Choosing to make a stand
How can we stand firm in difficult times?
In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul warned Timothy of the difficult (also translated as “terrible”) times that would happen throughout church history. People would be lovers of themselves, lovers of pleasure instead of God; they would be abusive, unforgiving, and having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. There would be many false teachers that would lead people astray. Just as Paul warned Timothy, Christ warned his disciples as well. Satan would plant tares among the wheat and yeast in the flour (Matt 13)—the church would be full of false believers and false doctrine.
Because of this reality, many have become angry at God, bitter at the church, and some have fallen away from Christ altogether. These are very important realities to be aware of in order to protect ourselves and persevere. How can we stand in these times?
Paul says to Timothy, “You, however,” or “But, you” (v. 10) and he calls him to “continue” in what he had learned (v. 14). Timothy was to be different from those with an empty religion. He was called to “continue” being faithful, even while others went from “bad to worse” (v. 13). In this text, we will see four principles about standing firm in difficult times—not only do these apply to difficult seasons in the church but ultimately bad times in our lives.
Question: What principles can we discern about standing firm in terrible times from 2 Timothy 3:10-15?
To Stand Firm in Difficult Times, We Must Remember the Faithful
You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all.
2 Timothy 3:10-11
After sharing with Timothy about the ungodly people and the false teachers in the church (v. 1-9), Paul encourages Timothy with his example. He says, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life …” It can also be translated as “you ‘know’ all about my teaching, way of life…,” as in the NIV. Though there were dark times and evil people in the church, Paul was faithful and his faithfulness was meant to encourage Timothy. Similarly, when Elijah was depressed and no longer wanted to live, he cried out to God, “I’m the only one left!” However, God reminded him that he had preserved a remnant that would not bow down to Baal (1 Kings 19), and God has done the same today. Satan often tempts us to feel alone and hopeless, but we are not, because God has faithfully preserved his saints, even in these dark times. We need to recognize this to stand firm.
First Peter 5:8-9 says,
Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering.
We should resist and stand firm against Satan’s attacks because we have a family of believers around the world enduring suffering as well. Though many in the church possess only a form of Christianity but no reality in their lives (2 Tim 3:5), there are many who follow God faithfully. And if we are going to stand in terrible times, we must remember them.
In Hebrews 12:1, the author says something similar to persecuted Hebrew Christians: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us.”
The “therefore” points back to chapter 11 where the author describes many heroes of the faith—Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, and others. He essentially says that remembering these witnesses helps us get rid of sin and run with “endurance” the race before us. “Endurance” means “to bear up under a heavyweight.” When we feel like giving up during terrible times in the church or life in general, we must remember godly examples. We must remember how God allowed Joseph to suffer betrayal from his family, slavery, and prison before God exalted him to second in command over Egypt. We must remember how God allowed Job to suffer various tragedies, but how God’s ultimate purpose was to bless him.
We need to remember the faithful if we are going to persevere during hard times. Hebrews 12:1 explicitly reminds us of the importance of reading the accounts of the Old Testament. These are not just stories for children; they are for us. They help us get rid of sin and persevere in difficult times.
But, also, it reminds us to look at the faithful around us. We must watch them—how they maintain their integrity and faith during hard times. Their example will help us to stand. Like Timothy, we need to intimately “know” other faithful believers so we can draw strength from them.
Who are you watching to draw strength from in times of difficulty? Often in times of difficulty, we tend to focus on the storms of unfortunate circumstances or difficult people, which only further discourage us. However, we need to focus both on God’s faithfulness and his faithful ones so we can persevere.
Question: Why is it so important to remember the example of the faithful when going through difficult times? Who are the faithful around you that you can watch during the storms of life