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?
I’ve often heard people ask if it’s worth doing mission work in places like Japan where it’s so expensive and the return, negligible. My father used to always answer that question like this. “Our Lord did not tell us to go out into all the world and preach the good news only if it didn’t cost a lot. He said go out into all the world and preach the good news.”
Friends it’s not just the responsibility of the bigger congregations down in the U.S. to support our synod’s work. It’s our privilege too. God is faithful; as we give to the work of our synod he will supply our needs in St. Albert. Just look at how he has taken care of our congregation in the last two and a half years. In that time period we’ve sent off about $8,000 for synodical work, that’s about 4% of our total offerings. Does that sound like quite a bit of money that could have been put to good use here? If so consider this. In that same time period we received close to $19,000 in grants to carry on evangelism work. Friends we can’t go wrong by faithfully performing the Lord’s work, for he is faithful to us. He gives us more than we need to carry on his work. Keep that in mind as you sit down to figure how much you want to bring to the Lord in your offerings. Voters think about that when we decide how much of our offerings we are going to send to the synod. Although we may be sending about 4% now, could we not work towards sending 10% of our budget?
No, faithfully carrying out God’s work doesn’t come without hardship. Perhaps it has already caused friction in your family, or destroyed friendships. If so, it must not always seem to be worth it. Still, the Apostle Paul encourages us to remain faithful because Jesus is faithful to his promise of giving us eternal life. Paul wrote, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13).
Though we may face trials and hardship Paul reminds us that if we died with him we will also live with him. What does that mean, “If we died with him.” Paul’s not talking about the day our soul will leave our body is he? No, he’s talking about a death that has already occurred in your life. When did that happen? Paul answers this question in Romans 6:3. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
When we were baptized into Christ everything that Jesus did became ours through faith. His death on the cross became our death, and his resurrection, our resurrection. Paul puts it even more plainly in the second half of that verse when he says that if we endure with him we will reign with him. Jesus himself promised that in the book of Revelation. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (3:21). Be faithful, therefore, and you will see the victory, which God won for you.
These verses also contain a warning, however. It says that if we disown him he will disown us. Finally it’s only those who believe in Jesus at the time of their death, or Judgment Day who will be saved. Paul warns us against thinking that because we went to Sunday School or confirmation class that we now can live any way that we want to. Knowing Jesus is not the same thing as believing in him. To believe in Jesus means that you trust that he has taken away your sins and therefore will not want to live in them any longer. To continue to willfully do what you know to be wrong is to show that you have turned your back on Christ.
If you have wandered away from him, come back! Jesus offers you forgiveness and eternal life. Listen to what Paul said in the last verse of our text. “13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Our faithlessness doesn’t change God’s faithfulness. Just because you may have walked away from the riches of eternal life this doesn’t mean that God has given up offering them to you.
Think of it this way. If I gave you a key and said that it opened a safety deposit box filled with a million dollars would you believe me? If you didn’t you might throw that key in a dresser draw at home and not think about again. Would the million dollars be of any use to you? Not as long as you don’t withdraw it. If you should decide later on that there is a million dollars in that safety deposit box would you need to get another key from me to open it? Of course not, the first key that I gave you is still going to work.
That’s how God’s faithfulness is to us. Though we are faithless to him all of his promises that our sins are forgiven and that eternal life is ours is still valid. Therefore if God has brought you to repentance know that your sins are forgiven and eternal life is yours. Please don’t misunderstand me. Don’t think that I’m saying that God’s faithfulness gives us free reign to sin. Such an attitude only shows that we have turned our backs on the wonderful things that God has given to us in Christ. God warns us against being such fair weather Christians. Speaking to the believers at Laodecia Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 2:15, 16).
When we realize how faithful our Lord is to us it’s not difficult to see how we will want to be faithful to him is it? Therefore be faithful to the faithful one, even if it means hardship or ridicule. Be faithful even unto death because God will bring your life not just to a happy ending, but to happiness unending. Amen.