Friedrich Nietzsche said something humorously thoughtful: “The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” I would counter that by saying being mindful of those good things would allow for more lasting joys, and in some cases, prevent terrible sorrows.
The most horrific of sorrows—one that renders all earthly joys impotent—is the woe that comes from being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, it begins with forgetfulness.
In prior writings, I explained that our values are most evident when we are most afraid. What you fear the most is what you value the most. As seen in the pages of Scripture, properly directed fear is synonymous with courage (Matt. 10:28; cf: 2 Tim. 1:6-7).
When urging Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel and courageous in ministry, Paul began by reminding him of the reality of his salvation (2 Tim. 1:3-5) and resources of his ministry (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Additionally, he reaffirmed that being mindful of God’s work and good gifts was key to such bravery (2 Tim. 1:8-14).
The text teaches us that when we are distracted by all earthly meditations, we are slowly on the path to being forgetful of the things that fan into flame the courage for ministry. Here are ten signs you are on the path of being ashamed of the gospel.
- Forgetting God’s Word
Paul reminds Timothy that being ashamed of the gospel is forgetting the evidence of the Lord—the Scriptures. He says “do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8). The word testimony suggests that Scripture is God’s legal proof of the gospel. Without it, we have nothing on which we can fix our thoughts. Do not forget God’s Word.
- Forgetting God’s People
Additionally, Paul adds not to be ashamed “of me his prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8). Imprisoned in Rome, Paul was declared a criminal and deserted by fellow believers (2 Tim. 4:16). We draw strength from one another, and withdrawing makes you weak in the face of opposition. Do not forget God’s people.
- Forgetting God’s Power
Paul urges that we “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). We often lean on our own power to resist temptation and fight the good fight, but our salvation began with God and will also continue with God (Gal. 3:3). Do not forget God’s power.
- Forgetting God’s Salvation
In the same way, remembering God’s salvation emboldens us for ministry. He is God, “who saved us,” not the god who helped us save ourselves (2 Tim. 1:9). Considering our eternal promise of life (2 Tim. 1:1) should make us courageous in this temporal one. Do not forget God’s salvation.
- Forgetting God’s Sanctification
Carrying the same point further, remembering God’s sanctification strengthens us all the more. He is God, who saved us and “called us to a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). He is powerful enough to save us and powerful enough to make us holy. Fear has no room when our security is so guaranteed. Do not forget God’s sanctification.
- Forgetting God’s Purpose
Logically then, the work of salvation and sanctification is entirely by God. It is “not because of our works but because of his own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9). It was His will and decision to save and sanctify us. This should reassure us of our safe-keeping amidst dangerous times. If we face danger, it is because He has purposed it for our good (Rom. 8:28). Do not forget God’s purpose.
- Forgetting God’s Grace
Salvation and sanctification were not only by God’s design, but also by God’s “grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Since God is outside of time, His purpose and work is accomplished before time. He gave what was required for our assurance of life. Do not forget God’s grace.
- Forgetting God’s Son
All of God’s grace is given through His Son, who “has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:10). Jesus really lived, really died for our sin, and was really raised to life. So “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,” he says (2 Tim. 2:8). All of our faith lies in the person of Jesus. Do not forget God’s Son.
- Forgetting God’s Work
The obvious reality is that God is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Our salvation and sanctification are a work of God in us. For Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Do not forget God’s work.
- Forgetting God’s Call
Finally, to circle back to our ministry of suffering shame while being unashamed, Paul describes himself as being appointed to the gospel as “a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Tim. 1:11). This was his call in life. It was his ministry. Forgetting what you were put on this earth to do for God is robbing yourself of needed strength to be unashamed. Do not forget God’s call.
We’ve all had moments when we’ve chickened out on God. But by remembering the truth of His Word, we can fight the distractions that rob us of our strength.
Meditate on these things each day. It is your spiritual necessity. If you are a leader, remind those among you of these things as often as you see them. It is your spiritual duty.
Do not forget God.