing, truth of God's Word, what is right and good and true given to us by God himself.

George Wright: 30:11 Truth matters in the church, sound doctrine is so essential in the life of a follower of Jesus. And so Paul is saying to Timothy, Timothy, please don't miss the point, by fighting the wrong fight. No, make sure that when you stand, and when you fight, you are standing and fighting according to what the Word of God has said, not according to just what you feel and the pain you have experienced. Guard your heart with the truth of God's Word, listen to the Spirit of God and stand firm in the faith and in the love of God that is revealed in the truth of his word.

George Wright: 31:08 I just want to close this way and simply say, may it be true of us, may it be true of God's people here Shandon. When we walk through the struggle, when we face hardship, when we suffer, we do so standing firm on the truth of God's Word led by the Spirit of God, that the world may see the faithfulness of God alive in us. For remember God never wastes suffering, he never wastes hardship, he uses it for his glory and ultimately he uses it for our good. Will we stand on that truth? What is the truth that you are standing on, is it God's Word or is it something that you're hearing that is outside of God's Word altogether? May we stand on what God says is true, and may we stand firm in the faith in light of what God has done?

George Wright: 32:28 Let me pray for us as we close. Heavenly Father, I want to specifically pray right now, for those who are walking through a struggle of some kind, you have been experiencing suffering in some form or fashion. Lord, it is my prayer right now that your Spirit, the great comforter, would come and minister to the hearts and the minds of those who are hurting. Oh, how easy it is to grow discouraged and weary in the midst of his struggle. Oh, how easy it is to lose sight of the truth of your word. Oh, how easy it is to walk away from what is good and what is best and settle for a cheap substitute that we think might fix it. Lord, I pray, that's not what would happen in our lives. I pray, Lord God, through the power of your Spirit, that you would give us the faith to stand firm on the truth of who you are, and what you've done, and what's revealed in your word.

George Wright: 33:48 And I pray that as you minister, even now, to those who are hurting and struggling, that they would not only sense your presence, but that they would know the truth of your grace and your mercy for them. And they would be able to cling to the truth that you are at work, even in the midst of the struggle, that you are using this time for your glory and ultimately for their good. Lord, I pray that they would cling to the truth of what your word reveals. And when they feel weak, Lord God, when we feel weak, I pray that they would sense your strength holding them up, comforting them, as the perfect Father alone can do, ministering to their hearts and their soul and their mind. Oh Lord, how we need you, but it's in our need for you, Lord God, that we are invited to see what you have done for us in that need. May we cling to the good news of the gospel, for you are our hope, you are what we need.

George Wright: 34:56 Lord, as I close, I pray for those among us who have been hurting or struggling, and they really have been doing so alone because they've never come to that place where they have trusted their life to you. So I pray that this would be the day, that there would be some among us who would say, Jesus, I realize I cannot do this on my own, I've been trying, it hasn't worked. I am ready, I am ready, to experience a new life in Christ, and so Jesus, I'm ready to trust you. I pray that you would forgive me of my sin, I'm ready to turn from that sin, I'm ready to turn to you.

George Wright: 35:36 Lord, we thank you for the gift of salvation, we thank you for the incredible beauty of the gospel. We thank you for meeting us, even in the brokenness and the pain and the struggle of life, to show us how real and true your love for us really is. Oh, how we need you. Oh, how we love you. May we fix our eyes on Jesus, it's in his name we pray. Amen.

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