2 Timothy 2:1–13
 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.  An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.  Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN
We are in a culture today where as much as probably any time in history, we are surrounded by distractions. Emails, texts, apps, social media and screens and every kind of electronic notification can consume us. Not to mention the various vocations and other things that demand our constant attention. In other words, even for people who aren’t ADD or ADHD, staying focused can seem near impossible today. St. Paul in our text is writing to his young pastor friend Timothy in one of his final letters about what he should be focused on in his ministry to the church and the other pastors he is mentoring. This is Paul’s final letter of instruction and to his apprentice and he emphasizes over and over again for Timothy to be about One Thing primarily, the proclamation of our Lord’s death and resurrection, the Gospel. Using the metaphor of a good soldier, he warns Timothy not to be about entangled in “civilian pursuits”, which could easily distract, but rather “please the one who enlisted him”. Like the great athlete, training for the prize or the good farmer focused on growing good crops, Paul urges Timothy to stay focused, through difficulty, hardship, suffering and distraction on delivering the gifts of our Lord Jesus Christ who has died and risen for His church. Just as there are many causes and even very good ones that any church or pastor could focus on, it’s important for us to note that above all Timothy is to preach Christ crucified for the sinner, the Gospel. He is to preach the justification of the sinner, the forgiveness of sins for all on account of our Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s easy to put our energy on everything around us, except the main thing, to be distracted by people, politics or social causes as the church’s main charge which is why Paul reminds the church in Ephesus also when he tells them,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Eph 6:12
Our real enemy isn’t our neighbor but sin, death and the devil, all of which are dealt with on Christ’s cross for us.
So Paul says, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” In other words just as certain as Jesus is risen from the dead, so His word of forgiveness goes out and accomplishes its purpose, bringing life to those who are spiritually dead, healing and cleansing those who are spiritually diseased and leprous, just like in our Gospel reading this morning.
Paul, who had his share of beatings and imprisonment for preaching the Gospel, isn’t focused on his circumstances or even his suffering, for his hope is in the word of the Gospel of the forgiveness of all sins on account of Christ. Paul isn’t preaching his own methods of cleaning up your life, or self-improvement. He isn’t giving pep talks or motivational speeches, but is boldly proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins. This word, which is Jesus’ word given to Paul, the other apostles and now to Timothy and the entire Christian church is “the power of God unto salvation”. It is the Word of Gospel that creates faith in us, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ”. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is why the single focus of the pastor and the single Word of the church is the Word of Jesus, who has risen from the dead for you, and forgives your sin this day.
To be clear, it’s not that there aren’t many things that are important to be instructed on in all of life’s vocations. We can get teaching on finances, marriage, relationships, parenting and lots of other good things. The reality though is that Jesus did not come into the flesh, die and rise to simply make us more moral or give us some good advice on different aspects of life, but as the angel says to Mary, “you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”
His very name speaks of the forgiveness He came to give you. For, like all sinners you may think that if you just do this, that or the other enough, you will be ok, but the Scriptures teach that your condition is far worse than you imagined. For you were born, “dead in your trespasses” and sin. So our Lord’s Word for you is not reformation but resurrection. Your hope is exactly what Paul tells Timothy here in our text. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,”. While your Old Adam still somehow thinks he is good enough and smart enough to figure it out, the Law of God actually condemns all of you even your “Good works” done in the flesh as filthy rags before the Lord, for He is holy and commands the same of you, not a few of the 10 commandments, but all of them are demanded in terms of the Law. But in His Word of Gospel He gives you what you don’t have, He gives what you cannot do for yourself, He gives you His perfect life as gift, He is your substitute, and Jesus is your righteousness. This is why He has called you here this morning, to be gathered to His name, the name by which you were baptized into His death and resurrection, so as certainly as He was raised, so are you, as new Adam, new creation by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.
“The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;” 2 Tim 2:11
The Gospel for you that Jesus gives, is a Gospel that is rooted not in your faithfulness, or ability to do good and get better, but in His already finished work on the cross for you. He promises in our text today to continue that work, despite your unfaithfulness, His word and His promise to be with you, named as His own through water and the word forever. “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.”
In the Name of Jesus,