The lady who brought me to the Lord, when I was a child, would often tell me stories about her grandfather. His name was Paul, and he was very much like the apostle Paul. He was a missionary in Guatemala and it was said of him that no path was too steep as long as he could share Christ to one more Indian. And that was his life. That was what consumed him. That was his calling.
A really hard-worker and a visionary, he accomplished in his life more than can be measured. Besides the 100 churches that he planted and the Bible school that he started, him and his wife had a great burden for Bible translations. A young man that he mentored, by the name of Cameron Townsend, shared the same heart. Later, this young man founded what is now known as Wycliffe Bible Translations.
Paul Burgess was also a modern-day John the Baptist, and when the dictator in charge of the country begun to manifest unbiblical and sinful behaviors harmful to the people, he was the first to denounce him while still encouraging the people to respond biblically.
This caused him to be arrested and thrown into a jail, away from his pregnant wife and from his five children. But on his way he could not resist but share the gospel to the policeman escorting him. He didn’t care about what would happen to him. He knew he was called. He knew God was in charge. He knew that if the “worse” happened, it would still be ok. And the last thing he did, before being thrown in a prison with floor and walls covered with urine, without blanket and without food provided, was to give his Bible to that young man. During his time in jail, the first letter he received was from his wife, telling him that their son was born dead, having been strangled by the umbilical cord.
As a kid, those stories sobered me. But I still loved hearing them, especially because the lady telling them to me was my mother. And she too, with my father, were in the ministry and constantly under stress.
Serving the Lord is costly. It is not easy. It comes with opposition, and great difficulties. “All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” taught Paul to his disciple Timothy. And I did see this growing up.
At 7 years old, I remember going to church with my father at 5am, hastily, because someone had set it on fire by throwing in a Molotov cocktail.
At 9 years old I remember my dad stepping aside from ministry, as I was trying to understand what the term “burnt-out” meant.
At 10 years old I remember going to France to serve in the ministry, leaving all my friends and my world behind. For our first year, our family of 8 lived in a 2 bedroom house, with one car – and one bathroom.
At 15, I remember our church building closing and our small assembly of 20 moving to a small hotel room
My parents went through a lot too, but the reason why they persevered and they continue to persevere, is because of this: the unsurpassed worth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Serving the Lord comes with difficulties and opposition. The first thing that my dad asked me when I told him I wanted to pursue ministry was this: do you know how hard it is?
Is it hard to serve the Lord and to please Him in this fallen generation? Well, no doubt it comes with challenges and trials. But is it worth it?
Today I would like to look at a passage where Paul reminds His disciple Timothy, in the midst of difficult times, of the worth of the Gospel.
Now Timothy had seen it all. He was from Lystra, the town where Paul had been stoned. During their years together Timothy saw Paul beaten with rods, till all his body was bruised. He saw him beaten with lashes, shredding his skin in pieces. He saw him homeless, stranded, a prisoner, insulted, opposed and even abandoned.
And now, as we turn to 2 Timothy, we arrive at the end of Paul’s life, and he is in prison, awaiting execution, and Timothy is now a pastor. And whatever bullets and cannon balls and flaming arrows of opposition which once used to fly at Paul, are now aimed at his disciple. And here Paul is about to die, he has finished the course, in he has only one desire left: that Timothy would take the baton, and live boldly for Christ even in the midst of difficulties. And why? Because God’s gospel is unstoppable.
So I invite you to turn to 2 Timothy 2:8-14, where we will look at 8 attributes of the Good News, so that we can be bold in the unstoppable Gospel.
READ THE TEXT – 2 Timothy 1: 1-14
Here Paul continues his exhortation to Timothy. Based on Timothy’s calling and gifting, Paul is now encouraging Timothy to be courageous. To not be ashamed. To stand up, and to stand up by the power of Gospel.
And here, first, weaved through his words, from verses 8-14, he gives his disciple a series of descriptions of the Gospel. A Gospel that is, according to him, unstoppable. And this is what Timothy needs to remember to remain courageous and not be ashamed of God.
1. Immovable as God’s Testimony
And the first description of this attribute is given in verse 8.
v.8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord
The first description is that this unstoppable gospel is immovable as God’s testimony. It is immovable: it is the very testimony of the Lord, of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, God made flesh.
Now, we must remember what culture Timothy lived in. He lived in a culture where honor and shame dictated people’s behaviors. In an honor-shame society, reputation is not only based on what you do and who you are, but on what people think of you. As a result, to keep a good status in the culture, you must consistently work on your image.
Now the problem of Christians was that the object of their hope, the cross of Christ, was the supreme emblem of shame and dishonor. Crucifixion was for the worst of criminals, for those whose lives were unworthy of being kept and their names unworthy of being remembered.
But for Paul, this gospel was first and foremost the gospel of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ. And who cared if people did not like? Forget about people. It is God’s very testimony. To believe it and to preach it is to stand on God’s side. Why would you want to stand anywhere else? Why?
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7) This gospel is so crucial, Christ even said of it, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
The shame we live by the contempt of others will not last long. God’s testimony shapes History. The testimony is sure. It is immovable. It will endure until and mark the end of this age. It is unstoppable. It is no man’s gospel. It is God’s very own. Nothing to be ashamed of.
2. Untamable by Persecutions
Paul reminds Timothy: the gospel is unstoppable because it is from God. It is also unstoppable because human persecutions cannot tame it. It is untamable.
v. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God
Paul was God’s prisoner, “his” prisoner we read. He wasn’t Rome’s prisoner. He wasn’t Nero’s prisoner. That might have been what people would assume from an earthly perspective, but that wasn’t how God looked at it.
Paul was in prison because God wanted him there. He wanted the world to know the perseverance of the faithful. He wanted Paul to reach new depths of understanding of even his own suffering so that he could leave a written and inspired legacy that would shape and bless the Church of God. The Sovereign God had His reasons. Paul’s imprisonment was the will of God. It was for His glory, for His purposes, and never a plan B.
Yes Paul was bound. Yes, Paul was chained. Yes, Paul was isolated. But even the darkest confinement could not stop the gospel.
During the time following the Reformation, the French government tried to tame the testimony of the Huguenots, the French Protestants.
They began by killing their nobility. That’s what happened at the massacre of the St Bartholomew where 20,000-100,000 Huguenots were killed by angry mobs throughout France. Within days the river in Paris was said to have been filled with blood and corpses.
Later, they sent troops inside of homes, known as the Dragoons, to destroy furniture, torture and rape to force people to recant.
Because of the treaty of religious freedom, they passed over 309 edicts to trim around the law to make life impossible for Protestants. One of these rules was that anyone having said a word against the Catholic Church in the past 20 years could be condemned for it.
They abducted their children. They closed their academies and schools. They destroyed their church buildings and even their hospitals. They forbid professions for them and they put their merchants out of business.
Finally, as the Huguenots became too much of a minority, they revoked the edict that protected them. They banished the pastors. They forbid parents to teach the faith to their children. They condemned men to gallows and women to dungeons.
But if you asked me whose testimony is remembered to this day from this time period, far above that of kings and generals, I would tell you the story of those 3 youth from my home town, the Grenier brothers, condemned to death for helping a pastor who himself had already been arrested and condemned, and how they sang Psalms on their way to their execution, and how, the youngest one, a boy, after having seen his pastor hanged and his brothers beheaded, when asked to recant to save his life, looked at the executioner and told him boldly, after putting his head on the bloody block of death, “you do your job.”
The gospel of God is not tamable. It is unstoppable. The prisoners of God are not in vain.
And this is why Paul tells Timothy to partake with him in suffering. Literally, to “suffer evil with him.”
The negative imperative, to not be ashamed, is here linked with the positive imperative, to suffer. If you want to be a Christian that makes a difference, you will need to be like Christ. And Christ suffered.
But those suffering will not be in vain, because in them is the power of God. When Christ suffered, the glory of God that was revealed was beyond measure. When you suffer for God, His power is revealed, because it displays how the gospel is stronger than any other imaginable authority, entity, enemy or circumstance. It is untamable. It is the gospel of God, and it is unstoppable. Nothing to be ashamed of.
3. Unfathomable in power
It is immovable, untamable, and also unfathomable in power. It is from God, it endures, and its power is so unfathomable, it is so powerful enough to make the most out of the worse. It makes the most of the worse, taking condemned sinners and makes them holy.
v.9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began
You want to talk about a powerful Gospel? What about a gospel that takes sinners, fallen men, enemies of God, slaves of sin, children of Satan, under God’s wrath, condemned and lost, and changes them to be holy, set apart, pure and used by God to accomplish His very own purposes?
[You want to talk about something powerful? What about a gospel that takes people that are broken, corrupted, limited, self-destructive, selfish, idolaters and blasphemers to put them in a place where their nature is changed and their works have eternal significance?]
[It saves sinners from sin and hell, and calls them in ways that cannot be resisted, and sets them apart to participants in God’s very holiness.]
It takes those people whose works were useless, vanity of vanities, and include them in His plans so that His grace could be manifested in them and through them.
And all of this is already accomplished. Christ paid the price for our souls before the foundation of the world. And the result of this is that nothing in this world, absolutely nothing, will ever be able to stop God’s gospel to accomplish its purposes. It was decided, literally, “before time eternal.”
This gospel was established before the rules of this world were set. It is superior, it is more excellent, it is worthy and stronger than anything or anyone, even death itself as we see in the next verse. Its power is unfathomable.
4. Unbeatable even by death
This is our God’s unstoppable gospel. It is immovable, untamable, unfathomable and unbeatable even by death.
v. 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
This gospel was made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ who became the Savior of the world.
Now it is very interesting that Paul does not use the term “Savior” very much. He only uses it 12 times, half of them being in Titus. It is a term that was often used of kings and emperors and key people who helped the welfare of a city or region. A savior was someone who helped the people to live better, who was generous and a mediator of good things.
Well, you want to talk about giving good things? What about taking the sting out of death? What about taking the fear that haunts people and turning it into a source of joy? What about making death a good thing?
No weak gospel can do that.
Now not only does the gospel give the message of hope which saves sinners and makes them holy, but it also illuminates their minds to understand the message. All that Christ accomplished is brought to light through the gospel. It is an open window to the very works of God and to their interpretation. It is the bridge that connects men to God.
It is unstoppable. It is unequaled in greatness. Death cannot quench it. It is worth being courageous for. It doesn’t remove dangers and fears, but that’s not what courage is about. True courage is to proceed forward even when there is fear.
C.S. Lewis described it this way, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
But if you want to be tested, you might as well be tested for the gospel, because it is strong, powerful, and if you stick to it you will become strong as well. It will build you up. It will shape you, and just as it remains, it will make you’re your impact for the kingdom unstoppable.
Like Paul, in jail, ready to die; but with a faithful and gifted disciple ready to take over.
5. Unshakable by Men’s Schemes
And so the list continues. God’s Gospel is immovable, it is untamable, it is unfathomable in power, and unbeatable. And here, in verse 11, we see that it is unshakable by men’s schemes.
v.11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher
As the description continues, we see here that God’s Gospel is carried under His supervision. For the ministry of His Gospel there can be no intruders. Those that God entrust with His precious Gospel are chosen and given offices and gifts directly from Him.
Paul was appointed, literally “put” as a preacher, and apostle and a teacher. The verb is passive here. Paul didn’t appoint himself. God Himself placed him there. He took him, even as a man whose purpose was to destroy the church, and made him what he wanted to be.
First, God made him to be a kerux, a herald or preacher. Now, you can’t be a herald without a message, and if you are going to be God’s herald, God’s preacher, than you will have a divine message. You will become God’s very voice.
But not only he is a preacher, but he is an apostolos, one who is sent out with authority. Not only he is the voice of God, but he is also the arm of God.
And not only he is a preacher and an apostle, but he is also a teacher, one who partakes of the mind of God, of the mind of Christ as we read in 1 Cor 2:16.
Now, those offices were not new. They are the continuation of Christ’s ministry. Christ was a preacher. He went from town to town preaching the word as we see in the gospel. The author of Hebrews also describes Him as an apostle (3:1). He was also the teacher of teachers, the new Moses, the rabbi of God.
When God sent Jesus to reveal the fullness of the gospel, He sent Him fully equipped. In the same way, when God sent Paul, he sent him fully equipped. In the same way, as God sent Timothy and will send you, He will also equip you with all things pertaining to life and godliness. Amen! The message is from God, the authority is from God, the doctrines are from God, and He can appoint anyone anywhere to carry Hi ministry, and this is what He will do to keep His gospel unstoppable
6. Unquenchable by Circumstances
Number six, God’s Gospel is unquenchable by circumstances.
v. 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Here we see that God keeps the gospel protected and unquenched from the fires of opposition through 3 things: the suffering of His servant, the faith of His servant, and the enduring life of His servant.
As we saw earlier, God uses suffering of His purposes, and here Paul is suffering. But his suffering is not in vain. He still finds no reason to be ashamed, because the power of the gospel does not rest in his hands, but in God.
What we read here in our Bibles as “entrusted to me” could be translated as “my deposit.” Here it does not refer only to the gospel, but also to Paul’s very life. Paul knew that the days of his life were counted, and that God would not take him home until his work would be done. Whatever God wanted His servant to accomplish on earth, it would be done before his time would come.
Paul’s faith was fully invested in God. He believed in his God. He entrusted his life to that God. He gave it all up so that God would own it and not him.
And how ironic that Paul is talking about God “guarding” his life when he is in prison. He knew what it meant to be guarded. And in the same way that the Romans prevented him to exercise his freedom to keep him set apart as a prisoner, in the same way God would guard His gospel from the enemy to keep it set apart as holy.
Paul knew that God was no small god and He would keep both Paul and his gospel protected until the Day of Christ, the Day of Judgment and the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
Paul knew that God’s gospel was unstoppable. Time would not make it void of power. Enemies would not be able to quench its fire. False teachers would not destroy its supremacy. Persecution would not alter its authority. God’s gospel would endure. Its destiny would be secure. Its preaching and teaching would be powerful and meaningful.
Nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should motivate us like Paul to lay down our lives as well. It should motivate like Paul to give up our very selves because this gospel is the pearl of great price. This gospel is a treasure.
7. Incomparable in perfection
And this is what we see next. The Gospel is immovable, untamable, unfathomable in power, unbeatable, unshakable, unquenchable, and also number even, it is incomparable in perfection.
v. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here the word for “sound” is one that means “healthy” or “whole.” It is the word that is used to translate the Hebrew word “Shalom” which means something complete, healthy, whole, perfect, full of peace.
And that was the gospel of Paul. It was spotless, it was perfect. It was worth following, as he now encourages Timothy to do.
Now, the exhortation to follow was not much different than that of suffering, or to not be ashamed. It’s all part of the same plea.
And it is worth it. This gospel is unshakable. It is perfect, spotless, it is complete and truly healthy.
But there still an element of responsibility for God’s servants. They must be dependant. First they must be faithful to the apostolic revelation, which we find in the Scriptures, and secondly they must abide in Christ, in the faith and in the love found in Him.
And let me tell you. Even though the gospel might be described here as unstoppable like the rotation of the planets or the waves of the sea, even though it might be described as unshakable as Mount Everest or the Rocky Mountains, it will not have no power through you if you are not dependant on God. If you are not a man of faith, a man of prayer and a man who treat the Word like your true daily bread, your life will be like the sowing of seeds in fresh concrete. Unless you are a true man of God, your impact will be like preaching at a cemetery.
God’s perfect gospel can only be carried out by a dependence on God’s perfect Word and God’s perfect Son. And if you do so, like the gospel, you will be unstoppable.
8. Unbreakable in God’s Spirit
Finally, Paul describes to Timothy here a last aspect of the gospel. It is unstoppable because it is unbreakable. Indeed, it is shielded by the Spirit.
v. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Here the theme of human responsibility continues, and again it is conditioned on a total dependence on God and on His Holy Spirit.
Earlier, Paul described this Spirit as one of power, of love and self-control (1:7). This is the Spirit given to protect that Gospel.
This Spirit is the one given along with God’s vision to evangelize the world and His authority to do so. It is so powerful that no city, no region, no country can contain it. It breaks through languages, breaks through cultures, breaks through cold-hearted sinners, breaks through everything. Our class can witness concerning this, can’t we? It is so powerful, the only vision that can be fit for its ministry is a vision big like the world!
But that’s not everything. It is also a Spirit of love. This Spirit can enable you and strengthen you to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, to pray for those who persecute you, to care for the souls of others even when it costs you your life!
And even more, it is a Spirit of self-control, of discernment, of discipline. He can help you to have wisdom, to make sound decisions, to be balanced in your life, measured in words and actions.
That Spirit was given in Timothy. It dwelt in him. By its power, Timothy would be able to remain faithful to this gospel and to live a life reflecting the standards of beauty and holiness of that gospel. In dependence to the Spirit, Timothy could remain, with the gospel, unstoppable.
This time, the word “deposit” is used for the gospel. It is a good deposit.
But what is a deposit? In ancient times, a deposit would be the most precious and valued possessions that someone would entrust a friend if he had to go on a journey. To assure that this deposit would be returned complete and unharmed was one of the highest and most sacred obligations recognized by ancient thought.
Listen. When God gave you the gospel, He gave you His best. But guess what. This gospel also needs to be passed to the next generation unharmed and uncorrupted. Men of God, this is our calling. This gospel is worthy of our courage. It is worthy of our suffering. It is worthy of our affection.
One of my favorite verses, Proverbs 28:1, states, “The righteous are bold as a lion.” That’s what we need to be.
Let me summarize it to you one more time:
The Gospel of my God is unstoppable
Its testimony is unshakable
Its power is untamable
Its salvation is undeniable
Its calling is irresistible
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
Its purposes cannot be broken
By its might death is beaten
By its virtue life is given
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
This awe-inspiring gospel is indestructible
It gives strength to bear the unbearable
The faith it rests on is incomparable
To end it? It is unthinkable
Its truth is unchangeable
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
Its protection is insured
In the Spirit, it is secured
Its goodness will endure
Will you stand for the gospel?
Paul Burgess, my great-grand-father, eventually made it out of jail. After a month or so he was able to go back to his family and continue his ministry. But if you had to ask him the highlight of his career, he would probably have said that it happened 17 years after the prison incident. One day, after having preached in a church that he was visiting, he was on his way to his hotel. As he was walking, he found a church building he had never seen before. The service was still going on. There were about 250 people. Discretely, he came in from the back and took a sit in the sanctuary, just to check out the place.
Halfway through the preaching, the preacher paused his message. And starring at him, he told his people, “I had many things to say today, but there is someone here that we all need to listen to. And this is the reason why. 17 years ago, I was a policeman on the road to hell. And this man, Don Pablo, explained to me the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave me a New Testament. Little did he know that it was the beginning of my Christian walk!”
It is worth to work without shame for the sake of the gospel? Is it worth persevering, toiling, and even suffering? Yes it is!