Maintaining Spiritual Traction in a Shifting Culture (2 Timothy) – “Handling Hardship, pt. 2” 2:8-13

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Maintaining Spiritual Traction in a Shifting Culture

Part 5 – Handling Hardship, Part 2

2 Timothy 2:8-13

Bruce A. Hess

Now, if you would, please take out your Bibles and turn in them, in the New Testament, to the book of 2 Timothy. We are going to start looking some more at chapter number 2. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you and you could take that Bible and turn to page 166, in the back, and you would be at 2 Timothy, chapter 2.

Over the years one of the most inspiring things to me have been stories of athletes, athletes that were in pain and suffering, that despite that pain and suffering, they were able to hang in with their teams. What is even more inspiring is when they inspire their team to a victory. One example would be the 1988 World Series, game number one, where Kirk Gibson had severely pulled a hamstring. He could not really run. But, in that game he came up to the plate and hit a walk-off home run to win the game, just sort of limping around the bases as he went.

Another example that was very inspiring came from the 1996 Olympics with the USA Women’s Gymnastic Team. They clinched the gold medal when Kerri Strugg, you may not remember that but, she had an injured ankle, and she had to do the vault. She had to score a certain score for them to win the gold and she ran down and she did that vault and landed on that bad ankle, but landed well, and they won the gold medal on that. I can still remember that. I remember being choked up at how inspiring that was for her to do that.

Maybe the most vivid inspirational story of conquering through difficulty and hardship, and this will date me a little bit, goes back to game number seven of the 1970 NBA finals. It was the New York Knicks, which were my team at the time, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Late in game number five, the Knick’s center, whose name was Willis Reed, tore his right thigh muscle. It really was a tremendous blow to his ability to play. [We have a picture for you there of him being on the court.] By the way, they wore their shorts shorter in those days. That is part of what dates me about all of this. But, he was not able to play in game number six of the championship. In fact, they lost that game 135-113.

The opposing center on the opposite team was Wilt Chamberlain. In that game, when Willis Reed couldn’t play, he scored 45 points and had 27 rebounds. If you know anything about basketball, that is amazing. Willis Reed was not expected to play, either, in game number seven, and yet, what happened, to everyone’s surprise is, he came limping out onto the court. Even as they had the jump ball that happened, [and you can see in this picture], Willis Reed couldn’t even get off the floor on the jump ball. What was amazing is how that inspired the team. Despite that torn muscle, he made his first two shots of the game and inspired the Knicks to victory. 113-99.

Today we are going to look at two other motivational examples, when it comes to handling hardship. When it comes to battling through difficulty. When it comes to being steadfast in the face of hardship.

We’ve been involved in a series that we have entitled, “Maintaining Spiritual Traction in a Shifting Culture.” We are involved in a section of that study of 2 Timothy where we are looking at handling hardship. It is a section that goes from chapter 2, verse 3, down through verse 13. The whole idea is, this is being communicated to us so that we would learn to remain steadfast in the face of hardship in our life.

By the way, if you don’t have one of these outlines on 2 Timothy, we encourage you to pick one up on the table out in the Gathering Hall, just so you have a sense of where we are going in this study.

Today is part number 2 on “Handling Hardship.” We started part number one last time, finding some help on how we handle hardship by looking at four different things. We only looked at the two of them last time. The first help that we can find in handling hardship is to avoid the common error. We saw that in verse 3. We said that sometimes there is this mentality that comes to us, as a follower of Jesus, that somehow we think we are going to reach a certain point when everything is going to be smooth sailing, when we will have a relatively trouble-free life. And, we begin to even buy into the idea that God’s plan really is for me to be comfortable, that I can just cruise now. But, we saw last time that His plan isn’t that, His plan is, that He wants us to grow and hardship is a normal part of the growth process, but if we embrace the wrong presupposition that everything is going to go smooth, then we can be disillusioned in our spiritual life.

The second help we looked at last time on Handling Hardship was learning from life analogies in verses 4-7. We saw the life analogy of a soldier and how the key lesson of a soldier is his focus on the commander. We saw the life analogy of an athlete and how the key focus is on dedication to the code. We saw the analogy of a farmer and how the key lesson is diligence with the end in mind.

Today we are going to come to the second two elements that give us help in handling hardship. The third thing we are going to see are the two motivational examples. We see them in verses 8 -10. We are going to see that Jesus did it and we are going to see that Paul is doing it as he writes this letter.

Then, the fourth help we are going to see in handling hardship are some pivotal principles to embrace, in verses 11-13. Those principles have caused some consternation when it comes to interpreting them, but we hope we can offer some help to understand them.

So, let’s look at verses 8-13. I want to read those verses and invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read. Paul writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; f we deny Him, He also will deny us: if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

So, the third thing we are going to look at, when it comes to help for handling hardship, are these two motivational examples that we see in verses 8, 9 and 10. We see the example of Jesus in verse 8, we see the example of Paul in verses 9 and 10. I remind you that both of these individuals lived out those three life analogies that we’ve looked at. You know, the analogy of a soldier, the analogy of being an athlete and the analogy of being a farmer. They were examples of living that out to us.

So, let’s look at the example of Jesus. Look at verse 8, notice it begins with a simple phrase, “Remember Jesus Christ.” By the way, this is a command in the original language, and it is what is called a present tense command. It means that we are to keep on doing this. Keep on remembering Jesus Christ. Let’s just pause for a moment. Why does he say that? Why does he say that as followers of Jesus, especially when we are facing hardship and difficulty, that we need to remember Jesus Christ? Why does he say that to us, why is that necessary? Because, when we are in the middle of hardship, and we are facing difficulty and adversity, often we loose sight of who Jesus is and what He does and has done for us.

John Stott said this, ‘The epitaph over Israel, in the Old Testament, if you could just write a little banner over Israel, in the Old Testament, here is what it would say, ‘They soon forgot.’

That is the whole history of Israel in the Old Testament. They soon forgot the Lord. Now, it doesn’t mean they just lost head knowledge of who God is, right? That wasn’t their problem, their problem was, that as difficulty and adversity and hardship came in to them, they lost focus on God. They just soon forgot God in their everyday life. Here is the point, that is our tendency, too. It is my tendency, it is your tendency, it is the tendency when we find ourselves in hardship and difficulty and adversity. We need to remember Jesus Christ. We need to remember who He is. We need to remember what He has done for us.

If you remember, last week we talked about that one in ten statistic. How several people had found that when someone starts off, at the age of 21, really walking with Jesus Christ, by the age of 65 only one in ten were still on track spiritually. Part of the reason why is, they did not remember Jesus Christ. They just did not keep their focus on who He is and what He has done for them. They were just distracted from the example of Jesus.

What he is saying to us, when he says, “Remember Jesus Christ,” I believe he is saying that Jesus Christ needs to be at the forefront of our everyday thinking. We need to always have before us who He is and what He has done.

When I look at that phrase in verse 8, “Remember Jesus Christ,” it somewhat reminds me of the call in Texas, ‘Remember the Alamo.’ [The Alamo was a famous battle in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. The Mexicans killed all the Americans at the Alamo. After that the cry “Remember the Alamo” inspired the Texans to defeat Mexico]. The whole idea was, the events of the Alamo were to keep inspiring them, especially as they had to fight through difficulty to continue the battle.

It is the same way for us, “Remember Jesus Christ.” I think what he is really saying is this, when you are facing that hardship and that difficulty, don’t let your eyes shift to the circumstances. When we are having to deal with hardship, don’t let your eyes shift back onto yourself. Keep Him as your focus. Center your life around the person of Jesus Christ, He is the ultimate example of obedience and dedication and diligence when He was facing hardship, because of what He did for us. “Remember Jesus Christ.”

Then, there are two interesting phrases that go on to describe Him, “Risen from the dead,” and “Descendant of David, according to my gospel.” Now, look at those again. When I was first looking at them I thought, ‘That’s pretty curious, it is almost like these phrases are reversed.’ I mean, shouldn’t it talk about being descendant of David, maybe being human, first, and then being risen from the dead, the verification that He was God, second? But, instead they are reversed.

I think there is a reason for that. Paul is communicating something. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.” He went through death for us and it was a death that involved the sin of the entire universe. You want to talk about hardship…taking that for us.

Keep your finger here, but turn to the left a little bit, to 1 Corinthians, chapter number 15, several books to the left. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. He is going to talk about what is the heart of the gospel message here and he says in verse 3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance.” In other words, this was the most important, highest ranked thing I can come up with, “what  I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried ,and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” We are to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. It is the heart of the gospel message.

Tom Ellsworth tells of a time that he was visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and he decided to stop at a souvenir stand that was across the street from the memorial. While he was looking around, he picked up a little bronze replica of the flag raising that the Marines did at Iwo Jima in World War II. You remember, that is where you have several Marines raising up the flag. As he picked that up to look at it, the disinterested man behind the stand, suddenly perked up, sensing a potential sale, and he said, ‘Cheap, only 10 dollars.’ Well, Tom nodded and put the bronze replica back and began to walk on down the sidewalk, thinking to himself, ‘No, not cheap, not cheap at all.’

In thirty-six days of fighting, the Marines sustained over 25,000 casualties on Iwo Jima, including 7,000 fatalities. More Marines received the medal of honor for their service at Iwo Jima than any other battle in U.S. history. ‘There was nothing cheap about it,’ he thought. As Americans, these men received their freedom at no cost, but to defend that freedom, they paid a great price.

That is what Jesus Christ did for us. He wore a crown of thorns for us. That is what is being indicated by that phrase, “Risen from the dead.” He took on that hardship and He worked His way through it for us. When it says, “Risen from the dead,” that verb, in the original language, has a stress on the on-going result. It isn’t just the past event, but He is risen from the dead, He is the ever-risen Lord, He is the ever-living One. We need to remember that.

I believe this phrase, when it says, “Risen from the dead,” points to two things. Number one, it points to our hope of resurrection. We may be going through the worst hardship ever, that could have death on the other side, we need to remember that this is our hope of resurrection. In John 11:25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Secondly, it points to Jesus Christ when it says, “Risen from the dead” and the ramifications of that go on. It points to Him as being the ever-living One who was always present. We need to remember that we will never be alone when we face hardship. The ever-living One is there for us. We will never be alone, not for a moment as Diane and Edie sang last week [two women on Wildwood’s Worship Team.]

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,” and then it says, “descendant of David.”  Interesting terminology choice. I think when he is talking about Him being the descendant of David, he is pointing out the fact that Jesus Christ is the reigning, royal King right now. He is heir of all things.

The first phrase points to how He wore a crown of thorns for us. The second phrase points to the fact that He has been crowned King. He is the King. We need to remember that His suffering that He went through ultimately ended up with some glory and what appeared to be a defeat for Him, ultimately was a victory. We need to be steadfast in hardship with the end in mind.

He being the royal King, descendant of David, that means that His plans and His purposes are being accomplished as the ruling one in the universe. That means that the suffering that you experience, the hardship that I go through, the difficulty we find in our life, is part of His plan and His purposes. He is the descendant of David, the ruling King.

So, there are two motivational examples we need to learn from as we have to handle hardship. The first one is Jesus, the second one is Paul, in verse 9 and 10. The end of verse 8 talks about, this is all “according to my gospel.” In verse 9 it says, “For which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.”

Look at that last phrase there in that verse. “The word of God is not imprisoned.” I just love that phrase. Sometimes we forget that the book that we have in our hands is an electric living element. Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12, says, “The word of God is living and active.” This isn’t just a regular book; this is a living book.

In Isaiah 55:11 it says, “My word that goes out from My mouth: it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The word of God is never imprisoned.

Kent Hughes tells the story, I’ve heard this story before, it goes back to right after the fall of communism, there was a mission organization called the CoMission that sent a team to Stavropol, Russia. When they were there, the whole idea was to try to get Bibles into these Russian’s hands and they were having difficulty getting the Bibles shipped from Moscow, there were plenty of Bibles there, to Stavropol.

Someone mentioned that they had heard that there was a warehouse, some of the locals who were working with them, a warehouse outside of town, where confiscated Bibles had been stored since Stalin’s day. So, they prayed about that and one member got up the courage to actually go to the warehouse and ask the officials there if the Bibles were still there and they were. They then asked if the Bibles could be removed and distributed again to the people of Stavropol and the answer came back, ‘yes.’ So, they rented a truck and they got several local Russian people to help load the Bibles into the truck.

One of the helpers was a young man, he was a skeptical, hostile, agnostic college student, who only came to help because they were paying money. As they were loading the Bibles, they noticed that this young man disappeared. They went looking for him and they found him in a corner of the warehouse and he was weeping. He had slipped away, hoping that he could quietly steal a Bible for himself, but what he found shook him to the core. The inside page of the Bible that he picked up had the handwritten signature of his own grandmother. See, it had been her personal Bible. He had stolen the very Bible that had belonged to his grandmother, a woman persecuted for her faith all her life, a grandmother who had prayed for him.

“The word of God is not imprisoned.”

Another way to illustrate that is, the story of Luke Short. Luke Short was a man who was converted at the age of 103. It happened when he was sitting under a hedge in Virginia. As he was sitting there, he happened to remember a sermon he had once heard. It was a sermon preached by the famous Puritan, John Flavel. As Luke Short recalled the sermon, he asked God to forgive his sins right then and there, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After trusting Christ at the age of 103, Luke Short lived three more years. When he died, the following words were inscribed on his tombstone.

Here lies a babe in grace, aged 3 years,

Who died according to nature, aged 106.

But here is the remarkable part of the story, the sermon that Mr. Short remembered had been preached 85 years earlier, back in England. You see, nearly a century had passed between Flavel’s sermon and Short’s conversion.

The word of God, men and women is not imprisoned.

We should not hesitate to share the gospel with people. We should not hesitate to share Scripture with people, because even 85 years later, it can be used to even lead someone to Christ.

It is through the Word that we learn about the truth about God. It is through the Word that we learn about our need for a rescuer. It is through the Word that we learn that Jesus is our Rescuer.

Looking at the example of Paul in verse 10, he says, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” This is just such an amazing deal. I mean, the chief oppressor of the gospel in the New Testament is the chief promoter of the gospel, does that not tell you about the reality of the gospel message?

What he is really saying in verse 10 is this, that when he is facing hardship, and remember he is in a dungeon, a prison, he still keeps his eyes on the central mission, on the core mandate and that is to share the gospel with people.

Remember, there are two eternal things in this world, only two, the gospel, the word of God, and people, the souls of people. And even in the midst of the adversity, Paul was keeping his eyes focused. He maintained a burden for the salvation of others.

It says in Acts, chapter 4, verse 12, that salvation is found in no one else, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This is the only hope that people have. Paul, even though he is facing great hardship was steadfast with that end in mind, that people would come to know Jesus Christ.

As we are handling hardship, there is a fourth help that we find and it is found in the pivotal principles, that we need to embrace, in verses 11-13. Before we look at those verses, I want to remind you of the whole context of 2 Timothy here. Remember the context is helping believers to handle hardship. Helping us to be steadfast in the face of difficulty and suffering.

Let’s look at these pivotal principles that we need to get our arms around. Notice verse 11 says, “It is a trustworthy statement.” This is an interesting phrase that Paul uses three times in 1 Timothy, chapter one, verse 15; chapter 3, verse 1; chapter 4, verse 9. He also uses it in Titus, chapter 3, verse 8. We believe that this indicates a common early church saying. When they would say, ‘this is a trustworthy statement,’ it was a common early church saying and the idea is that we should lean in, we should listen closely. This is something we can count as being true, in other words he is saying, everybody who is a follower of Jesus needs to embrace what is in these phrases and these principles.

Look at the first principle, there in verse 11. “If we,” now remember, this is talking about how we think our way through hardship, “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” I think this is communicating that no matter what the difficulty is, we have a future that is beyond it, we have a future that is beyond the suffering, beyond the hardship, beyond the adversity.

What does it mean when he says, “If we died with Him?” Well, if you go to Romans, chapter 6, verse 8, it says, “Now if we have died with Christ,” something that happened in the past. I believe this phraseology is pointing to what we call ‘positional truth,’ that when we trust in Christ we become completely united with Him, completely identified with Him.

In Colossians 3:3 it says that “You (he’s writing to believers) have died, (past tense) and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When we trust Christ, we become fully identified with His death, His burial and His resurrection. What He went through, we went through because that is our position now of identity.

Romans 6:8 starts off, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” In other words, there is a future beyond suffering. Count on it. If we become positionally identified with Him, we are going to live with Him in the future.

There is a second principle given to us that we need to get our arms around and that’s in verse 12, the first part. “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” I think this is giving us the motivation to be steadfast when we face hardship and that is that when we are steadfast we will experience future reward in the kingdom.

You know, Jesus talked about this concept in Luke, chapter 19, when He told the parable of the minas and the idea is, as you are faithful and as you are steadfast, depending upon how you were living out your life, some will reign over ten cities in the kingdom, some will reign over five cities in the kingdom and actually it goes on to say that some people will reign over no cities in the kingdom. Sometimes we get confused, but residency in the kingdom and ruling in the kingdom are different issues. When we trust in Jesus Christ we have guaranteed residency in the kingdom, but ruling in the kingdom is based on our faithfulness and our enduring through hardship in this life.

We have looked at the first two principles and we might say, ‘Well, everything is okay so far.’ But, when you come to the last two, that is when people get a little bit nervous. The third principle is also in verse 12 and it says this, “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” It is even more disconcerting a phrase if you take the NIV translation, where instead of ‘deny’ it uses the word ‘disown.’ If we disown Him, He will also disown us.

Now, what is this talking about? By the way, the verb here ‘deny’ means to say no to someone, to refuse, or to deny is a very good translation. Here is what I need you to do. I know we have been here for a little while, but I need you to put on your thinking caps, okay? Hang in here with me for a few moments. What does this mean when it says, “If we deny Him, He also will deny us?”  Does that mean that we can lose our salvation?

And my answer to that would be, no, the New Testament is very, very clear that when we trust in Christ as our rescuer from sin and judgment that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a mark of ownership and guaranteed delivery. The Holy Spirit is described as our down payment, the earnest money that God puts down to guarantee that we will be in heaven one day. And, when we trust in Jesus Christ as our savior, He becomes our high priest and it says He is ever there, making intercession for us. He is representing us before the Heavenly Father. So, when it says, “If we deny Him, He also will deny us,” I don’t think it can be talking about losing our salvation. That is not a possibility.

Here is the way that some people interpret this, they come to these verses and they say, ‘Well, the first two principles are talking about believers in Jesus Christ, true believers, people who trust in Him as savior.’

Some would say that the second two principles are describing false believers, they are describing what we might call, empty professors, people who never truly believed. If you take it that way, you would understand it this way, ‘If we deny Him, He will also deny us entry into heaven. If you are just an empty professors, you are not getting in. If you take it that way when it says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself,” they would say what that means is that if we are faithless, we are just this empty professor, we don’t really believe, then He is going to be faithful to judge us for that. He is going to judge our rejection because He cannot deny Himself. In other words, He cannot violate His righteous character. His righteous character would say, ‘If you cannot believe, you cannot get in.

Now, that is the way some people interpret this and there are some very good people, by the way, who understand it that way. Personally, I don’t think that is the best way to understand this. One of the reasons why is, context rules, particularly when you have difficult interpretation. I think it is best to understand all four of these principles as applying to those who are true believers in Jesus Christ. There are several reasons why.

The first one is simply the context. The context is on hardship and suffering and the whole thrust of this section is encouraging us to be steadfast in the face of hardship.

There is a second reason why I think all four of these principles relate to believers and that is the language, the pronouns that are used here. “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” See that we, we, we, we, us, thing? That naturally includes Paul. It naturally includes Timothy, just the way the language works. We’re not doubting the faith of Paul, the faith of Timothy.

The third reason why I think all these principles apply to believers in Jesus Christ is there in verse 12, where it says, “If we deny Him,” That is the exact verb used to describe Peter’s spiritual failure, when Peter denied Jesus and he denied Jesus three times…the same exact verb used to describe what Peter did. He denied Jesus three times and he threw in a bunch of swear words just to emphasize it a little bit. And, nobody would say, ‘Well, Peter wasn’t a real follower of Jesus.’ They would say, ‘Peter was, but he had a significant spiritual failure.’

The fourth reason why I believe all four of these principles are talking about believers in Jesus Christ is when it says that, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” That is an allusion to our union with Christ. You see, we are one with the body of Christ. We are part of, right now as you sit here, if you know Christ as savior, you are part of the body of Christ. So “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful because He cannot deny Himself.” He can’t cut out part of His body.

So, what is all of this talking about here? Let’s look back at it. “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” There will be a reward in heaven if we endure hardship.

“If we deny Him,” which is the opposite of enduring, if we make poor choices when we are handling hardship, if we go off on a spiritual detour when we are handling hardship, He will deny us, contextually what? What do we get if we endure? Reward. If we deny Him what do we get? He denies us reward. We lose reward.

Jot down 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 12-15. You need to go over there and look at that because it is a section that talks about how we all have a foundation and we are building this building on it and it is going to be tested by fire. And, depending upon that, how we made our choices in life, we are going to receive reward or no reward, but even if everything gets burned up, we still go to heaven if we have trusted in Christ.

Let’s look at that fourth and final one, which I think is the most fascinating one of all. Verse 13, “If we are faithless,” that implies it is a possibility for all of us to go into an era of being faithless.

Do you remember what Jesus’ prayer for Peter was? ‘Peter, I am praying that your faith will not fail.’ Guess what happened? His faith failed. The truth of the matter is–let’s just be transparent–we may fail, in fact all of us fail at some level, and yet it says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” That is so encouraging to me, that when I make my mistakes God doesn’t say, ‘Bruce, get out of my face, I’ve had it with you.’ “He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” You see, to reject us when we’ve trusted in Him, is to reject Himself and He cannot do that.

Let me just give you a little paraphrase of all of this. This is the thrust. As we face difficulty, if we died with Him, and every believer has, then we are going to live with Him after death. That is encouraging because we may go through difficulty that even has death at the end of it.

If we endure, if we are faithful to Him in the face of adversity, we are going to get to govern with Him in the kingdom. If we are unfaithful, He will deny us the privilege of reigning with Him, although we will be there. But, even when we are unfaithful, we may forfeit a kingdom privilege, but He will be forever faithful to us. We will still live forever with Him.

Here is what I want you to do. There’s a lot of principles there. Particularly, I want you to rivet your attention on the last one. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 24 says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”

Philip Ryken does such a great job of communicating this final principle and I think we can find strength and encouragement in the face of adversity by listening to what he says. This is great stuff. He says, ‘Many faithless men could testify to the truth of this, men who in some way failed in life and ministry, yet still offered useful service to the kingdom of God because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Think, for example, of Adam. The father of us all could say, ‘Brothers, I was faithless in my calling as a husband and a father. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit, I should have offered my life to God as the atonement for her sin, but I chose the idol of reason. I wanted to know what she knew and so I sinned to the ruin of us all. But God is still faithful, He kept His promise to provide a savior to crush Satan under His feet and to bring many of my sons and daughters to glory. So, I tell you it is true, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

Consider Abraham, our father in the faith, here is the testimony that he could give. ‘Brothers, I was faithless in life and ministry, idolizing control, I doubted the promises of God and tried to come up with my own way of fulfilling God’s promise. In doing so, I sowed seeds of discord that divide the human race to this very day, but God is still faithful. He has given me children of faith as countless as the stars in the evening sky. I tell you, even if we are faithless, He remains faithful.’

Or think of David, the royal king and the testimony that he could give. ‘Brothers, I was faithless to do my duty. To my own shame, I must confess that I was a murderer and an adulterer, idolatries of power and sex. But God is still faithful, He blotted out my transgressions, He cleansed me from all my sins and He kept His promise to put my son on the everlasting throne. So, I can say even if we are faithless, He remains faithful.’

In the face of heavy hardship and intimidating difficulty, we need to remember, “Faithful is He who calls you, He will also bring it to pass.”

Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You so much for Your word. We need this encouragement. We know that we are men and women who fall short, we make mistakes. We stumble and fall, we go off on detours from time to time and we need to remember that even if we are faithless, He remains faithful. And, that we can never fall so far that we can’t get back. We thank You, God, that You are the kind of  God who will never let us go and we are grateful for Your faithfulness to us and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Questions for Reflection: (week five)

–Are there any examples from the athletic world (or another arena) where you found someone’s steadfastness in the face of difficulty to be inspiring?  Why did you find it inspiring?

–“The epitaph over Israel is, ‘They soon forgot.’”  What are some ways we tend to lose sight of or “forget” what Jesus has done for us?

–Paul said, The Word of God is not imprisoned.  Share about how God has used His Word to re-direct you, convict you, or alert you to spiritual danger.

–In what ways would our enduring hardship help point other people to Christ?  Can you think of a real life example?

–What are some tangible ways that God has been faithful to you?  Give some examples.

— What is the top thing you believe that God wants you to learn/apply in handling hardship?

–“If we are faithless, He remains faithful.”  Thank Him for the enduring promise of His faithfulness!

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