I share the gospel like it’s a gift card at a kid’s birthday party—an obligatory present I hope they don’t open in front of me. Know the feeling?
If so, then we’re in good company.
Timothy was a young man in over his head and out on his own. He was being sent into the marketplace, the town square, and people’s homes to tell them that Jesus was crucified, buried, then rose from the dead after three days and that this was good news for them, who were sinners by nature and separated from God.
A SPIRIT OF FEAR AND TIMIDITY
Timothy, the young mentee of the Apostle Paul, was known to be a reluctant leader who was often timid and fearful. For some reason, he was prone to sickness, so much so that Paul mentioned his “frequent ailments” and told him to stop drinking water only and instead to drink a little wine, which was helpful for controlling stomach infections in that day (1 Tim. 5:23). On top of that, Timothy was young for his position of influence.
Because of his natural bent towards timidity, his recurring sickness, and his youth, Timothy was tempted to be ashamed of the gospel. That was a bit of a problem for the man whom Paul commissioned to guard the gospel in Ephesus, where he had recently founded the church.
Timothy was being asked to take the gospel of Jesus into a culture that didn’t want to hear about it. The people of Ephesus were living in one of the wealthiest places in the world. Many of them would have been living comfortable lives and were perfectly content to appease the gods so they could continue their pursuit of pleasure and happiness.
Things were going pretty well for the Ephesians, so who needed God? Who wants to hear about a suffering God that was killed on a cross then raised from the dead, and is now calling us to lay our lives down and follow him?
No wonder Timothy was timid and tempted to be ashamed of the gospel.
And no wonder we’re timid and tempted to be ashamed. Surely you see the parallels in his task and ours? Like Timothy, you and I are called to take the gospel to work and into people’s homes in a time where many are apathetic or hostile to what they think of as Christianity. They’re not quite sure what it is, but they know they don’t want anything to do with it because they’re doing just fine. After all, they’ve got a roof over their head, a job that pays, and a smartphone in their pocket. Why add God to the mix when things seem to be going okay? Why can’t they just keep pursuing the American Dream?
These cultural pressures make it seem so difficult to share Jesus with our neighbors and friends and family, even though we believe it to be good news for them. Why is it so hard?
REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
Fortunately, we have a record of Paul’s advice to Timothy. In his second letter to the young Timothy, Paul writes,
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” – 2 Timothy 1:8-10
In this exhortation, Paul tells Timothy to remember the gospel. He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel because God saved and called him to a holy calling. God set Timothy apart. God called Timothy not because of his own merits but because of God’s own purpose and grace in Christ.
The same is true of you, if you’re a believer. God has set you apart. God did that not because of your own merits but because of his own purposes and grace which he gave us in Christ, which was his plan all along. Now that plan has manifested itself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah who conquered death and brought us life and immortality.
Paul was reminding Timothy of the gospel he believed. He was calling Timothy to preach it to himself, for it is in remembering the gospel we believe that we receive the power to proclaim it. As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we are reminded of its powers and God’s grace, and it gives us the strength to preach the gospel to our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.
Paul knew this from experience. He braved angry mobs and academic elites. He faced people from his own culture and background. Oh, and most of these people wanted to kill him. Yet he stood strong and shared the gospel with them anyways. How?
FINDING CONFIDENCE IN THE GOSPEL
Later in this passage, Paul tells Timothy exactly where he gets his boldness from when he says, “...I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim. 1:12).
Paul isn’t ashamed of the gospel because he knows the power and majesty of the One he believed in. Paul’s faith in Christ convinced him that God is able to guard what has been entrusted to him, which was the transmission of the gospel to the nations.
Paul knew Jesus. He didn’t feel like he was on his own when he shared the gospel. He knew that God was ultimately in charge of the gospel he had been entrusted with—and God cannot fail. Even before time began, God had one plan for all of humanity—to rescue and redeem them by the blood of Jesus so that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation would bow down before him and scream out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty!”
Paul knew he was a chosen instrument. He knew he was important and loved by God. But he also knew that God could take the gospel to the nations with or without him, so it was simply an honor to participate in its spread during the short time he had.
The courage to share the gospel comes from the gospel. That’s what Paul means when he says to “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). God gives us the gospel, saves us by the gospel, then gives us the power to share the gospel.
DON’T BE ASHAMED
Are you ashamed of the gospel? Are you afraid to tell people about Jesus? Then remind yourself of the God who saved you.
When I’m fearful of sharing the gospel, I must remind myself of what I was like before knowing Christ—I was dead in my sins in which I once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, carrying out the desires of my body and mind, and was by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me, even when I was dead in my trespasses, made me alive together with Christ—by grace I have been saved (Eph. 2:4-5)!
Oh, when I remember that God willed for his own Son to be crushed (Is. 53:10) that he might inherit broken, imperfect sinners like me, how can I not share his gospel? Father, keep the taste of your grace always on my lips and let me not shrink from lavishing it on your children. Remind me of the grace and mercy you poured out on me as I go and pour it out for someone else.
Grayson Pope (M.A., Christian Studies) is a husband and father of three, and the Managing Web Editor at GCD. He serves as a writer and editor with Prison Fellowship. For more of Grayson’s writing check out his website, or follow him on Twitter.