PASSING ON YOUR FAITH
2 Timothy 1:3-7 CSB
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. 4 Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also. 6 Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
Today’s sermon is doing double duty. It is part of the series on the habits of the victorious. But it is also appropriate as we celebrate Mother’s Day today. Paul tells Timothy that when he thinks about Timothy’s faith commitment, he remembers seeing that same spark of faith in the lives of two women in his life – his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
Timothy’s faith was a direct result of the loving discipleship of these two women. They had decided to be obedient to Jesus’ great commission to disciple all nations, and they decided to start in their own family.
Today I want to talk about the habit of passing on your faith to those around you. We sometimes call that evangelism. That’s not a bad word because the word evangelism is related to the word gospel. The faith that we pass on is good news. It is a particular good news that Jesus has paid the price for our sins, and the price of admission to his future kingdom that is coming down from the sky.
But today I want to talk about passing on our faith in a different sense. I suppose it is a more general sense. I am talking about transferring all that it means for us to be Christians to others around us who are not yet Christian. It is more than a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. It is multiplying your life.
Jesus was a role model for this type of discipleship. He had lots of followers, and he taught them all. But he opened his life to the twelve in a very special sense. He did life with them. And it made a difference in their lives. Early in the book of Acts we learn that when the crowds “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 NET).
Our families are a wonderful place for us to do discipleship. This was God’s intention from the very beginning. He put us in families so that we could teach the most important lessons to those who are the most important to us. He designed families to be microcosms of his kingdom.
Since that is the case, it is only natural for parents and grandparents who have themselves entered into the dominion of Christ’s kingdom – to pass on their citizenship to their children and grandchildren. It does not always happen. But it can happen. It happened in the case of Lois. She passed on her faith to Eunice. It happened in the case of Eunice. She passed on her faith to Timothy.
And because of the obedience of these two mothers, many more came into the kingdom by means of the Timothy’s work. Paul had told Timothy to “entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2 NET). So the investment of these two mothers would lead to discipling going on well beyond the limits of their own lives and that of Timothy. Timothy was a member of Paul’s missionary team. That means that these two women made a missionary impact on the world even if they didn’t go on the field. Who know how many thousands of people were won to faith because of the commitment of these two women?
This morning I want to share some advice with you if you want to pass on your faith to the others around you. I am basing this advice on today’s scripture text.
Make sure your faith is sincere (5).
Paul called Timothy’s faith sincere in verse 5. The Greek word he used is ἀνυπόκριτος, which means unhypocritical. Jesus had warned his disciples not to do like the hypocrites do.
When the hypocrites gave to the poor, they sounded trumpets to draw attention to their generosity. If they gave just to be applauded by others, that was their reward.
When the hypocrites prayed, they stood up in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets so that everybody could see them. If they were just praying to be seen praying, that would be their reward. Their prayers would accomplish public appreciation, but they would not be praying to God.
There were some who decided to take some of their money and dedicate it to God. But what they were actually doing is setting that money aside temporarily so that they would not have to use it in taking care of their parents. Jesus called them hypocrites. They were using religion as an excuse not to honor their parents. Family is a sphere in which we can learn how to have a sincere faith. Our children are watching to see how much we respect and care for our parents.
Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their use of religion to keep others from being saved even while they themselves failed to enter the kingdom. They did their religious acts to impress people, but their piety was not sincere. They were hypocrites.
When Jesus was teaching about his second coming, he told a story about a master who put his servant in charge of his household while he was away. But the servant started abusing the other servants, and spent all his time eating and getting drunk. He said the master will come on a day that the servant would not expect, and that the master “will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51 CSB). Hell is for hypocrites, folks.
But the passage is even more relevant to today’s topic. Remember that the master had put the servant in charge of his household. We need to be aware – parents and grandparents – that Jesus has put us in charge of our households. He has given us a commission to lead our families, providing for all they need. We had better be careful that we do not neglect their spiritual needs. It is a matter of condemnation and shame fathers and mothers neglect their children. How much more so those who neglect to show their children Christ. There is no substitute for that. We can give all that we have, but if we do not give our children Christ, we have failed them, and him.
Make sure your faith is evident (4-5).
Paul said he was convinced that Timothy had been passed on a legacy of genuine faith. He “I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also” (5). He could probably see a physical resemblance between these two women and Timothy. But he could also see a spiritual resemblance.
The saying goes that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. We say that when we notice a character trait or an element of the personality of a parent showing up in the child. I used to love it when my young daughters said something or did something that imitated me or Penny. I loved it even more when they themselves became parents, and I saw them parenting like we did.
Of course, the bad characteristics of our personalities show up as well. Our kids learn from us, even when we don’t want them to. Parenting is not a job that you can punch out of. When I worked at the factory and other such places, I could punch out at lunch time. Then I could do what I wanted to do. I was not responsible to my boss then. But I could never punch out of being a parent. My kids were watching every waking moment. Every aspect of our lives is evident.
I was reminded of this when our oldest daughter first went away to Bible College. We discovered that she was very good at theology. Penny and I had invested many hours of our lives every day training Bible college students, but our kids did not go to that college. So, why was Liz so good at theology? Well, what else would we talk about at the dinner table? Our passion was evident, and our kids caught it.
Paul mentioned that Timothy’s faith was evident in his emotions and desires. He said he remembered Timothy’s tears (4). He knew what Timothy was passionate about because it was evident in his life.
Doctor Dorothy Law Nolte wrote a poem called “Children Learn What They Live.” It’s a good poem. Look it up and read it. It is a reminder of our obligations as parents. It is also a reminder that we are shaping the lives of those in our households. Yes, they’re watching their teachers and they’re watching their TVs. But that does not stop them from watching us.
Jesus told his followers that we are the light of the world. He said a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. A faith that is evident is a faith that is more likely to be passed on to the next generation – and the next.
Make sure your faith is getting stronger (6-7).
Paul was confident that Timothy’s faith was genuine, but it still needed to grow – to develop – to mature. That is why he told Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands” (6).
Notice that Paul is not just talking about some general “laying on of hands.” He said “the laying on of my hands.” Paul had personally laid his hands on Timothy and prayed with him as he committed his life to the ministry of missionary work. He had personally watched as the Holy Spirit empowered Timothy by giving him the spiritual gifts he needed to plant and develop new churches.
Now – years later – Paul tells Timothy to “rekindle the gift.” You use kindle to start a fire. But sometimes the fire gets weak and needs to be rekindled or else it is in danger of going out.
The Greek word that Paul uses is very revealing. It is ἀναζωπυρέω. Let me break it down for you:
• ἀνα means “new”
• ζω means “life”
• πυρ means “fire”
To rekindle is to put new life back into the fire. To rekindle the gift means to make God’s power even stronger and more evident in your life.
Paul is telling Timothy, “Son, you had a faith when you were young. You got that faith from watching your mother and grandmother. That faith worked well when you were young. But you are playing with the big boys now. You need a mature faith that is strong enough to overcome your fears.”
That’s why Paul goes on to say that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (7). God has started the fire by empowering you with his Holy Spirit. Now, don’t allow the fear of your flesh put out the fire of the Spirit. Rekindle that fire.
When it comes to passing on our faith, this act of rekindling is crucial. You see, to pass on our faith in Christ, we need a faith that is stronger than our adult problems. We cannot just survive on the faith we had when we were younger. It was real – it was sincere – but as we grow older and seek to be used by God to accomplish more things for him – we will have to put new life into the fire.
You see, there are three ways that a mature Christian life is going to test our faith.
• Fear is going to challenge our ability to stay true to Christ. So Paul reminds Timothy that God has already given him a spirit of power.
• Fear is going to challenge the authenticity of our love for God and others. So Paul reminds Timothy that God has already given him a spirit of love.
• Fear is going to challenge the wisdom of our choices. So Paul reminds Timothy that God has already given him a spirit of sound judgment.
The faith that Timothy needed now had to be stronger than ever because his commitment was going to be challenged like never before.
Jesus wants us to pass on our faith to our children, grandchildren, our neighbors and friends. But in order to do that, we need a sincere faith, an evident faith, and a faith that is stronger than ever before.
LORD, help us to rekindle our faith so that we can pass it on.