“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you…”

The aging Paul, road weary and imprisoned, writes these words of encouragement to the very young church leader Timothy. Paul’s faith came late, after years of persecuting those who followed the Way of Jesus. Thrown from his horse and struck blind, Paul’s ego and false righteousness were dashed to dust.

What a different picture we get of Paul here, humbled and tender. In his letters to Timothy, he honors the generations of women who preceded this young church leader and brought him up in faith. He now presses Timothy to allow God to kindle the passion of his own faith. As we continue reading in II Timothy, we hear his sense of urgency that Timothy embodies bold and courageous faith. This must have been hard for Paul. He loved Timothy, and knew the potential cost of faithfulness.

In a world hostile to faith, it can be unpopular to say you’re a Christian. Others might think you weak or misguided or naïve at best. In other parts of the world, people still go to prison or risk their lives by confessing their faith. Young aide workers in some developing countries are arrested and imprisoned as spies.

If we imagine however, that there is no cost to discipleship, we are mistaken. We’ve all been in a social setting where someone makes a derogatory comment about the race, religion, gender or sexual orientation of another. Here faith reaches a testing point. If we say nothing, then we become complicit in behaviors that are inconsistent with Christian belief.

As people of faith we respect diversity and difference of opinion. Nevertheless, it was for just such a moment as this that Paul encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in us in Christ. He reminded Timothy as he reminds us: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power”. As Paul urged Timothy when the church was first born, so now we hear afresh this word of encouragement. Stand firm in faith, and be bold and courageous to speak the truth of your convictions with love. And the grace, mercy and peace of God through Christ be with you.

Prayer: God, the source of all things plentiful and deep, thank you for all that you have given us, our very life and breath and daily bread. Give us courage to remember you and stand by you, as you remember us. Amen

Pastor Anna V. Copeland