August 10 & 11, 2002
2 Timothy 2:1-13
“Body By Jesus”
Let’s review a bit of last weeks message entitled “Hitting the Road. In last weeks lesson we learned that the Chassis that a “Built Lord Tough” life is built upon is a correct understanding of the “Promise of Life” that Paul writes of in verse 1 of chapter 1. Further that promise is predicated upon God’s gift and our reception of Grace, Mercy and Peace. Grace was defined for us as “Receiving from God what we do not deserve. Mercy is when God withholds from us what we do deserve and peace is that “inner-sense of well being” that comes when we realize that God is in control of even the minutest of circumstance. The final component of our “Built :Lord Tough” chassis is courage. And courage is the desire and ability to face and conquer our fears by the indwelling Spirit of our Lord.
Today we turn our attention to the Body that is attached to that chassis that houses all the working parts and allows us to travel down the roads of life in comfort and style. Please turn to 2 Timothy 2:1-13 and read with me. You can find it in your small print pew bibles on page number 842 and large print bibles on page number 1853.
Their names were Fred, Charles and Albert. They had made their way to Detroit from Norwalk, Ohio. The boys were brothers and their Father had been in the carriage business for over thirty years and likewise his father and grandfather before him. The three brothers were sure that their future and fortunes were to be found in a town that was fast becoming the open air motorcar capital of the United States. It would be another sixty plus years before we would hear the Motown sound but the fledgling auto industry was already making some mighty big noise in Detroit in 1908. In just five years the three brother’s company had built ten plants in Northern Detroit and Canada and were churning out over 100,000 motorcar bodies for such notables as the Ford Motor Company, Krit engine works, Chalmers (who would later quit making cars and start making tractors with Allis), Cadillac and Studebaker. They were joined that year by Edward and Andrew, brothers who graduated from the Johnson Carriage and Automobile Drafting and Design School in New York, N.Y. Two other brothers, William and Howard, later joined them several years later when their father’s carriage works went bankrupt. He had had seven sons, the brothers had seven sisters that were variously married off to wealthy industrialists and maybe the reason that their dad’s business went belly up was because he spent more time making… well other things besides carriages. Whoopee!
Three years later their construction capacity had grown to 370,000 auto bodies per year and had gained such notable clients as Chevrolet, Elmore, Packard, Oldsmobile and Buick. Soon after the foundation of General Motors in the middle of the “Roaring Twenties” their company was purchased by GM for a then whopping price of about $208 million dollars in a stock swap. They began at that time to manufacture auto bodies exclusively for GM and left the Ford Motor Company to stamp out their own sheet metal.
The brothers would remain and serve in many Board, design and management positions all the way till the seventies when the last brother, Edward died in 1972. Their body works became the “Gold Standard” in auto body design and manufacture. Their logo was stamped on millions of GM cars up until 1984 when the company was officially closed and the name Fisher Body works was retired for good. If you had made a $200 dollar investment with the Fisher brothers in 1908, it would be worth over $118 million dollars, even with GM being down 30% in the last two years. For eighty years the stamp of excellence in auto carriage manufacture was the Napoleonic Carriage logo and the words “Body by Fisher” always stood for excellence and quality.
If only “Body by Jesus’ could carry the same strength. If a little logo were added to every church and every believer, would Jesus gain the reputation for “Building them well” as the Fisher brothers did. Sadly, we cannot stamp out believer after believer as the Fisher brothers stamped out rear quarter panels but there are some insights in chapter two that can enable our little band of believers to show that “Built Lord Tough” stands for excellence and durability. In fact the first command found in our scripture passage today is to “be strong. Perhaps a better rendering of the Greek verb here would be the command to “let yourself be empowered.” That strengthening and empowering comes from someplace other than ourselves. We can’t be “Built Lord Tough” by trying harder or by drawing on our own strength. You can’t grit your teeth and flex your biceps and get the job done. We only become strong when are manufactured so. The assembly line of that manufacture is grounded in the Spirit of the living God and plugged into the promises of God’s Grace.
Every person’s life is like a power tool with an electrical plug. When we’re plugged into God and His resources, those resources flow into our lives and empower us to do what we cannot do on our own. Lives that do not plug into God’s grace do not have the resources to make a significant mark. (Story of old farmer and the new chain saw.)
The first key insight to a strong “Body Built by Jesus is found in verse two. Timothy was instructed to Multiply His Influence. He is told to find reliable people. Are you a reliable people? He is to entrust the message to reliable people. Reliable people are those who keep the message intact. Someone who does not add to or take away from the message of Christ. The Body built tough by Jesus is one that maintains the integrity of His message, not our own. The message is simple, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have ever lasting life.” (John 3:16) The life that is “Built Lord Tough” is one that multiplies it’s influence by the transmission of the eternal meassage.
Perhaps you remember the old movie, “Mr Holland’s Opus. It is about an aspiring composer named Glen Holland who takes a job as a high school band teacher to pay the bills. His real passion is not to teach, it is to compose a symphony. But life has a way of edging out our dreams and he spends the next 35 years teaching high school band never finishing his symphony. When he retires, all of his former students gather together to honor their high school music teacher. One of his former students is now the governor and as she takes the podium she says, We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.” Multiply your influence, play music, empower others and you will find yourself, “Built Lord Tough.”
The second insight is found in verses 3-7. Paul instructs Timothy to “endure hardship.” This really refers to the willingness to take the difficult road, the road less traveled. Paul employs several word pictures here, he uses the word picture of a soldier an athlete and a farmer. The first is a soldier. In the old Roman army a soldier could not even get married until he had fulfilled his time of enlistment. His officers wanted him to have a single minded focus in life. Being a soldier. That is a hardship. Paul uses the soldier similie here to prompt us to have a single minded devotion to the things of Jesus. That type of single mindedness requires that we say no to certain things, even things we might want or desire and that is enduring a hardship.
The second word picture is that of an athlete. Athletics is tough stuff. In an article entitled, Training an Olympic athlete from Sports Illustrated in June of 1996, the author quoted a remarkable statistic. According to the article, 1,000 hours of intense training will only achieve an improvement of a single percentage point in an athletes performance. Yet a single percentage point is the margin of victory in today’s Olympics. Natural ability will only take you so far. (My statement on competitiveness: I’ll do one more step than you will, you will have to kill me before I give up.) Being a follower of Jesus is like an athlete who trains according to the standards to compete. And the standards to compete in this world today, to be “Built Lord Tough” are intense.
The third word picture is that of a farmer. I was raised in the city of Fort Wayne. My dad was raised on the farm in rural Ripley County Indiana. When I turned thirteen my dad sent me for the summer to Grandpa’s farm. The reason he did that was because he wanted me to, in my father’s words, “Learn to become a man.” I DID. If I had not spent those weeks on the farm, Gayle and I and the kids would have starved when we first went into ministry. I have always been proud of my hands. They are not preacher’s hands. They are not soft and supple, they are the hands of a worker. I don’t have a fish grip. I got that on the farm. Farming is tough difficult work. Up at the crack of dawn or before, each and every day, planting and harvest is brutal work and many crops require a significant amount of just sheer hands on, sweating, grinding work. All three word pictures require discipline, effort, and single mindedness. If you want a life that is “Built Lord Tough” you better be willing to pay the price. Jesus taught the lesson by talking about counting the cost before you start building your house. Only a fool begins and does not finish a home. Only a fool begins a “Body by Jesus” and does not finish the task.
The third insight is found in verses 8-10. Timothy is told that if we want to have a life that is built to last and Built Lord Tough we must center our lives around Jesus. Picture your life as being a wagon wheel. Each spoke of the wheel represents something in your life; your spouse if you’re married, your kids, your job, your church involvement, your in? Is it just another spoke? In this part of 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy to make Jesus the hub, the source from which all the spokes meet. People who make Jesus and his message just another spoke on the wheel don’t have the toughness to make it through the difficult and torture of life. Their entire life is a fight for control, as they try to domesticate and relegate Jesus to the religious part of their lives. It is a constant battle for control and Jesus reminds us that he refuses to be anything but the hub of our life.
The final insight is called by Paul a “Trustworthy statement.” There are two other “Trustworthy statements in 1 Timothy. Most bible scholars feel that these trustworthy statements were slogans that were popular in the early church. This “Trustworthy statement” is actually a set of four conditional statements. They can all be summed up in the admonition to “never give up.” (Go Over the four conditional statements)
The promise here is that our continuing faith does not depend upon our faithfulness but on God’s faithfulness. When Paul says that Jesus cannot disown himself, he is referring to the fact that Jesus cannot help but be faithful because it is his very nature to be faithful His faithfulness in our lives does not rely on our performance but relies on His faithful nature. So even when we stumble and fall he remains faithful because that is the kind of person he is.
These four conditional statements are designed to motivate us to perservere. Do you want to live a life that is “Built Lord Tough?” These are four insights that will help us get there, 1. multiply our influence, 2.Be willing to pay the price(endure hardship, 3. Center your life on Jesus and 4. don’t give up.
In the 1800’s a guy named Alfred Noble woke up one morning and opened the newspaper, only to see his obituary printed. Imagine how shocked you would be to see that. Alfred’s brother had actually died and had mistakenly printed Alfred’s obituary instead of his brother’s. Alfred was very wealthy and had made his money by inventing an explosive. He began to wonder if that was the only thing that he wanted his life to be remembered for. Alfred decided that morning that he wanted to rewrite his obituary, something not many of us get the opportunity to do, notice I said, “Rewrite.” We all write our obituary one way or the other. So Alfred started making changes. When Alfred died, he had left his immense fortune gained from the invention of dynamite a destructive force to a foundation designed to honor people who make a difference. Thus was born the Nobel foundation which awards prizes each year in five categories, including the Nobel peace prize. How would you like your obituary written? Would you be satisfied with what it said if it were written today? Well it is, perhaps it is time to start living a life and writing an obituary that is “Built Lord Tough.” Let Us Pray.
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