In the first chapter of 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul gives his young friend in ministry three wakeup calls. Paul gives Timothy (and us) these calls to help shake him out of discouragement and to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Last week, we dug deeper into Paul’s first wake up call – a call to confidence. Today, we’ll examine his second call.
A Call to Courage
Verse 8 of the first chapter of 2 Timothy starts out with the word ‘so:’
“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)
Verse seven says that the Spirit gives us power, love, and self-discipline. Because the Spirit gives us those things, we are called to have courage and not to be ashamed.
Paul’s not saying, “Hey Timothy, don’t be ashamed because I’ve been a good friend and I don’t deserve this!” He says, “Don’t be ashamed based on who is in you and who gives you His Spirit.”
We have Jesus Christ behind us. He’s defending us and fighting for us. We are better in every battle than we could ever understand because we have the Spirit in our lives. That’s what Paul is saying to Timothy in verse 8.
Does Courage Mean Suffering?
Paul follows up his call to courage with an invitation to suffer with him. Why? Is he saying that suffering for the sake of suffering is a good thing?
Absolutely not! The call to courage extends to our attitude towards suffering as well. Because God is in our lives, we have someone helping us through every battle. We don’t have to spend our lives being stuck in depression and discouragement. We don’t have to do everything we can to avoid suffering. When we approach suffering in our lives, we can walk through it and survive.
The Qualities of Spirit Authored Courage
To fan a fire into flame, you need three things – heat, oxygen, and fuel.
The three qualities of Spirit authored courage provide these elements in our lives.
The first quality of Spirit authored courage is loyalty. When we find more courage, we stand up for the people around us. This is what Paul is exhorting Timothy to do. Loyalty is like fuel. When we’re loyal, it produces commitment. That commitment in turn produces more loyalty. People are loyal to loyal people. It’s like fuel that adds to the fire.
The second quality of Spirit authored courage is sacrifice. That’s the oxygen. Have you ever been in a room where people have been in a cycle of selfishness? They fight over their own preferences until one person has the maturity to come in and do something selfless. When someone does something that causes them suffering and serves other people, the whole atmosphere changes. Nothing changes attitude faster than the demonstration of service. It’s like oxygen to a fire.
The final quality of Spirit authored courage is a clear conscience. That’s the heat. Having a clear conscience doesn’t mean having a perfect conscience. It’s not being perfect, it’s being honest. A clear heart is a confessed heart. It’s when you say “I’m not perfect, but I’m honest about the life I’m living. My life has been surrendered to the purposes and call of Jesus.” If you’re serving yourself on one hand and God on the other, you’re living a double life. You have an unclear conscience and are carrying the burden of two people. No wonder you’re exhausted! No wonder there’s no heat! Living one life in service of God allows you to bring that heat back into your life.
Serve Where You’re Stretched
How do you answer Paul’s call to courage? Serve where you are stretched. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, gather your courage, and offer to serve in an area that scares you.
No one gets to the end of their lives and says “Praise God! I kept it boring!” The people who step over their fears and begin to serve in areas where they’re stretched live the most interesting and significant lives. They’re the people who have fanned that flame, and are living the lives that God called them to.