Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ordination Sermon - The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7 - Part Two

In Timothy’s case, it was a fear of man (the cowardice that flows out of shame/embarrassment) that fuelled the neglect of his spiritual gifting. He had an ample supply of fear-triggers.

1. Imminent persecution. Paul himself is writing from prison. Deserted, cold and suffering – and this after much public opposition to his work. The same fate always lurked about for Timothy.

2. Older saints opposed to his ministry. It is not always the case, but sometimes, some churches are full of old people who are too proud to listen to a younger man. Timothy was ever conscious of his young age and apparently there were some in Ephesus who were as well. Paul would write in 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

3. Sophisticated false teachers abounded. These wolves in sheepskins were deceptive, slick and always saying enough good to make you think their bad was not so bad. They were a formidable enemy.

4. It appears that Timothy was not altogether healthy and might have worried about his ailments. Or, he might have been so anxious over other matters that it affected his health. Paul would write to him: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Persecution, grumpy old men, false teachers, sickness – lots to be afraid of!

But to all these possible causes of fear and shame – we are given one answer. Julian – to all your triggers to fear and shame, whether the fear of hurting someone, the fear of looking badly, the fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time... to all these triggers you are offered one word. And I want to preach that word to you, my brother! And may God give you grace so that fuel for Gospel courage, that cure to shame and fear – the true cure – marks your entire life and ministry!

The Cure? “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I. Remember what the Spirit does not give -- (Fear

Was Not Attached to the Given Spirit or His Gifts

The Holy Spirit that God gave you – and the gifts with which He has blessed you – are not marked by fear.

That means that any fear in you is man-generated, sin-generated. It is a symbol of our fallenness, not our righteousness. It is evidence of your spirit, not the Holy Spirit.

Saul was a tall and handsome man. He stood head and shoulders over everyone and when the people of Israel saw their new King, they said: “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” But where was Saul before they brought him to the coronation ceremony? Hiding in the luggage. He was afraid.

You are a good looking chap, Julian. People see you as smart and friendly and full of good works. And all that pressure to perform, to not disappoint people, may tempt you to hide in the luggage. To duck back behind books or administration or fellow elders... but that is the fear of man – not a mark of God’s powerful Spirit!

It was not humility that kept Saul in the luggage – but disbelief that gave birth to her screaming child, Fear. Saul had already been assured by God that the Sovereign Lord would be with him. He had been anointed by God to this ministry. He had been given confirmations of this through circumstance and people. He was called to be King – not coward.

And you too have been called, not to a kingship, but the eldership. An office in God’s church that requires you to serve by leading. You will lead by example, yes, but you must also lead by word and action. The best Kings in Israel’s history led their troops to battle; they marched at the front of the lines. Like King Theoden in Lord of the Rings they rushed down to what appeared to be certain death. They took risk for God’s glory. Necessary risk – no one WANTED to fight those Orks, but someone HAD to!

There is no room for the faint-hearted in the leadership of a church. By taking on this ministry you are inviting, at some point, persecution and suffering. You are offering your life to the King as the one who will go into the battle when someone HAS to. You might as well decide now not to fear!

Jesus calmed a raging storm from a little fishing boat. After they woke him up from his nap, He asked His disciples (in the midst of the tumult!), “Why are you afraid?” and then with a word stopped the wind and waves. He did not console them, dry the rain and salt water off their faces... He asked them why they feared. They should not have been afraid since the Lord of Creation was in the boat with them! And the Lord of creation is “in the boat” with you, Julian, in all you do.

The more fear controls your ministry, the less the Holy Spirit is at work.

Although there are plenty of worldly reasons to run away in shame and tremble in the corner – there is never a spiritual reason. God Himself has removed all “triggers to fear” by removing the greatest risk known to man – death. By conquering death, he conquers fear. Perfect love casts out fear.

The presence of God’s Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit in us – are not gifts of fear.

In Paul’s words, God has not given us:

· The Holy Spirit of Timidity!

· The Coward Spirit.

· The Barney Fife Spirit – with shaking hands and wobbly knees.

· The Golly Spirit of Indecision and Second-guessing.

· The Buckle-Under and Roll-Over Spirit

God has not given to us the Spirit of Fear... “BUT” (that lovely little adversative....) BUT, He has given the opposite, something entirely better and different!

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

“The Spirit and the gifts are ours!” Ours through Christ our Lord. Now, tell us about the Spirit and the gifts... how do these impact our fearful tendencies? How do the Spirit and His gifts help us fight off the cowardice that tempts us when sickness, persecution, strife and false teachers attack?