What are you here for?

In First Corinthians 6:19-20 the apostle Paul tells us that ‘we are not our own, for we were bought with a price’. There is something deeply motivational when one meditates on this truth. You and I were bought with a price. The sad thing is that too many of us just float through life, with no real intentionality or, to be flat out honest – no real desire to do anything that counts. Very few of us take time to examine our lives and consider whether or not what we are doing or what we are living for – is really worthwhile. Socrates once said “the unexamined life is not worth living at all”.[1] Yet we only get one shot at life.

What I want to convince you of in this sermon is that there is a life worth living. Or as John Piper would say, as an imperative, don’t waste your life[2]. Let us read Second Timothy 1:13-2:2, the last letter that the aging Apostle Paul would pen to his young disciple, his son Timothy.

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, 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.

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

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.[3]

Like I said earlier, my goal is to convince you that there is a life worth living. I think the central call of the text is simple.

Be bold and courageous in your witness to the gospel.[4]

That, according to Paul should be the driving point of Timothy’s life. Therefore, it should be the mission of your life.

  1. The message of God is worthy of your life.
  2. The people of God are worthy of your life.
  3. The mission of God is worthy of your life.

The Immediate Context

Before we jump into the text let me remind you of the situation. The apostle Paul is near death. He has spent his life developing leaders and planting churches in this and other regions of the Roman Empire. This is Paul’s last letter to his beloved disciple Timothy. And he wrote it as he was being held in a jail, alone, somewhere in Rome awaiting his execution. Prison accommodation’s in ancient Rome were terrible. First off, Paul was in a remote location, a dungeon like facility. Secondly, the Roman government did not feed or nourish its prisoners. Paul had to depend on family and friends to take care of him, basically to keep him alive. This is what you get Paul for preaching the gospel. But it is a message well worth it.

The Worthiness of God’s Message – 1:13-14

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, 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.

1.       Model the Message

Paul believes that the gospel message if worthy of his life, even considering his fate, and is calling Timothy to model his pattern of gospel living.[5] The idea is that of an “outline…such as an architect might make before getting down to the detailed plans of a building.”[6] If there are not healthy guidelines – a good blueprint, there is nothing to pattern the trustworthy building after. The word “sound” in verse 14 calls us to that which is healthy[7], to emphasize the wholeness that the gospel brings.[8] Model your life after healthy words, after the sound outline I have provided, and do so in faith and in love.[9] See, “merely repeating sound words is insufficient; one must hold them fast so that they become embedded in one’s character.”[10] In other words, believe the gospel deep down so that it impacts how you live your life. “The only way to keep doctrine is to both live and proclaim it with faith and love”[11] I believe that most of us in this room, when we think about discipleship and training – we think of a classroom setting. Now, the class room is an important piece of Christian theological training, but we often ignore the importance of teaching in everyday life, bringing the teaching out of here and imbed it in everyday life, or as Deuteronomy 6 would have it ‘teaching along the way’. Modeling the message calls for a dynamic of informal but intentional teaching.

This means, talking to others about your life, your struggles, your faith, living in such a way that reflects the all satisfying joy of being in Christ. Our weaknesses are beneficial to those we are trying to disciple. When we are honest about the state of our own heart it becomes clear that we are “imperfect people, clinging to a perfect Christ, being perfected by the Spirit”[12]. What you and I do, what we focus on, what we talk about, and invest in – teaches others what is important in our lives. Modeling the message is quite non-extraordinary, “ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality”[13]. Let me ask you, if someone were to look at your life on a daily basis: what are you proclaiming as the most worthy of treasures? Is it the gospel or something else?

2.       Guard the Message

When you and I make a deposit into the bank, we do not want to worry about the safety of our money, right? That is what the bank is for.[14] We entrust them with our money, knowing that they will handle it rightly. This is the picture Paul is painting for us. There is a treasure, the gospel message, being handed over to trusted persons in order that it remains the property of that designated group, in this case the Timothy, and ultimately the church. Timothy, you are the guardian of the deposit, the “treasure”[15] of the gospel message. If you read through Paul’s previous letter to Timothy you will find that there were many false teachers threatening the doctrinal purity of the church. There are false teachers who are spreading myths[16], old wives tales[17], gossip[18], and contradictions to the gospel[19]. There were people in the church who were making unnecessary distinctions, raising disputable doctrines to the level of first importance.[20] And in this situation Timothy is called to prevent the essential message of the gospel from being lost or altered[21], from being corrupting of its purity, even weakened in its power.”[22] The gospel is sufficient as it is. “So when you guard the gospel, you are preventing it from being damaged, distorted, twisted, watered down or altered in any way”[23].

Consider the importance of this call. Because the gospel is truth about God, whenever it is distorted, lies are being told about God. “A lie about God becomes a lie about life…Nothing counts more in the way that we live than what we believe about God. A failure to get it right in our [doctrine] becomes a failure to get it right in our lives. A wrong idea of God translates into sloppiness and cowardice, fearful minds and sickly emotions.”[24] I often hear people say things like: well, I’ll leave theology to the professors and pastors, and Ill just focus on being a Christian. With all due respect imaginary example people: that is ridiculous. This point hit home with me when I was reading a book by Graeme Goldsworthy. He argued that theology matters because we need to know God. In fact, if you are a Christian, if you claim to know God – you are a theologian. Once you start to try to make sense of God, the Scriptures, and life, you are doing theology. So, all Christians are theologians in some sense or another. But as Graeme Goldsworthy points out, “some are more able theologians than others”[25]. The need is to be a good theologian, for your personal good, your evangelistic effectiveness, and your edification of others.

“One way we guard the gospel is to study it and know it well so that when someone distorts it, we are able to discern the distortion and prevent it from being passed on. We can also guard the gospel by teaching it faithfully. Closely related to this is to use it effectively in people’s lives. We are to use it on our own and other’s fears, insecurities, bitterness, disobedience, etc. When we do, we are able to see that only the true gospel is able to eradicate these problems.”[26]

These are two heavy burdens. It is understandable that Paul would emphasize these things as he nears the end of his life, realizing that his time of guarding the deposit is ending.[27] But don’t miss the beautiful assurance that Paul gives Timothy in verse 14: Model the message; guard the message, how, by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Yes, Timothy is to guard the deposit. But ultimately it is God who guards the deposit by the Holy Spirit. It is God, the Holy Spirit who is the great preserver of gospel. That is good news, especially If you and I consider weight of our own calling as Christians to model and guard the message. See, “the ground of our confidence lies in the fact that God is able to guard safely the transmission of the truth he puts temporarily in our charge. This does not imply the human energies can relax in this charge, no. It is actually a call on us to model and guard the message with great courage[28], knowing that it is God who guards not only the message, but also the messenger. The power to live out God’s call in your life does not come through human means alone, but is only possible through God who gives “you the will and the power to achieve his purposes”[29]. No man, unaided by the Spirit of God, could achieve what Paul is calling for. Paul is calling Timothy to fully trust God who can guard his life and the gospel message, and act in that trust.

The Worthiness of God’s People – 1:15-18

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome the searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

1. Example of Shameful Desertion

The aged apostle would have suffered the natural effects of a person in his situation – long, lonely hours in a dark remote dungeon, facing certain death, and even more – forsaken by those whom he trusted to bring him support and nourishment. You can almost feel the deep sense of pain when Paul identifies two men – Phygelus and Hermogenes who were leaders, possibly friends[30] (from whom he would have expected more[31]), who deserted him. I would imagine that everyone in this room has felt embarrassed before. Either because of your own actions, or have been embarrassed by the actions of those who you associate with. Or, you have felt shame when waking up from a dream where you show up to work in your underwear. See, deep down, we are afraid of being ashamed in public. There are many different levels of shame, but even at an informal social level most of us feel a stab of shame if we turn up at a party dressed differently to everyone else. We have our hidden codes and assumptions. You wouldn’t go to the beach as though dressed for a grand concert, or vice versa. But what Paul is talking about here is much deeper. Phygelus and Hermogenes were ashamed of Paul. By their actions they had declared that he was a disgrace. “It is not [necessarily] persecution or pain which is the primary issue”[32] here. The primary issue is that not only were they ashamed of Paul, more importantly, they are ashamed of, and had deserting the gospel itself. If you look back in 2 Timothy, you will find that Paul uses this same language.

  • In 1:8 Paul writes “do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord”.
  • In 1:12 Paul proclaims “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed”.

For Paul, having been deserted, not only refers to social abandonment, but also deserting the gospel itself.[33] To put it another way, “rejection of the Apostle and his gospel is tantamount to rejection of Christ”[34]. This is why Timothy’s loyalty is so necessary. Loyalty to Gods people is the fruit of one who truly believes the gospel. Our society often establishes for us the standards of ‘who is worthy’ of our love and devotion. These standards include not associating with those who are needy and socially unacceptable. Yet in embracing Christ we admit our own neediness and we associate with one who was rejected by society and ultimately executed.[35] While Paul’s chains were a mark of shame in society, they were a badge of honor in the kingdom of God – these chains were the fruit of his solidarity with Jesus Christ and his refusal to be ashamed of the cross

2. Example of Courageous Dedication

After the shameful example of Phygelus and Hermogenes, Paul turns his attention to Onesiphorus, a man lived up to his name, which means “help-bringer”[36] or “useful”[37]. He sought diligently until he found Paul in his remote location, and was committed to taking care of him, probably with both friendship and physical sustenance – and Paul depended on him since prisoners were often responsible for their own keep[38]. He “braced Paul up.”[39] “Here is a man who is willing to take the risk of regularly visiting one who was a state criminal and who would soon be condemned to die”[40]. Onesiphorous, a patron of a household, would have been a man of some means, whose property would typically include workers and land.[41] He had a lot, on earth, to lose. “It was no light thing to be associated with a criminal. In doing so, one ran the risk of being regarded by the authorities, family members, friends, neighbors, and business associates, as a sympathizer and possibly an accomplice, and therefore deserving imprisonment or punishment”[42].

He was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment, nor of the gospel that he was imprisoned for. This is the example that Paul calls Timothy to ponder. I love the word play in verse 18 where Paul writes – Onesiphorus found Paul, and Paul prays that Onesiphorous will find mercy from God. Paul prays that he would find mercy not only in facing the societal implications of ministering to Paul in that very moment (which would affect not only him but his whole household), but also in the last day when God judges the deeds of man.Onesiphorous’ ministry to Paul was the mark of his solidarity with Jesus. This is what God’s people do for one another. In this passage we see Paul’s heart:

  • The discouragement of being abandoned.
  • The joy of a friend who is not ashamed.

It hits home when considering the mercy of God. In the bible “the basic meaning of mercy envisions God seeing someone’s suffering and being moved by compassion to share in it, bringing help in time of need, when people are incapable of helping themselves”[43]. Because God is moved to compassion for his people when they are suffering or alone; we too should be moved to compassion. This is what the gospel calls us to. Consider Christ’s ministry to us even as we have abandoned God. Jesus enters in and takes the burden of our sin upon himself. Even so, Christ was “abandoned by God” on the cross so that we, the lost could be found, so that we could find mercy with God. All of the things that Paul was possibly feeling are things we all feel apart from Christ, and Christ enters into our suffering and alleviates. But, Christ also sends us out as ministers of the gospel to find the lost, to befriend the lonely, and introduce them to the one who will never dessert them. Are you an Onesiphorous? Or will you be accounted with those who were ashamed of the gospel?

3. The Worthiness of God’s Mission – 2:1-2

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.

You will notice that the first words of this paragraph stands in contrast to the desertion of those form the church is Ephesus, and immediately follows the example of Onesiphorus – “you then” do the same. Faithfulness to God’s message and to God’s family unavoidably entails faithfulness to God’s mission.

1. Seek to be empowered by God in the Mission

Timothy is in an almost impossible situation – ‘everyone’ in the area has deserted Paul and the gospel, and Paul is calling Timothy to start from scratch, and entrust others to carry on the mission. We learn in the letter that Paul is calling Timothy to leave Ephesus and come be with Paul in Rome, because of this he will need to provide the needs of the church in his absence. But the beautiful thing about this call is found not in Timothy’s part, he seems helpless, but in the fact that God will make it happen. The imperative Paul uses here is “be strong”, in the Greek text the verb is rendered in the passive tense, implying that the strength to continue this mission comes through the very power of God. In other words, seek the power of God so that God’s mission can be carried out. Timothy, go – do what only God can do. By the sheer grace of God, Timothy will be empowered to both desire and do God’s will in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. The good news for us is that “when God calls, God enables that calling to be complete”[44].

“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for God’s mission.”[45] The mission of God “requires the whole church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world”[46].

A few years ago we had the North American Mission board run a demographic study for us. Did you know that if you were to draw a 4 mile radius around this building, right here – 155 Commerce Drive, there are about 25,000 people[47] who live within that circle. Just 4 miles. That is about 50x the amount of people sitting in this room. Is the mission worth it?

2. Seek to entrust others with the Mission

In order to continue the work that Paul began, it is essential that men of trustworthy character be raised up to teach the true gospel – well after Paul and Timothy are gone, in order for the continuation of the mission, of planting churches in Asia Minor. Christian leadership is always reproducing leadership, this is the nature of discipleship. What Timothy has learned he must pass on, helping ensure the integrity of the gospel message. Paul gives us a general picture of what characteristics Timothy is to look for in the men around him.

  • Trustworthy in Character – Men are only reliable in that they persevere and teach the unchanging message of the gospel.
  • Qualified to Teach – Timothy is to develop the ministry of teaching in a local church by preparing more people to give sound teaching.

I believe it was professor David Well’s popularized the term ‘Consumer Christianity’. Well’s argued that the American church has become more of a Spiritual shopping mall, offering goods and services rather than being specific about training God’s people to be on mission. And I think he’s right. Here’s the problem, when the consumer is allowed to be sovereign in the church, the church is abandoning its responsibility and organizing everything around what’s going to attract or wet the appetites of people.”[48] One of the effects of this shift in church life has been the consumer Christianity. The person that shows up for every class and signs up for every event, and is constantly being fed and fed and fed. There are people in churches all across America that have sat in classes for 10-20-30-40 years, consuming information, feeding off of others, and have not once stepped up to lead, teach, serve, or disciple someone else. Some don’t even have time – they are in the church house 5 times a week doing stuff, good stuff, but neglecting to be on mission. This is partly the leadership of the churches fault, “instead of reaching the lost, were losing the reached.”[49] God designed the church to act as the body of Christ. Here is what it should look like: Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial. The church is most alive when every believer serves in God’s mission where assigned by the Spirit.


I agree with Thomas Oden when he wrote that “the key to renewal of modern Christianity lies in being unashamed of the [gospel].”[50] All throughout this passage Timothy is encouraged to draw on divine strength to sustain him in the mission of God.[51] The call:

Be bold and courageous in your witness to the gospel.[52]

In a little essay titled “The Worlds Last Night” C.S. Lewis argued that “we all…should remember how short, precarious, temporary, and provisional a thing [this life] is; should never give all his heart to anything which will end when his life ends”[53]. This brothers and sisters, is a life worth living.

  • A life that given to modeling the message of the gospel.
  • A life that given to guarding the message of the gospel.
  • A life that given to courageous dedication to the people of God.
  • A life that given to spirit empowered discipleship.

Only one life,

‘Twill soon be past;

Only what’s done

For Christ will last.[54]

These are an edited version of the sermon I preached at Calvary Baptist Church, West Campus on April 29th, 2012.

  1. [1] Plato, Apology, 38c. [ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ]
  2. [2] See John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life.
  3. [3] 2 Timothy 1:13-2:2 ESV.
  4. [4] I. H. Marshall argues that this is the central point of this section. (The Pastoral Epistles, 712)
  5. [5] See William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 489.
  6. [6] Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 145.
  7. [7] See Risto Saarinen, The Pastoral Epistles with Philemon and Jude, 40.
  8. [8] Tim Keller, 2 Timothy, 6.
  9. [9] See Gordon D. Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, 233.
  10. [10] See Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus, 134.
  11. [11] Ralph Earle, 1 & 2 Timothy, 397.
  12. [12] Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel Centered Discipleship, 18.
  13. [13] Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church, 63.
  14. [14] Oden, 132.
  15. [15] Saarinen, 186.
  16. [16] 1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7.
  17. [17] 1 Timothy 4:7.
  18. [18] 1 Timothy 5:3.
  19. [19] 1 Timothy 6:20.
  20. [20] Assuming the gospel, guarding the traditions of man, raising tertiary Issues to gospel importance.
  21. [21] Marshall, 712.
  22. [22] See Oden, 134.
  23. [23] Keller, 6.
  24. [24] Eugene Peterson, Meditations on Saint Paul’s Letter of Freedom, 34.
  25. [25] Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 29.
  26. [26] Keller, 7.
  27. [27] See Mounce, 489.
  28. [28] See Oden, 132.
  29. [29] Philippians 3:13.
  30. [30] Contra Guthrie, 147.
  31. [31] See Fee, 236.
  32. [32] See Marshall, 716.
  33. [33] See Fee, 236.
  34. [34] Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 481.
  35. [35] See Keller, 7.
  36. [36] Earle, 398.
  37. [37] Saarinen, 82.
  38. [38] See Mounce, 496.
  39. [39] Guthrie, 148.
  40. [40] Fee, 237.
  41. [41] Towner, 482.
  42. [42] Towner, 483.
  43. [43] Towner, 482.
  44. [44] Oden, 129.
  45. [45] Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God, 62.
  46. [46] John Stott, The Lausanne Covenant, 1974.
  47. [47] Knowing Your Community, Center for Missional Research, ESRI, 2007.
  48. [48] David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Powers, 302-303.
  49. [49] Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission, 11.
  50. [50] Oden, 128.
  51. [51] See Marshall, 724.
  52. [52] See Marshall, 712.
  53. [53] C.S. Lewis, The Worlds Last Night, 110.
  54. [54] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 12-13.

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