As a sequel to the gift of a spirit of power, we may look at the peculiar encouragement given to Timothy in the part of the epistle immediately following.
We noticed that Paul would not have exhorted another to stand in a place of danger in which he dared not himself remain; and in looking a little into this part of the Word of God, we may consider the character of the encouragement given to us in an evil day, rather than the especial and official position of Timothy. We understand that we are in no such position, but we are called to stand for God in a time of trouble; and hence it is that the special instructions to Timothy will be of use and blessing to our souls.
It is easier to lead a victorious army than to conduct a retreat; and I once heard it remarked of Napoleon (to use an illustration), that when the fatal epoch of the retreat from Moscow had come, the man who had been more than successful with victorious troops showed a sad lack of generalship in deserting the great army at the time of its need and peril. Which is the greater general, the one who is glorious in victories, or the one who can lead out of danger a broken and suffering army? Paul was not one to desert his post when all they of Asia had abandoned him, and in great suffering could speak in simplicity of his personal and intimate knowledge of the Lord, as the One who thoroughly understood His servant's life, work, and present attitude, when so many had turned away from him.
It might be well, in passing, to remark the exhortation as to the "form of sound words," for had we been more familiar with the scope of Scripture teaching, and its form, we should have been kept from many a deceit of the enemy where a lack of familiarity with Scripture expressions exposed the soul to trouble.
"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus."
There had been men of God in the Old Testament who had been faithful in evil days - they had known the patience and the goodness of God to sustain them. Men such as Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, had learnt in much sorrow the true character of the heart of God; but they could not know grace in its peculiar expression as we find it here - "the grace which is in Christ Jesus." To be strong, and to be able to take one's share of the suffering, worse than the disastrous retreat from Moscow (for moral suffering is more severe than physical), Timothy must know more and more of the grace which is in Christ Jesus. It is no slight thing to know the resources of the grace of God, and that in Him who (Himself God for ever blessed) enters divinely, and yet with a human heart, into every difficulty of His poor feeble servants in a time of great trial. The true secret of all service is to be strong in the unfailing grace which is in Christ Jesus, whatever shape things may assume in Christendom; and however disheartening the desertion and turning away of the many, there is the infinite grace of the heart of God, known in the glorified Christ at His right hand.
There is no difficulty, no sorrow, in which we cannot directly have to do with Him; who, Himself the perfect servant, knew what sorrow and ingratitude were as no one else could know it, and who could say, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God." The very fact of the difficulties with which our path bristles calls forth energy of soul in an upward direction - the strengthening oneself in the grace (the unwearied, unchangeable, and active love) that is in Christ Jesus. Our talent may be small (according to the Giver's will), but to use it and to make it productive we need the knowledge of the Master's heart, and to be kept in full communion with Him, who surely is acting in grace until the very end of the Christian testimony.
It is a severe school to be in - I mean that of Christendom in its present state; and we need to be strong in grace; that is, to have the heart and mind so stayed upon Him who endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, that one may act by Him in grace to all, whilst not relinquishing the truth. "Yet in Thy love such depths I see." It is a great thing to act so as to turn the left cheek to the aggressor when one has received a blow upon the right.
And surely the life of Paul had been characterised by the grace which is in Christ Jesus. He had known what it was to labour on, suffering at every step of the immense work of laying the foundation - often going forth from one town, beaten or stoned, to go cheerfully into another to begin there the work of God. At the very end of his active career, before his captivity, going up to Jerusalem with intense love to his nation, cast out and condemned (more than forty Jews, with a zeal worthy of a better cause, binding themselves with an oath to kill him); and then being able before Agrippa and a mocking Roman proconsul to say, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." The patient, laborious life, spending and being spent for ungrateful Corinthians, or exasperated Jews; the absence of self-seeking, the carrying out of the Lord Jesus' own words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"; all this bears witness to the strength of the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Oh! beloved brethren, we are not called to the sufferings of Paul or Timothy; we have never known stripes or stoning; but we are called, in our measure, to be strong in this grace, in a day of many tears and sorrow, when the Lord has called out a few to be faithful to His word and name.
There are principles connected with this which, though they have a special application to Timothy, are very important for us. There is care in the work, and sound teaching; then the taking one's part or share of suffering (2 Tim. 2:3), enduring as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. There is, I suppose, a special word to one in such a position as Timothy in verse 4; then the striving lawfully, keeping between the ropes of the race course, so that the whole course may be owned by the just Judge at the end.
Then the patience in work; for the sixth verse should be read thus: "The husbandman must labour first, before partaking of the fruits." It is steady labour, and we cannot, by any human effort, hasten on the harvest. Souls must be exercised, and a real work carried on in them, even as Paul laboured night and day with tears in Ephesus. We are naturally impatient, and I recollect, as a child, having planted some little orange trees, pulling the leaves to make them grow more quickly, and spoiling the plants. A patient work with souls, looking to the Lord to give the increase, even in a day such as this, will certainly bear fruit to the Lord's glory, and the faithful labourer rejoices, and shall rejoice still more, in that which has been produced by the power of God in the souls amongst whom he has worked.
We are stimulated to more active and careful service as the days grow darker, and the ingratitude of the soil only causes us to be more and more strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. May it suffice us to be approved of Him, looking to Him at every step of the way for grace to continue our course and to finish it with joy!
E. L. Bevir.
What a thought! To be so one with Christ, so living Christ, that we have to put as a test to everything, "Would my Lord like this or that? The Christ of God, who has made me one with Himself, what does He think of it?"