Summary: Be Faithful to the Faithful One by confessing his gospel, by performing his work, and by trusting his promises.
What’s the difference between a faithful fan and a fair weather fan? A faithful fan will continue to cheer and promote his team no matter how poorly it’s doing. A fair weather fan will only root for his team if it’s doing well. Such fans have even been known to switch allegiance in the middle of the season.
Can there be such categories for Christians - faithful and fair weather? Sure. In the parable of the sower Jesus talked about those people who at first receive the Word of God with joy but then turn away from it when trials and temptations come.
This morning the Apostle Paul encourages us to be faithful Christians. Not just because that’s our duty but because Christ is faithful to us. Paul assures us that although we might have to go through some trying times as Christians, Jesus will never disappoint us like our favourite teams do. Therefore Be Faithful to the Faithful One. How? By confessing his gospel, performing his work, and trusting his promises.
Paul’s second letter to his young co-worker, Timothy, was his last will and testament. For a second time now Paul was imprisoned in Rome and unlike the first time, when he was only under house arrest, Paul was chained up in a dungeon like a common criminal. If anyone had reasons for being a fair weather Christian Paul did. Yet Paul not only remained faithful to Christ he encouraged others to be faithful. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
We remain faithful to Christ when we faithfully confess his gospel. But what exactly is the gospel, or the good news of Jesus? It’s not a message of morality – “be good for goodness sake,” nor is it the power of positive thinking – “God loves me, I love me, and therefore everyone loves me.” The good news is Christ crucified and risen! Had Jesus not been raised, his death on the cross would have been meaningless and we would still be dead in our sins.
Jesus’ resurrection is important to us because it’s the Father’s stamp of approval on what Jesus did to win our salvation. By allowing his Son to come back to life the Father showed that he accepted his Son’s payment for the sins of the whole world. It’s like getting your deposit back when you move out of an apartment. It means that the apartment manager is satisfied that you’ve paid all your bills and haven’t damaged anything.
Because Christ’s resurrection is central to our faith that’s one reason I like to begin our services with that ancient Easter greeting, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” It reminds us that we are here to learn about how Jesus won forgiveness for us, not just how we can become better people, or how to feel good about ourselves. If that was the case then we might as well start our services by reciting the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
There’s another reason why I like to start our services with the Easter greeting. By urging us to remember that Jesus has risen, Paul wants us to keep in mind that we don’t worship a dead martyr, but a living Lord! Jesus is the victor, not the victim. Therefore we, his followers, are also victorious. We are on the winning team in the fight against evil.
Just because Jesus lives, however, doesn’t mean that life will be easy. Paul knew that first hand as he wrote, “This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:8b-10).
It was the gospel message that had caused Paul to be chained up like a common criminal yet he remained faithful in proclaiming it. Why? Because he knew that while chains might hold him down, the message of Christ was up and running, working in the hearts of the people to whom he had preached. Paul was faithful in performing the Lord’s work even if meant suffering because he knew that the message he preached saved others.
How much are we willing to suffer when carrying out the Lord’s work? Are we willing to share God’s Word even when we are ridiculed for it? Are we willing to support God’s work only if it doesn’t cut into our entertainment habits too much? What about us as a congregation? Are we willing to support the work of the synod as long as it doesn’t infringe on what we want to do here?