Our Faithful God (2 Timothy 2:8-15)

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Lots of people make us promises. For example, people who are close to us might make promises to us such as they will be home at a certain time, take the bins out, pick up groceries from the shops, and other every-day things. Then there are people and organizations in our wider society who promise us big things like secure and profitable superannuation investments, a more attractive appearance, a better quality of life if we purchase their product, and so on.

What happens, though, when people don’t live up to their promises and fail to be faithful to us and to their promises? What does that do to our ability to trust others? How, then, does that influence our ability to trust God? If we find it hard to trust the people around us who we can see and touch, how much harder is it to trust in a God that we can’t physically see or touch?

Faith in God and God’s promises to us in Jesus doesn’t come naturally to us. That’s why faith is the first and most important gift of the Holy Spirit to us and the primary work of the Holy Spirit in us. It’s only by the grace of God working through the dynamic power of the Spirit of God that we are able to trust in the good and gracious promises God makes us in Jesus. That’s why I never judge anyone who is struggling with faith. Especially in a world where we can be skeptical and cynical about what the promises people make to us, trusting in God’s promises to us can be really difficult for us.

A promise from God Paul gives us in 2 Timothy 2:8-15, however, is that God is always faithful and can be trusted. There are a few different ways we can understand the word ‘faithful’ but when I read 2 Timothy 2:13, as well as different places in the Bible, I hear ‘faithful’ meaning two main things. Firstly, being faithful means that God always keeps the promises he makes to his people. Secondly, faithful also means that so we can trust God to do what he says he will.

It’s a similar way of understanding faithfulness in marriage. When two people are married, they make promises to each other. To be faithful in marriage means both keeping the promises we make to our spouse in our wedding vows and trusting that our partner will keep her or his promises to us. Being faithful, like keeping any promises including the promises we make to God, can be difficult. We can struggle to be faithful to the promises we make for a whole range of reasons, just like it can be hard for us to trust in the promises others make to us. God understands that, but is doesn’t change his faithfulness to us.

The whole story of the Bible tells is that God is faithful. God makes promises to his people all the way through Scripture. The greatest promises God makes is that he would send a Saviour to free the world from sin and restore creation and everything in it to its original, perfect state. Ultimately, God keeps his promises and shows that he can be trusted in the person of Jesus. Through his life, death and resurrection, God fulfils his promises to liberate us from sin, to restore our relationship with him as his children whom he loves and with whom he is pleased, and give us a life that is stronger than death.

That is why Paul wants Timothy, as well as subsequent readers of his letter including us, to ‘always remember that Jesus Christ … was raised from the dead’ (v8 NLT). The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate good news for us because it gives us God’s promise of life with him now and forever, and shows us once and for all that God can and will always keep his promises. We can trust that God is faithful because he has done what he said he would when he raised his Son from the grave, never to die again.

Because God has been faithful in keeping that promise, he will also be faithful in the other promises he gives us throughout Scripture. The main promises we hear throughout the Bible are the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God, but there are so many other promises that he gives us as well. There are too many to mention here and now but God promises to us include love, joy, peace, hope, comfort, courage, and so much more. It is so important for us as God’s people to continually be in his Word by reading our Bibles because as we read the stories of Gods faithfulness in the past, they help us to trust that God will also be faithful to us. By remaining in God’s promises, the Holy Spirit will give us the capacity to trust in God’s promises to us. Then, when it gets hard for us to believe God’s promises and trust that he can do what he says he will, the promise from 2 Timothy 2:13 will always be there for us – that even if we are unfaithful to each other or to God, God remains faithful to us because that’s who he is. God always keeps his promises. If God says he will do something, he will do it. God is faithful, just as Jesus’ resurrection show us.

This week, I encourage you to open God’s word and listen for his promises to you. Sometimes they’re not easy to find, but through careful reading and ongoing reflection or meditation on his word, God’s promises are there for us. Imagine what life could be like if we were trusting those promises, and living like what God promises us was true. Even if they are hard to believe, still God tells us that he will do what he says, because he is faithful!

More to think about:

  • Do you usually find it easy or hard to trust people when they make promises to you? Can you explain why that is?
  • What are some of the promises you hear from God through his Word?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to trust God’s promises to you? Why is that the case for you?
  • I’m suggesting that Jesus’ resurrection shows us that God will always keep his promises to us? What is your reaction to that? Would you agree or disagree? Can you explain why…?
  • Paul writes (v13) that even if we are unfaithful (we find it hard to trust God and his promises), God remains faithful to us (and will still keep his promises to us). What questions, reactions or thoughts do you have to that? Do you find it easy or difficult to trust that promise? Why?
  • What difference might it make to your life if you were able to live like what God promises you is true?

A Way Out (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

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There are a range of ways in which we can think about temptation. The advertising industry uses temptation to entice people to purchase products such as chocolate, tuna fish, body spray, and even fabric softener by making them sound a bit naughty or risky.

This could be because the main way people think about temptation is being lured into doing something wrong or something we shouldn’t do. I think most people understand temptation mainly in terms of behaviours or actions, either actively doing something we know is wrong, or not doing something we know is right. We normally think of temptations being about what we do.

Paul talks about the temptations the Israelites experienced during their 40 years in the wilderness in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. When we look at what they went through as Moses lead them out of slavery in Egypt towards the land God had promised them, we can see another dimension to temptation. At the heart of the wrong they did was something deeper. We read in Numbers chapters 13 and 14 that, when the Israelites were faced with the possibility of entering into the Promised Land, they didn’t believe that they would be able to defeat the people who already lived there (Numbers 13:31-14:4). The reason they wandered through the desert for the next 40 years was that they failed to trust that God was able to do what he said he would.

Paul says that the temptations we face in our lives ‘are no different from what others experience’ (v13a NLT). Like the people in the stories throughout Bible, we all face essentially the same temptation. The contexts might be different, but the common theme that runs throughout the temptations which Adam and Eve, the Israelites, and even Jesus himself faced is that they challenge us to ask if God can really be trusted to do what he says he will. This is the same temptation we all face. God promises us to love us, forgive us, make us new and give us a life that is stronger than death, all for the sake of Jesus. However, we can be tempted to ask if these promises are true, or whether or not God will actually do what he says he will. If faith is what gives us salvation in Jesus, then the greatest temptation is to not believe in the goodness of God which he promises us in Jesus and through the words of the Bible.

When we’re tempted to give up on God, we can find three pieces of good news, in 1 Corinthians 10:13. The first is that God is faithful. To be faithful means to be trustworthy. Married people who are faithful to each other keep the promises they made to each other on their wedding day. Faithful people are those who do what they say they are going to do. God is faithful because he keeps the promises he makes. We can see this throughout the story of Scripture. Even though people do the wrong thing, break their promises to God, or fail in so many ways, God never breaks the promises he makes. Even when God promises that his Son will not decay in the grave (Psalm 16:9,10), God keeps his promise by raising Jesus to new life. God may not always keep his promises in the way we expect or when we want, but the whole story of Scripture tells us that God is faithful and always does what he says he will.

The second piece of good news in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that God ‘will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand’ (NLT). This is different from saying that ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ because if God’s purpose for us is that we learn to trust him, then sometimes we need to be challenged beyond what we can handle. However, God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that when we trust him, no matter how we might be tempted to wonder if God really can do what he says he will, he will never allow more to come our way than what we can bear. The story of Job in the Bible show us this. Like Job, we can wonder why God lets things happen to us, but we can always trust that God is faithful and he will never allow us to experience more than we can handle. Instead, God uses the situations we face to bring us closer to him and form us into people of faith.

This leads us to the third piece of good news in this text – that God will always show us a way out so we can endure. Just like an exit sign in a darkened room will guide us out if there is an emergency, when trouble comes and we are tempted, God will always provide a way to escape. Sometimes that will be an obvious way out of a particular situation, like an illuminated path on an airplane. At other times we might need to look harder to see how God is leading us. If the ultimate temptation we face is to not trust that God will do what he says he will, then the way out is the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. As we follow Jesus to the cross, we see someone who was tempted in every way, just as we are, but who never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). When Jesus was in the desert at the start of his ministry, in the garden before his arrest, or facing death on the cross, Jesus never stopped trusting that God would do what he said he would. Even when he felt like God had abandoned him, Jesus trusted that his Father was faithful and would keep his promises to him. This faith was vindicated when God raised him on the third day to a life which is stronger that death. Jesus is our way out when we are tempted because he shows us that God always keeps his promises. If he did that for Jesus, then he will do that for you too!

Temptations will come in lots of different ways. At their heart is the temptation to not trust that God can and will do what he says he will. God is faithful – the stories of the Bible show that. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand – Jesus shows us that. God will always give us a way out so we can stand strong – that is the way of Jesus who loves us enough to die for us, and whose trust in his heavenly Father gives us everything God promises us.