Tough Christians in Tough Times 1 Intro to 2 Timothy
Series: Tough Christians In Tough Times—1
“Introduction to 2nd Timothy”
Four guys decided to go mountain climbing one weekend. In the middle of the climb, one fella slipped over a cliff, dropped about 60 feet and landed with a thud on the ledge below. The three others, hoping to rescue him, yelled, “Joe, are you OK?” “I’m alive…but I think I broke both my arms.”
“We’ll toss a rope down to you and pull you up. Just lie still!” said the three. “Fine,” Joe answered.
A couple of minutes after dropping one end of the rope, they started tugging and grunting together, working feverishly to pull their wounded companion to safety. When they had him about ¾ of the way up, they suddenly remembered Joe had said he had broken BOTH his arms—
“Joe! If you broke both your arms, how in the world are you hanging on?” Joe responded,
“With my TEEEEEEEEEETH…”
Do you ever feel like you’re holding on but by the skin of your teeth? I can most assuredly say that it is without doubt that we are living in ‘tough times.’ Therefore, tough times demand ‘tough Christians.’
I’m excited because beginning today I will be preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy. 2nd Timothy has long been one of my favorite books of the Bible. Actually 2nd Timothy is classified as an “epistle” (or what we might call in more modern terms—a “letter.” What makes 2nd Timothy so special is that it is the last book, the last writing (if you will) written by the Apostle Paul. 2nd Timothy has often been called “Paul’s Last Will and Testament.”
I want to engage your imagination for a moment and try to help us all step into the sandals of Paul. Imagine…for the past 35 years or so you have invested your life and given your heart and soul for one purpose—Taking The Gospel Of Jesus Christ Throughout The Uttermost Parts Of The Earth. You have planted and nurtured churches throughout the Roman Empire—achieving success beyond your wildest dreams. But it has not been a cake-walk. Along the gospel way you have been beaten, imprisoned, stoned and left for dead. You’ve been tied to a post and lashed with a cat-o-9-tails more times than you can count. You’ve suffered ship-wreck and spent a day and a night drifting in the ocean…you’ve gone without food/home/shelter…You have faced your foes (far too many to count)—who have relentlessly dogged you and viciously opposed you).
Your character has been maligned, your motives impugned, your methods questioned.
But through all these 35+ years…you’ve “kept-on-keeping-on!” You’re life’s motto has long been:
“To live IS Christ…to die is gain!”
Even your enemies cannot deny that for you—to live IS Christ. But for you, now, “gain” is nigh at hand.
Just a few short years ago the crazed Roman Emperor—Nero—had imprisoned you under “house-arrest.” It wasn’t exactly pleasant being confined for 2 years in a small rented quarters chained to a Roman guard. Nero, thinking you were a ‘nothing,’ a “nobody”…(and probably wanting to give you time to fail in your mission and thus be discredited) allowed people to come and go as they pleased (listening to your preaching/ teaching). You were ultimately acquitted—or your case was thrown out of court. You left Rome and continued traveling and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
But now…things are different. While you were away from Rome—in July of 64 A.D. Rome burned for 6 days/nights. The saying among the populous of Rome was “Rome burned while Nero fiddled.” Everyone in that great city suspected that it was Nero himself who ordered Rome to be burned—only to give him the real estate he wanted for his own lavish building programs. But Nero knew he had to divert attention away from himself. And so Nero went on a “pull-out-all-of-the-stops” PR campaign—its slogan
“Rome Burned While The Christians Fiddled!”
Thus, the first great persecution of Christians began…And most likely Nero ordered a band of soldiers to travel to Troas (in modern day Turkey) to re-arrest Paul. Only this time, Paul would not be placed under “house arrest.” No, now he is confined to the wretched and infamous “Mamertine Prison.”
***Look at the hand-out I have provided for you. I want you to understand (and get a feel for) the circumstances in which 2nd Timothy is written. [Read some excerpts from hand-out]
And so, having some understanding of what the Mamertine Prison was like, I want you, once again, to step into Paul’s sandals. What was life like for Paul as he wrote 2nd Timothy—his last and final letter.
- Confined within a dark/damp/dungeon…a dungeon that reeks with the stench of human sewage
- The only light in this murky and dim dungeon, now your home, is the dim light from a small window (which is not always left open).
- You languish in solitary confinement (or amongst the human refuse sent here for serious crimes) . You had a friend by the name of Onesiphorus who spent days trying to find you…and with whom you had a short visit—praise God. But now, you’ve been abandoned by virtually everyone—and even though you have prayed that their abandonment not be held against them. It still just really hurts! But thank God at least one man, your trusted friend and physician—Luke—Dr. Luke has not abandoned you.
- Hardest of all—You know that on any day, indeed at any moment, a band of soldiers—sent by Nero (along with an executioner—with ax in hand) will come for you.
- Your only comfort? The promise of eternal life in the Lord J.C. and knowing deep within the very core of your being that you have “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”
In His marvelous/unfathomable grace God, even in this dismal place, has supplied you two things:
(1) Writing materials (pen, ink and leather parchment—probably smuggled in by Luke) and
(2) Time—maybe not much time, but enough time to write one final letter…a Last Will and Testament.
But…of all the people you know, of all the churches you have established—to whom will you write?
And of all the things that could, would or should be said—what will you actually say?
You think, meditate, pray about all of this…and then, suddenly, the Holy Spirit of God comes upon you. And with pen in hand, you begin writing upon leather parchment these words: [read Greek text “…”]
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But, what has all of this to do with YOU? With US as a church?
I. We, Too, Are Living In Tough Times
[And these tough times in which we live come from 4 directions:]
1st These tough times in which we live come . . . from outside the church
- Perhaps you are beginning to notice that it’s ‘open-season’ on Christians . As far as much of our society and culture are concerned—Those who name the Name of Christ—might as well have a tattoo upon their foreheads that reads—“Flat Earth Society.” [Hey, better than “666”, amen?] Rosie O’Donnell has equated Bible-Believing Christians with Murderous Muslim Fanatics.
- There are Relentless attacks upon the Bible (its truthfulness, trustworthiness and authority) And these attacks are coming through every media venue—movies and music, books and blogs.
One anti-Christian entrepreneur has coined a bumper-sticker that says:
“Believing the Bible is Dangerous to Your Health!”
- Legislation is in the works that would make preaching against homosexuality a “hate-crime.” Enemies of the cross of Christ are seeking to re-write history books—to do away with the historical record/fact that our country was founded by Christians and that this nations values were based upon Judeo-Christian ethics and morality. Indeed, there is a growing army, legions of godless secularists, who’s major goal in life is to remove all mention of God or the things of God from the public square.
2ndly These tough times in which we live come also . . . from WITHIN the church
- There is an alarming rise in false teachers promoting false doctrines . . .
- Seminaries are turning out preachers that don’t believe even the fundamentals of faith . . .
- Apathy and lukewarmness abound (as so many are lulled to sleep by “love for the world and the things of this world”).
3rdly These tough times in which we live come also . . .from Satanic Assault
- Cults and new age spiritualism are capturing the minds not only of young people and unbelievers, but New-Age philosophies have infiltrated the church! Legion are the numbers of Preachers and Teachers promoting the Gospel of Health and Wealth—and who would have you believe that through the power of the mind . . . by the power of your words—You can create your own reality. A hugely popular book (promoted by Oprah)—“The Secret”—promotes this age-old New-Age belief that it is within the power of our own minds to create our own reality. Listen, GOD could just speak a word and bring this entire universe into being. But, God has not passed that power on to us. Don’t be fooled…Don’t be mislead—
God is God and YOU are not! God is God and WE are not!
4thly These tough times in which we live come...from Our Own Personal Difficulties And Hardships
You know what? I think I could pretty much go all the way around this room and tell of the personal difficulties and hardships that each one of you are going through…And listen, don’t think for one minute, don’t think for one nano-second that I would minimalize the difficulties and hardships, the trials and tribulations, the sufferings and the pains that any of you are going through. The fact is, SOMETIMES…
I’ve gotten to the place where I can’t stand that cliché—“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”
Instead of making light of life’s tough times, I would prefer to put it like this:
“Tough Times Demand Tough Christians!”
And folks, as I preach through 2nd Timothy you will find that this 4 chapter epistle will do just that—
Make “Tough Christians!”
Christians “tough enough” to handle all the “Tough Times” of life!
Folks, for now, we may be weak in numbers, we may be weak in resources. But I can assure you this:
We Are Not Weak In Faith!
And we shall NEVER be Weak-Willed, Fear-Filled Wimps!!!
And by the time we get through this small 4 chapter epistle, any residual “wimpiness” that may be lingering due to life’s ‘tough times’…Is going to be given a knock-down, knock-out blow!
Because the man who wrote this letter (and wrote this letter from a dark, dungy, stench-fill dungeon)… The man who underwent and endured sufferings, trials, tribulations and tough times such as we can barely imagine or scarcely fathom… Is going to pass on to us—“Truth!”
‘Truth’ that ‘Toughens.’
Truth that will toughen US up! And Truth that will enable us to Toughen up others!
And I guarantee you that if you will listen to and learn from Paul as we go through this book . . .
When you are faced with the tough-times of life…Times when others are bound to ask you:
“How in the world are you hanging on?”
You will not have to answer—
“By My Teeeeeth!”
No, when someone asks you—“How in the world are you hanging on?” You will be able to answer (and answer courageously and boldly)—“How in the world am I hanging on?
I’m hanging on through my Faith . . .
I’m hanging on through my Trust . . .
In The Lord Jesus Christ!
The Mamertine Prison in Rome
[from which Paul likely wrote 2nd Timothy]
In his first imprisonment in Rome (ca. A.D. 60–62), before Nero had begun the persecution of Christians (a.d. 64), he was only under house arrest and had opportunity for much interaction with people and ministry (Acts 28:16–31). At this time, 5 or 6 years later (ca. A.D. 66–67), however, he was in a cold cell (4:13), in chains (2:9), and with no hope of deliverance (4:6). Abandoned by virtually all of those close to him for fear of persecution (cf. 1:15; 4:9–12, 16) and facing imminent execution, Paul wrote to Timothy, urging him to hasten to Rome for one last visit with the apostle (4:9, 21). Whether Timothy made it to Rome before Paul’s execution is not known. According to tradition, Paul was not released from this second Roman imprisonment, but suffered the martyrdom he had foreseen (4:6). 
Tradition has it that during his second imprisonment Paul was detained in the Mamertine Prison in Rome...This was the ancient state prison of Rome at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was used as a place of detention, not of penal servitude, although executions occurred there. The upper room is a vaulted trapezoid, the sides varying in length from eleven to sixteen feet.
Below it was a subterranean chamber, originally accessible only by a hole in the roof. This Tullianum was nearly twenty–one feet in diameter and, according to Sallust, twelve feet high.32 All who wrote of the place described it with horror. [Roman Historian] Sallust (86–34 B.C.) described it as “exceeding dark, unsavory, and able to craze any man’s senses.” 33 Under such circumstances the apostle would indeed have felt the need of the cloak and the books he had left behind at Troas (II Tim. 4:13).  “…the city sewage system ran through the prison. I [John MacArthur] was told on a visit there that when the cells were filled to capacity, the sewage gates were opened and all the inmates would drown in the filthy water, making way for a new batch of prisoners.
John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), 2 Ti 1:1.
Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard Frederic Vos and Howard Frederic Vos, The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1967).
John MacArthur, Romans (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1991, c1994), 35.