The Steam Locomotive is a powerful machine driven by the stirring of heat. Fire burns in the firebox releasing heat that sends gas to the combustion chamber. Hot gas mixes with water causing steam that pressurizes the pistons in the engine. Finally, the engine pushes and pulls the driving wheels propelling the train. It is an incredible invention that changed the history of America forever.
The Christian is a powerful machine driven by the stirring of heat. Paul said to Timothy, “fan into flame the gift of God” because “God gave us a spirit of power” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). In other words, keep the heat red hot in order to continually strengthen yourself by the graces of God for the purpose of enduring in ministry. We are like steam locomotives. We need to fan into flame the gift of God.
In 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Paul tells Timothy to endure hardship in order to fulfill his ministry. He writes about four aspects: the call, the way, the motive, and the confidence. All of which we can read as God speaking to us today.
The Call to Endure
First, notice the call to endure. “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” (2 Timothy 2:1–2). Although the word “endure” doesn’t appear in the passage until verse 9 where it is translated “suffering.” Paul is building to endurance. It begins here.
The call is multifaceted. It is primarily found in the words “be strengthened” which mean “be continually empowered by God” in the Greek. Spiritual endurance requires spiritual strength. We must plug into Christ to endure. The call is practically seen in the words “what you have heard from me … entrust to faithful men.” Ministry, if it is godly ministry, involves the passing on of God’s truth through word and deed (2 Tim. 1:13) which invites hardship of all kinds (2 Tim. 3:12).
The Way to Endure
Second, knowing the call, we must now know the way. How are we to endure? Paul provides three metaphors meant to paint a picture for us to hold on to. The first picture is that of a soldier who wholeheartedly devotes himself to the mission. The second picture is that of an athlete who completely dedicates himself to compete by the rules. The third picture is that of a farmer who painfully determines to work hard until the end.
Each picture tells us how to suffer. The soldier suffers by ignoring the comforts of life. The athlete suffers by training properly and not cutting corners to avoid pain. The farmer suffers by constantly toiling hard. Likewise they each provide different nuances of reward. The soldier is rewarded by pleasing the one who enlisted him. The athlete is rewarded by winning the prize rightfully. The farmer is rewarded by being the first to enjoy the crops.
The Motive to Endure
Third, with the call and way to endure understood, what is the motive? Paul lays it on thick here. He gives us three huge reasons to endure—God’s Son, God’s Word, and God’s Elect. We should “remember Jesus Christ” who suffered the worst kind of hardship and endured it all in order to eternally reign as King. We should also look to God’s Word and see how it continually suffers the arguments and persecutions of the world but “is not bound” (2 Tim. 2:9). Finally, we ought to consider that God’s elect are waiting for the gospel seed to dropped in order to sprout into Christ followers.
Being on God’s side is being on the winning side. God’s Son endured. God’s Word endured. God’s Elect endured. Why? Because God is all powerful. Nothing stops Him. Enduring means that we will one day reign with God because we win with God in the work of saving with God.
The Confidence to Endure
Finally, we can have confidence to endure. Paul reminds Timothy of a short hymn possibly sung by the Roman Christians. It is a poetic pattern of conditions. “If we have died with him; we will also live with him” (2 Tim. 2:11). This speaks of our regeneration. “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). This speaks of our perseverance. “If we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). This speaks of apostasy as a warning.
It is this final line that trips up an otherwise clear set of conditions. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). The difficulty around this line in the song is likely why Paul felt it necessary to explain, “for he cannot deny himself.” The expectation, if the pattern is to hold, is that our faithlessness means that God is faithless, but this is untrue. Paul said this “saying is trustworthy” (2 Tim. 2:11), so it says that God “remains faithful” despite our “faithlessness.” His point is this: God is faithful to keeping His promises—both to reward those who endure and punish those who do not. We remain true (endure to the end) can be confident that God will also remain true.
This only scratches the surface of the passage. All Christians are called to endure hardship for the sake of God’s Kingdom work. The call is clear. The way is seen. The motive is inciting. And the confidence is assuring. Are you enduring for the gospel of Christ Jesus?