While I often know that I am weak in the light of God’s strength, it is a very different matter when I taste this reality. It is in these moments that God breaks me of selfish pride and carefully crafted plans that are rooted in the false belief that I somehow have control over my own life. I am challenged with the question, Do you really trust Me, even at the end of your rope?
When my answer wavers, the temptation is to despair for lack of faith. How can I continue to trust him if my faith is so weak in the first place? I wonder. Then, the gospel. It is in the confession of our weakness that our Father humbles us through his reminder that even faith in Christ is created and upheld by him, that salvation comes from the Lord and not through our own efforts.
If We Are Faithless...
Paul reminds Timothy of the value of weakness, failure, and sufferings in 2 Timothy 2:1-13 by telling him to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” As I read this, my heart fluttered at the promise of such a statement: It is God’s grace in Christ that strengthens faith!
And so we should wonder, how? How does the grace that is in Jesus Christ strengthen us? What does this look like in the day-to-day as we experience weakness and failure, even failures of faith?
Be strengthened by grace to hope in Christ.
If we have died with him, we will also live with him…(v11)
As we seek to live as good soldiers of Christ in the world (v3), we will surely encounter sin and its fruit: opposition to the faith, the temptations of the world, the consequences of our actions, and even disunity within the church. All of these obstacles are discouraging and threaten to take our eyes off the grace that is ours in Christ.
But when we think about this grace and fix our eyes on Jesus, we consider the lavish gift of eternal life and spiritual blessings in the heavenly places that are ours! This grace is our strength because it reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus, who died so that we might live with him. This world is not our final stop, and so we rejoice that grace points us to a better hope, where sin and death will be destroyed, peace will be enjoyed, and we will worship God in unity forever.
How can you apply this hope to your circumstances today?
Be strengthened by grace for endurance in suffering.
...if we endure, we will also reign with him… (v12)
Paul was growing increasingly familiar with suffering by the day, as he was persecuted for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. So Paul’s reminder about suffering is genuine, one Timothy could take to heart, as can we:
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. (v10)
Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that suffering is an opportunity to be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus, specifically that we might endure through it. For our endurance is a testimony to the gospel; it points people to the cross, where Jesus suffered for our salvation and, therefore, to the sufficiency of our suffering Savior in upholding us through trials, pain, and hardship of our own.
What suffering is Christ supplying you the strength to endure today?
Be strengthened by grace to trust God’s goodness.
...if we deny him, he also will deny us…(v12)
A friend of mine reminds herself of this truth in difficult times: “God is good, and all he does is goodness.” When we are faced with weakness, failure, and suffering, it is easy to wonder, Is God actually good? We often equate goodness to comfort, making it difficult to comprehend that God works his good purposes through life’s most trying circumstances.
When our faith is stretched and we are questioning the goodness of God, the gospel reminds us that he can be trusted at all times, even when the outcome is hazy. For the greatest victory the world has ever seen came from the deepest darkness of the crucifixion; life came from death! So the grace that is in Jesus Christ strengthens us to trust God’s goodness, even when our flesh wants to deny that he is good and true.
Will you praise God for his goodness today, or confess that you have denied his goodness?
Be strengthened by grace to depend on grace.
...if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself. (v13)
When we come to the end of our rope, we are faced with the reality of our weakness and failures, especially our weak faith and our failure to trust the work of Christ in the gospel. It is here that we have a choice: We can despair because we have been placing our trust in our own works all along, or we can be strengthened by grace to remember that even faith comes from God.
The grace that is in Jesus strengthens us because it is how we were saved in the first place (Ephesians 2:8-9)! It is our salvation. God supplied us faith in the beginning, so we can trust that he will strengthen our faith as we continue to share in suffering as good soldiers of Christ. God cannot deny himself, and he promises to sustain our faith to the very end.
Have you forgotten that faith comes from God? Will you ask him to remind you of your salvation by grace alone through faith alone?
...He Remains Faithful
God is good, and all he does is most certainly goodness. At the end of our rope, and at every point in between, we trust that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the One who gives faith and the One who sustains faith by his strengthening grace. And as we confess our weakness to our Father, we remember that suffering and failures are the conduits through which he works.
Be strengthened by grace. When we are faithless, praise God, he remains faithful!