Sermon Options: October 23, 2022

February 20th, 2022


2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18

What you see certainly determines how you feel about what you get. It is the "cup is half empty" versus the "cup is half full" principle. Focusing on evil and discouraging events causes you to lose sight of God's faithfulness. But focusing on God's faithfulness causes you to see the blessings of your past and your future.

As the apostle Paul wrote from a Roman prison, he knew his days were numbered. In closing his final epistle to Timothy, Paul looked forward to his future in God's faithfulness and backward to his past in God's faithfulness. What encouragement for all who would follow that way!

I. Looking Forward—Focus on God's Faithfulness (vv. 6-8)
Paul looked forward to his departure. He knew that his earthly life would end soon. That was not a bad prospect. In fact, Paul was eager to lay his life down as a drink offering before the Lord. The Old Testament drink offering was a liquid sacrifice of oil, wine, or blood. The apostle's blood was about to be poured out because of his commitment to Christ. This free-will offering signified his confidence in God's faithfulness to save him.

Paul looked forward to completing his faithfulness. As a spiritual warrior, he had battled for the gospel to the end. As a spiritual athlete, he had finished God's prescribed course. And, as a spiritual steward he had faithfully administrated the blessings that God had entrusted to him.

Paul looked forward to the faithfulness of God. His eagerness to depart was grounded in his confidence that God had already set aside an eternal reward for him. What Paul had accomplished would be acknowledged and rewarded.

This eager, forward focus on God's faithfulness was not merely the apostle's private hope. All who laid their lives on the line for the gospel's sake, faithfully longing for Christ's return, could anticipate the same reward.

II. Looking Backward—Focus on God's Faithfulness (vv. 16-18)
Paul took a look backward. Again he focused on the faithfulness of God. All through his life, and especially in the last days, God had met his needs.

Looking back Paul saw himself standing alone before Nero's hostile court. No other believers had appeared to support him. While some may have been involved in ministry far from Rome, others had simply feared the persecution that made any identification with Christ risky. At any rate, Paul had experienced abandonment. Still, his focus was on God's faithfulness. If Jesus could say, "Father, forgive them," while dying on the cross, Paul could say, "May their desertion not be held against them."

Looking back at that time of loneliness, Paul realized he had not been forsaken. God had been faithful. The Lord had stood beside him as he faced Nero. In that moment God gave him strength, sustaining him in every way. Paul not only had stood, he had also spoken. Once again he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ before the Gentiles. And after that, God had delivered him once again from a death sentence. Yes, God had been faithful. Looking back, it was easy to see.

Looking back at all of God's past deliverances caused Paul to trust God's ultimate deliverance. One day soon the Lord would rescue him from the evil attacks of earth and deliver him safely to his heavenly kingdom.

As Paul looked forward, his focus was on God's faithfulness. As he looked backward, his focus was on God's faithfulness. As he sat in prison, waiting for the day of his departure, all Paul could think to do was praise God. (Timothy S. Warren)


LUKE 18:9-14

Jesus allows us to overhear the secret prayers of two men. Of course, they are fictitious characters but their kind was known throughout the land. One was a Pharisee who by all measure was good. The second, a tax collector, who had given up his heritage in order to become rich, was most despised by the Jews.

I. Each Man Described Himself
The Pharisee by all the common tests was a righteous man. He gave a tenth of his income to charity. He had imposed excessive disciplines on himself, more than the law required. For the Pharisee the key word is "I." Instead of gratitude to God his thoughts were actually on himself. He cited his righteous traits. He recalled his tithing and his fasting. He was a patriot and an upright man. I am sure he was chairman of many strategic committees within the Temple. His prayer informed God of his goodness.

The tax collector was a thief and a crook. But he has sincere confession. The tax collector was so guilt-ridden that he could not lift up his eyes to heaven. He kept pounding his breast. He did not pray as much as he cried. He pled with God to cleanse his soul of the dark spot. The Pharisee's center was himself; the publican's center was God.

II. Each Man Perfectly Described His Neighbor
The one despised the other. The Pharisee looked at mankind and thanked God he was not like the crowd of unworthy people such as the tax collector. The Pharisee carries all our prejudices of race and class with an indifference to wretchedness. The Pharisee made himself look taller by pulling others down. While the tax collector felt unworthy, the Pharisee felt superior.

III. Each Man Described His Thoughts About God
Each saw God as a machine, as a corporation, as an institution. The Pharisee wanted to become a director waiting for well-deserved honors. What we think about ourselves and others stems from what we think about God. Jesus did not condemn the sinner's life but loved the sinner. He did not condemn the Pharisee's charities and honor but would have approved them had they been rooted in true motive. But the tax collector had a soul facing toward God while the Pharisee was locked in himself.

I have been to the high mountains above the treeline and discovered that few flowers can grow there. That describes the Pharisee. I have also been to the low valleys where the flowers can grow profusely and God's mercy can prevail. It is better to let God do the exalting than for us to try to do it ourselves. (William L. Self)

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