There are many ways in which we may suffer hardship for our faith in Jesus Christ and yet the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy and all who read this letter to “present (ourselves to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” The word pronounced, “prɪˈzent,” is a verb, a word of action.1 As we look at the word and see the image on our sermon slide, we can hear the word as a noun pronounced, “prez.ənt.”2
Imagine yourself as a present presented to God. The Scripture brings some troubling questions to mind. What kind of presentation would not be approved by God? What kind of present would bring a feeling of shame to the presenter? What steps would we need to take to become a present (prez.ənt) worthy to be presented (prɪˈzent/d) to God?
While I have always been assured of my eternal salvation, I have not always thought of myself as a pleasing gift to God. So, this Scripture really got my attention from the first time I saw it. The reason it grabs and holds my attention is because of the first part of Paul’s exhortation, which says, “Do your best…”3 Paul, knowing we are called to be acceptable, pure, and holy gifts to be presented to God doesn’t say, “be acceptable now.” He says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him…”4 This lets me know two things. First, God expects us to present ourselves as acceptable, pure, and holy gifts. Second, if my spiritual life is cluttered with junk that needs to be cleared out, there is both the time and the opportunity to start the cleansing process so the Holy Spirit has room to work, fill, and help me bear fruit worthy of presentation.
I can get a bit anxious in light of my flaws. There are things I have done, thoughts, and attitudes I have had that are unacceptable to God. Sometimes, I fail to be worthy of presentation to God. Yet, I am comforted by Paul’s words, “Do your best…” That says to me that though I know there is work to be done, a race to the goal line that needs to be crossed, I don’t have to be there right this minute. That which makes up the content of my soul does not have to be absolutely perfect when I come to God. As long as I come humbly, with a desire to change and grow, I can start where I am and take it one step at a time.
Right now, what do we bring that is worthy of our King and Savior Jesus Christ? What do we present to our God? If we are not yet ready and confident in the presentation we bring, how are we going to get ourselves ready to be presented to God?
Assurance can be ours. As we continue doing our best for God each day, we will change, and we will grow. The gift that is all that we are, our thoughts, attitudes, and actions will begin to change. Those things which are unacceptable to God will no longer have a place within us because we will be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
Paul begins this section of scripture in verse eight telling Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ.” What is it about Jesus Christ that he wants Timothy and us to remember? We have to remember who Jesus Christ is to us. We have to remember that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to remember that God proved that life-giving resurrection power is found in Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel, the good news. We have to remember that Jesus Christ is the King of all. So, we must give God all of our habits, intentions, and desires. We start doing our best by presenting ourselves at our worst, surrendering all that we are to God, and allowing God to change us, mold us, and make us into a present worth of presentation to God.
Since Jesus rose from the dead, that which is dead within us can have new life. We do not have to stay trapped in sin. Since resurrection power is found in Jesus Christ, our desire to love and live for God can be resurrected. Since Jesus Christ is King, we must do our best to be faithful, strong, and fruitful.
The Wesley Study Bible points out that in verses nine and ten Paul reminds Timothy that he “suffer(ed) hardship” to do that which is approved by God. Just prior to this section, in verses 3-6, Paul illustrates the kind of Christians we are called to become by likening us to faithful soldiers, winning athletes, and successful farmers, all of which “illustrate a disciplined faithfulness that cultivates personal virtue.”5 There is much hardship on the paths of those who faithfully pursue holiness. Though we are comforted by the words, “do your best,” these words are balanced by illustrations that let us know that to be successful, we have to be faithful to God, build up our spiritual muscle and stamina for holiness, and plant the right kinds of seeds in our souls to produce a fruitful harvest that is pure and acceptable to God.
According to John Wesley, the salvation of which Paul speaks in verse ten “is deliverance from all evil…Glory (is that which brings) the enjoyment of all good.”6 We know that we have both salvation and deliverance from evil through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. This realization is the foundation on which we begin our journeys toward cleaning out that which brings us shame. Emptied of all evil, we will not only enjoy all the good that God is creating in our lives but we will happily present our changed lives as beautiful presents to God. Realizing we are gifts to be presented to God inspires us to live faithful, strong, and fruitful lives.
Without a doubt, we are called upon to be faithful, strong, and fruitful. We are called upon to do whatever it takes not to give in to our carnal desires or to the whims of the world around us. This is the heart of Christian discipleship to which all of God’s children are called.7 We are inspired to strive for holiness because our lives have been changed by the love of God by which we are sustained. Our lives are changed by the grace of God by which we were called. Our lives are changed by the Son of God, by whom we are redeemed.
Without God, we were left to wander blindly about. Without a confident hope for eternal life in heaven, we lived self-centered, self-destructive, selfish, and sad lives. When God took hold of our hearts and opened our eyes to the love and salvation God graciously and continuously offers, we found hope for a future. With God’s help, our grateful hearts have been resurrected for a new life in Christ. This is why we change. This is why we do our best.
If we are not doing our best to make the necessary changes in our hearts and lives, then by default, we are doing our best to allow the world’s influence to take hold. Apathy is a noun meaning “the feeling of not being interested in or enthusiastic about something, or things in general.”8 Apathy applied daily becomes an adverb. Our faith becomes apathetic. Our connection to the church becomes apathetic. Then, inevitably, our connection to God becomes apathetic. As we drift away from that which is holy, we draw closer to that which is not. There is no way around it. Those who drift away from God, draw closer to satan. If you are not doing your best to “present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed…,”9 then you are presenting yourself to apathy which will take hold and take over.
Apathetic Christians stop working to become holy. They turn God’s grace into an excuse to stop trying, assuming God will forgive and save them simply because they believe in God and Jesus Christ. Apathetic and empty of all that is holy, unholiness, unrighteousness, and sinfulness fill their souls. Faithfulness to godly things will help us become more holy. Consistent exercise of our faith will make us grow strong. Pruning out that which is ungodly and destructive will make us bear the fruit of holiness.
Christian, rid yourself of apathy and remember you are a soldier of God. Be faithful to your calling as a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, put in the work to prune out all that is ungodly and destructive. Stop giving in to dark desires and actions that only bring shame. Beloved sons and daughters of God, it’s time to start planting seeds of holiness. It’s time to fertilize the soil of your mind by filling it with that which is holy, uplifting, and pure.
Without faithfulness to our God, our king becomes ourselves and our lord becomes satan. Unless we build our spiritual strength by reading the Word of God, worshipping God, fellowshipping with other Christians, and praying to God every day, we will grow weaker. Pulled further into apathy, dark thoughts will increasingly fill our minds. Drifting into slothful sinfulness, guilt and shame grow until all we have to present to God are our presents of weakness, thoughts of anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear, and lives filled with sinful and shameful behavior.
As John Wesley says, if we are “Dead with him – Dead to sin, (then we are to die for him).”10 Once we awaken from our apathy and start doing our best for God by unloading selfishness, dethroning satan as our lord, and refusing to give into spiritual weakness. Our souls will be revived. As Jesus Christ increasingly becomes our Lord, we will grow stronger, our lives will change for the better we will grow closer to God.
Without the junk that once filled our lives, we are now ready to live for Christ. We are prepared to grow stronger in our faith. We are awakened to faithfulness, and God’s Holy Spirit enables us to live increasingly holy lives. Remaining faithful and strong, we will continue to do our best to empty ourselves of vain desires and fully yield to God through Jesus Christ. Finally, we will be ready to take our faith to the next level. As we prune the evil away, the fruits of holiness will blossom and grow for God’s glory and these fruits will be worthy of presentation to God.
Perhaps you realize that you have let apathy make you weak. You have allowed dark thoughts to clutter your mind, slothful sinfulness has enslaved you, and guilt, shame, anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear have filled your soul. Maybe all that you have left to present to God is an apathetic and listless life that has drifted away from God.
Now is the time to start making changes in your life. Now is the time to cry out to God. God can heal your mind so you begin to care. God is ready to help you change. It is time to consider this question: At the end of your life, what kind of gift will you present to God? Will you present a life filled with regret, rage, and rebellion? Or, will you lovingly, boldly, and excitedly present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth?.”11 Realizing we are gifts to be presented to God inspires us to live faithful, strong, and fruitful lives.
I encourage you to turn your life around now. Rid yourself of apathy. Stop waiting. God is faithful and powerful enough to help you begin the cleansing process. Come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ. Become the present you want to present! Die to yourself and give yourself completely to God! Fight the good fight, grow strong in the Lord, and bear fruits of righteousness and holiness for the glory of God.
Scripture Reference: 2 Timothy 2:8-15
- “Prɪˈzent,” – pronunciation in English by Cambridge Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary, 5 October 2022, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/present. Accessed 8 October 2022.
- “Prez.ənt” – pronunciation of present by Macmillan Dictionary.” Macmillan Dictionary, https://www.macmillandictionary.com/pronunciation/british/present_2. Accessed 8 October 2022.
- 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+2%3A15&version=NRSVUE. Accessed 7 October 2022.
- 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway.
- Arnold, Bill T. NRSV Wesley Study Bible Charcoal Bonded Leather: New Revised Standard Version. Abingdon Press, 2017.
- Wesley, John. John Wesley’s Notes On The Entire Bible. Kindle Edition ed., Unknown.
- Westley Study Bible.
- “Apathy” defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/apathy?q=apathy. Accessed 7 October 2022.
- 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway.
- John Wesley’s Notes On The Entire Bible.
- 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway.