This weeks Sermon


“Timothy, Tears, and Triumph”                                          

Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh

Lam. 1:1-3; 2 Tim. 1:1-7, 11-14; Luke 17:5-6                       

Oct. 6, 2019 – World Communion Sun.

 

            OK, so I’m going to go out on a limb here with this statement:  ‘I’m a pretty happy guy.”  True or false?  OK, is that good?  When I think of that word, it goes with a few expressions.  “Happy-Go-Lucky.”  Not sure about that one.  Sort of a spacy, airhead connotation.  ‘What, me worry?’  “Dumb, Fat, and Happy.”  Well, if the shoe fits… “Happy and care free.”  One who is oblivious to the problems around them. 

            I much prefer the word ‘JOY.’  To be ‘happy’ is much more temporal, affected by external situations.  Happy one minute, sad the next.  Whereas ‘JOY’ is more internal, a condition that is not as likely to fluctuate with the change in circumstances.  That even when things are not going very well, one can STILL have a sense of joy in the midst of struggles.  Not a ‘happiness’ that can seem insensitive to the plight of hurting people… but a ‘joy’ that can sustain us in the midst of trials and tribulations.  As in  “The joy of the Lord is my strength”… that even though, in the words of David, “Weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning.”(Ps. 30:5)  Joy in the Lord is Light that comes to us in the midst of darkness…

            The opening verses of our reading from Lamentations certainly bears witness to the name of the book:  they ‘lament’ the circumstances of the people of Judah.   A Jewish people in exile who were definitely NOT very ‘happy’ about their situation.  They certainly struggled with finding God’s ‘light’ in the darkness of their struggles…

            But as we step back from the author’s identity, and that of his subjects and readers, cannot we see our own human experience in the words of this book?  Could we not lament our church’s decline… both local and larger… in those opening words:  “How lonely sits the city (CHURCH) that once was full of people!…she that was great among the nations (CHURCHES).” (Lamentations 1:1)

            Do not these words describe the losses, the pain, the fears  that people can experience, be they young or old:  “weeping bitterly at night… no one to (provide) comfort…friends who have dealt treacherously… suffering, hard servitude… finding no resting place… (feeling) overtaken in the midst of distress.”  Last week we considered the prospect of facing ‘hell’ in the afterlife… for many, these words describe the type of hell we can face in the present life!

            But just as one who is struggling needs the encouragement of a caring friend, Paul offers words of solace and comfort to his friend Timothy.  Paul speaks to how we can address situations in life that might be FAR from ‘happy’…  And yet experience great JOY… that can only come from the strength of the Lord.   A JOY that is rooted in faith…faith, as Jesus said, as small as a mustard seed…

            Paul speaks of a number of ways that we can TRULY be a brother or sister in Christ to a friend.  Ways that we can bear true witness to the love of God in Jesus.  For starters, Paul writes that “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”  (2 Tim. 1:3)  Pretty compatible with Paul’s encouragement to the church in Thessalonica:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  As I’ve said countless times before, the single most important thing we do here on Sunday morning is NOT the beautiful music, not listening to MY words, or even taking up the offering J… it is our time of PRAYER together.  Lifting up the joys and sorrows, prayers of praise and prayers for healing… that is what really defines us as a body of believers.  

            As I’ve said before, for me there is NO greater compliment that I could be given than for someone to say that they have prayed for me… that they’ve thought enough of me to lift MY name before the King of kings and Lord of lords… laid MY name before the throne of Almighty God.  And I don’t think that there’s any higher compliment YOU could give to someone else than Paul’s words to Timothy:   “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”  (2 Timothy 1:3)

            Aside from his encouragement through the power of prayer, Paul also reminds Timothy of the great legacy of faith handed down to him, that he himself   continues to bear witness to:  I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5) My friends, these words I could certainly echo as I look out at YOU!  So often, I am reminded of the ‘sincere faith’ of many of YOU… a faith that ‘lived first’ in your grandparents, and your parents… and ‘now, I am sure, lives in you.’  That one of the main reasons that you sit in this sanctuary today is that little ‘mustard seed’ of faith planted in you over the years.  For which I personally give THANKS! 

            The question I leave with you NOW is this:  ‘What are you doing TODAY to leave that same legacy of faith?’  What are YOU doing… grandparents, parents, relatives and friends… to pass along that abiding, reassuring, hopeful faith that sustains YOU?  How are WE as the Church fulfilling our Great Commission to continue in the footsteps of those who have come before us of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ?  As for how we do so on Sunday mornings, there ARE still a ‘few’ seats available…

            Paul then goes on to speak these further words of encouragement:  “…rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:5)  Aside from the manner in which faith is handed down from generation to generation, Paul addresses his… and our… part in ‘rekindling the gift of God’ in others.  By “the laying on of my hands.”  And I believe that this can mean both in a literal sense and a metaphorical sense. 

            There are certainly times when someone who is struggling with the ‘stuff’ of life desperately needs that arm around their shoulder, that heartfelt handshake (accompanied by an equally sincere look into their eyes), that pat on the back or hug that is not merely ‘socially polite,’ but ‘positively spiritual.’  These are tangible, tactile ways we express God’s love to another. There is also the manner in which we reach out with the hands of God to ‘rekindle’ the spirit of another in verbal, non-physical, yet powerful ways. 

            There was that beautiful statement of Paul’s in verse 4:  “Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Tim. 1:4) Just think for a minute of how full of LOVE this statement is.  Paul acknowledges the struggles that Timothy has been going through.  That he truly ‘feels his pain.’  (and not in the glib sense of that expression).   That when his friend hurts, HE hurts. 

            And because of this empathy for his close bud, Paul says “I long to see you.” Why?  “So that I may be filled with joy.”  (There’s that word again… ‘JOY!’)  When was the last time that a close friend came to mind… perhaps one you haven’t see for a while… or one that is going through a tough time… or BOTH… but because and that thought was fleeting, and you moved to another random thought?

One could argue that in God’s providence, there is no such thing as a ‘random thought.’  ACT on it!  Even for people that you DO see often, I think that we can never say enough that our relationship with another person… be they family or friend… brings us JOY.  That we MISS them… and ‘long to see them.’  That we know that they have been experiencing ‘tears’ in their life… and that we CARE about them.  And that we took the time to EXPRESS that care.  I’ve told you before of a saying that used to hang on our wall when our kids were growing up that said “The best thing to spend on a child is TIME.”  That counts for adults too…

            Today’s Scriptures have been about that ‘stuff’ of life that we all deal with:  the tears of loss; the expression of love, one for another; the manner in which we live out our legacy of faith in the here and now.   When it comes to these subjects of ‘loss,’ ‘love,’ and ‘living out our faith,’ I don’t know that I could find a better example of how God works through these than this week’s verdict in a murder trial involving a Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who was convicted of killing Botham Jean in his apartment, which she mistook for her own.  I hope that all of you have seen the video of Botham’s brother Brandt.  For my friends, I doubt you will find in any CHURCH a better example of the miraculous power of God’s forgiveness at work in His people.  The use of words like ‘grace,’ and ‘forgiveness’… and comments about power at work far greater than any human ability… ON MAJOR SECULAR NETWORKS… was nothing short of a MIRACLE!

            Aside from its powerful message of God enabling His people to participate in the miracle of forgiveness, I believe that this experience also speaks in a tremendous way to what we’ve considered today.  That in the midst of his own tears, his own deep personal loss, that young man could acknowledge the sorrow, the value and worth, and the importance of an abiding trust in Jesus Christ as Lord to that young woman.  That when he tearfully asked the judge if he could give her a hug, coming down to embrace the person who had taken the life of his loved ones, he EMBODIED the Lord that he serves.  It was as though Christ himself came down off of the cross of his pain to ‘lay hands’ on that hurting woman… a broken sinner.  In showing the unbelievable depth of faith and courage in this ‘beautiful, wonderful child of God,’ Brandt Jean bore witness before a nationwide… and probably worldwide… ‘congregation’ of the truth of Paul’s words to Timothy:  “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”

            By the same Spirit that so clearly empowered Brandt Jean to forgive… as He has other faithful believers from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, from Texas to California… may we too live with boldness.  May others see in us that same spirit of self-discipline… of power… and of love.  A Spirit that carries US from ‘tears’ to ‘triumph’…

 

CHARGE/BENEDICTION

Judge Tammy Kemp, weeping came down from ‘judgement seat,’ handed Amber her own personal Bible stating 'you can have mine, I have three more at home,' urging her to read John 3:16 before also giving her a hug. She epitomized our God, the only righteous Judge, who weeps for us in sorrow for our sin, suffering with us in the pain of that sin.  In both word and deed, Judge Kemp bore witness to the words of Paul:  “I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust [believed], and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. …Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. (2 Tim. 1:1-7, 11-14)

As we seek to also pass along to others the ‘good treasure entrusted to us,’ Let us never forget that we do NOT do so alone…

 

Key findings from the Barna report “Households of Faith: Whose faith has been most influential to you?”:


Faith formation is connected to and increases with hospitality

Spiritually vibrant households are characterized by fun and quality time

Faith heritage impacts Christians' beliefs and practices for the long term

 

Kids become a catalyst for any interaction, including faith related ones