When Things are out of Your Control…
1. Do no fear or be ashamed.
2. Entrust it to God by faith
2 Timothy 1:7-14 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Lately in our house the board game Life has been a big hit. We’ve had several family games. Most of you probably are familiar with the game. There’s a bit of good Lutheran guilt in the overall goal of the game – making the most money. But, it’s also been interesting because the game involves insurance, stocks, and even a lottery of sorts. It’s been a good learning experience for Micah and Allie as they weigh the choices to go to college or start working immediately or whether they should invest in auto or life insurance.
If you’ve ever played Life I’m sure you’ve also had a moment where you wished real life was just as easy and simple. Sure, there’s adversity in the game of Life. Just last time we played I got hit by a tornado, had to bail an uncle out of jail, and lost my homeowner’s insurance due to negligence. But, if only real-life problems were as easy to fix. In the game, one can just borrow some money from the “bank” until you hit enough pay days to get back even or go back 10 or 15 spaces and try again. Likewise, investments are a sure thing in the game of Life. At the end, you cash in on your stocks and insurance – even getting money for each kid you have. Real-life investments are much more tumultuous, as are our family relationships at times.
The end of the game of Life is about counting up all your money and seeing who has the most. Some people approach real life the same way but the Apostle Paul’s situation was vastly different. Paul’s second letter to Timothy was almost certainly his final letter. He was imprisoned in Rome. Later in the letter he would speak of giving his life as an offering to God, of finishing his fight of faith, and even pleading with Timothy to come and see him one last time.
What kind of thoughts were going through Paul’s mind as he sat in solitude and captivity – knowing that any day could be his last? He gives a look into how he would have answered that question in the verses of our text. Despite the many things that were out of Paul’s control, he speaks with confidence and hope. And so also, when things seem out of control in your life, you can look to the same thing Paul did. First, he did not need to be afraid or ashamed. Second, he could entrust all things, even his own life, to His Triune God, by faith. May the Holy Spirit help us prepare for the unknown and trying situations of our lives through our Savior’s name – because this is much more than just a game.
In some ways our culture is becoming more vulnerable when it comes to control. What I mean by that is that we’re getting better at asking for help. In many areas that are out of our control, there can be a certain stigma attached to those who struggle. So much of life is built on the perception of control and the idea of having everything figured out. But, reality smacks us in the face and repeatedly teaches us that that idea is a misconception. No one has complete control. Everyone has their demons as the popular saying goes. For so many, the sooner you can be honest about that and seek help, the sooner you can actually move forward with some control.
However, this notion of seeking help can be a mirage at times too. The problem is that not all areas of help are actually helpful. Sometimes the prescription offered is based on something we must do. In certain areas of life this is helpful – personal responsibility is the key. But, in areas involving God or our faith, pointing inward is not going to be helpful. Being honest about something that I struggle with should point to a real solution. If sin is at play in the struggle, we need to look to God, not ourselves. Honesty means admitting that we are powerless against Satan – the chief demon that we all wrestle with.
Paul reiterates that there is no need to be ashamed or to fear when things are out of your control – but for a much different reason than your own self-awareness or power. He says of Jesus, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
The believer’s hope, even when life is spinning out of control, is that God is in control. It’s about being honest about our need, being vulnerable like the world promotes, but with Christ in view – not ourselves as saviors of our own destiny. No matter who the expert is. No matter what their level of experience education, there are just some things that are beyond the capability of mere mortals to answer. Paul lists one such thing as a positive through Jesus – death. There will never be a medication, psychological treatment, meditation technique, or anything else that can help us with death. But, Jesus can, and has. He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
What help our Savior can offer! But, instead of pushing for Him, the world often makes the believer feel shame and fear for trusting in Jesus. Paul was experiencing that too. He was in prison for his confession of Christ. He knew he would even die for this. Paul could have felt shame and fear at this prospect, but it didn’t bother him because, once again, his focus was on Christ.
Instead of allowing intimidation and persecution to rob him of faith in Christ, Paul found confidence and hope in His Savior. For this reason (believing in Christ) I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Paul speaks in financial terms – which is common when it comes to faith. Christ has redeemed (bought back) us. Paul’s faith was a deposit to God. Paul was trusting that even though matters were beyond his control, God was guarding his life.
Talk about an investment that is solid! There’s nothing that can damage or steal what we have entrusted to God by faith. This investment is safe. This terminology was common in Paul’s writings, after all, he lived and worked with believers who often on the lowest rungs of society. They didn’t have much as far as worldly money or investments went. Faith was their most precious treasure. Yet they were despised and maligned for their faith. Every insult and attack was hurled at them to instigate shame and fear. But they knew they were protected in Christ.
To the Colossians: Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
To the Corinthians: 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
To the Ephesians: Ephesians 1:14 who (the Holy Spirit) is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
It’s the work of Jesus, acted upon today by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, that instills hope in the believer’s life. It assures us that our investment of faith is protected by God. Our lives our hidden with God. Jesus is our yes and amen. The Spirit is our guarantee. These are terms of absolute certainty. It’s an investment that can’t miss.
But, when is it that we most often invest with God? When are the times that we entrust matters to Him? When they’re out of our control. Of course, it doesn’t have to be only in dire circumstances that we look to God, it’s just that it’s when we most often do. Think of the hope and confidence of faith we would have if we went straight to God in all matters! Think of the return on that investment by Christ!
Satan and the world would rather you be too afraid, too shamed, or too confident in yourself to entrust your life to God by faith. It’s an attractive proposition. You’ll make friends in the world who believe the same thing – that faith in Christ is worthless. It’s also a lifestyle that fits into the world. You’ll save yourself some heartache and persecution. But, as we know in life – it’s not a game. At the end of it all, you can’t up the board game – win or lose, and move on. Your eternity is on the line. Entrust it to someone who has control.
Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. He’s been to the point of total loss, and reclaimed it all and more for the entire world. The Holy Spirit is at work today through the Word to lead and strengthen you to invest in Jesus. The Spirit is your guarantee while here on earth until you take possession of eternal life in heaven.
Notice that through each step of life, and your Christian walk by faith, God is leading you. His investment cannot be beat. Let’s be honest about the help your need; but let’s also be honest about the help we have through faith in Jesus - To God’s glory and in Christ’s name. Amen.