In 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a campaign ad titled “I’m With Him.” Expressing her support for Obama and his executive actions, she boldly charged all Americans saying, “It’s time to pick a side.” Her call for decisive association was unmistakable.
Jesus drew a line in the sand when He invaded the world and said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). In other words, “Pick a side.” Or, to put it in Old Testament lingo, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). When the Lord calls for decisive association, it is a call for divine courage.
In the first century church, associating yourself with God meant persecution, even death. Paul experienced this first hand. From a rotten Roman dungeon, he urged Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel while being shamed for the gospel. He meant to have courage, not fear, when it came to standing up for Christ. By having properly directed fear (Matt. 10:28), Christians can be courageous in any situation.
In 2 Timothy 1:8-18, the word “unashamed” appears three times. In each case, it exhorts us to courageously pick the side of God and hold fast to His gospel. Here, we find the call to courage, the pattern of courage, and the example of courage.
The Call to Courage
First, Paul gives a call to be courageous. “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” (2 Tim. 1:8). Suffering is inevitable for the Christ follower (2 Tim. 3:12) because the world finds us guilty by association.
In Matthew 10:22, our Lord reminds us that they will hate us because they hate Him. Actually, they killed Him. And, since He is no longer her to kill, they will kill us. This is why we are reminded that sincere faith produces spiritual power. If we have faith, we have power. Take courage, Christian. If you are with Him, then you will overcome. Have you obeyed the call to courage? Are you on His side?
The Pattern of Courage
Second, Paul reminds him of his pattern of courage. “I am not ashamed,” he says, “which is why I suffer as I do” (2 Tim. 1:11-12). Paul was Timothy’s mentor in the faith. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).
It’s good to know that there are those we can imitate (1 Cor. 11:1). The steps to courage are easier to walk when someone imprints them before us. Paul was such an example. However, we have godly men and women around us today who show us the way. In fact, you are such a pattern to others. Your children or friends see you. What pattern do you set? What steps do you imprint for them?
The Example of Courage
Finally, Paul points to two examples. First, he warns Timothy of those who were ashamed of the gospel, “all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Tim. 1:15). This is the example of misdirected fear. They are ashamed of the gospel. Do not associate with them.
In contrast, Paul highlights a second example whom he commends for their courage. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Tim. 1:16). He left the securities of their home to pursue Paul, a national criminal imprisoned in Rome which was densely congested with people who wanted Christians dead. Yet, they “searched for me earnestly and found me,” says Paul (2 Tim. 1:17). What courage!
Running face forward into ongoing threats for the sake of the gospel proves divine courage. It shows that we fear God more than we fear man. It shows that God is more important to us than the comforts of this world. Are you with Him? It’s time to pick a side.