How To Become A Strong Christian
This sermon was preached by my great-grandfather, the Rev. Richard J. Sweetman, on the radio show “The Hour of Power” on WMAL AM-FM on Sunday, June 10, 1962. It was sponsored by Central Union Mission. Though my Great-Granfather has passed away before I was born, I have his sermons, which have greatly helped me. I pray that God will use these sermons even today, 40 years later, for His glory. I’ll meet my grandfather in heaven, and I pray you will too.
By Rev. Richard J. S.
“The Apostle Paul in writing to the young minister, Timothy, gave an exhortation that is just as much needed by all of us, ministers and laymen. It is found in 2 Timothy 2:1:
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
As then, so today, one of the greatest needs the believer has is strength to be all his position in Christ implies in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world.
A Mr. T. Horton has put this need in poetic language–
“I need a strength to keep me true and straight in everything I do;
I need a power to keep me strong when I am tempted to do wrong;
I need a grace to keep me pure when passion tries its deadly lure;
I need a love to keep me sweet when hardness and mistrust I meet;
And naught on earth can these afford, but all is found in Christ, my Lord.”
Several years ago at a Bible Conference, I heard Dr. William Allen Dean speak on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He suggested that the theme of chapter 2 is: “Be strong,” and that the balance of the chapter gives “five rules for the Christian if he would be strong.” (I hope you have your Bible open so you can see these precious lessons.)
In these days of stress and strain, the faith of many is being taxed almost to the breaking point. In talking with fellow-believers in Christ, I have found many who are discouraged, defeated, and depressed. They don’t want to be, but they are nevertheless. They want to be strong. They want to live a victorious life. They want to be able to live above the disturbing circumstances about them, but they haven’t found the secret. Paul’s word to young Timothy can be of great help if you are one of these; and I pray that it will as we look at it together this morning.
Now the first rule in obtaining strength as a Christian:
Suffer the Hardships
This is found in verses 3-7; and if you have your Bible open, you will be able to glance at these verses and see how he develops this theme. He uses three examples–that of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. One of the first things a soldier learns is that he has no rights of his own. He has to endure many things that are contrary to his will. He must endure hardness, self denial, disciplines. That is especially true when war is going on. The athlete must run if he is going to win the race, and there are training rules that cannot be broken. This, too, requires self-discipline. The farmer must spend months at hard toil before he reaps a harvest. Ground that is to produce must be broken up, plowed with deep furrows; it must be cultivated, turned, planted. Stumps, roots, and rocks often have to be removed. All of this before harvest. So it is with the Christian life. If we are to be strong, we must suffer the hardships. All too many Christians have forgotten that the Christian way costs something.
We have often sung: “It Pays to Serve Jesus“; but we have forgotten that is costs something to serves God.
It cost Abraham the yielding up of his only son.
It cost Esther the risking of her life.
It cost Daniel being cast into the den of lions.
It cost Stephen death by stoning.
It cost Jesus his life.
What has it cost you?
The cross worn is no substitute for the cross borne. Many today want the Christ of the cross, but they will not accept the cross of Christ. Like some who stood before the cross, they say: “Come down from the cross and we will believe you.” Strength in the Christian life comes from accepting the hardships, disciplines, trials, sacrifices as the will of God for our lives as He seeks to bring us to full maturity as His children.
Now the second rule for acquiring strength is:
Stand on the Promises
This is found in verses 8-13. Here Paul brings the resurrection of Jesus Christ into focus, and then assures all who are willing to walk the way of the cross with Christ will also share in His glory. The cross will be followed by a crown, but there is no crown without a cross. In verses 9-10, he tells us that he is willing to suffer trouble, even imprisonment, even death, just so others might be saved. Think of what’s invloved if your friend is lost, not only now but through eternity! Think also what Christ can do, and will do, for him. Upon the basis of these promises, Paul says: “I am willing to suffer anything just to get people linked up with God.”
THIS IS STRENGTH! STAND ON THE PROMISES!
The third rule for Christian strength is:
Shun the Side Issues
This is seen in verses 14, then 16-18, and 23-35. Here young Timothy got some good advice; he was told to “strive not about words to no profit,” “shun profane and vain babbling,” and avoid “foolish and unlearned questions.” The reasons he was to avoid these are that they will “subvert the hearers…Increase unto more ungodliness…Overthrow the faith of some…Gender strifes” and such like. Some people are more concerned about where Cain got his wife and whether God is able to make a stone too big for Him to move than they are about the lost neighbor who will end up in hell without Christ.
The little boy went to the circus; but because he was so busy looking at the side-shows, he arrived at the “big-top”, the main event, just as the concluding act was finished. An Australian woman specialist, whose medical advice has helped in curing thousands of cases of infantile paralysis, was told: “You can make one million dollars in six months if you charge the fees you deserve.”
“One million dollars!” she replied, “Why, I made more than that this morning. I made a little girl able to walk again.”
I’m sure this point needs no more emphasis.
The fourth means of strength Paul urges on Timothy is:
Study the Word
In verse 15 we read: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly divivding the word of truth.” The value of the Word of God in building Christian strength and character is inestimable. The neglect of this Book, which is food for the soul, probably explains why some Christians are weak, worn, and weary. One has written about what his Bible has done for him in this beautiful language:
“Though the cover is worn, and though pages are torn,
And though places bear the traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.
This old Book is my guide, ’tis a friend by my side,
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find soothes and gladdens my mind,
I read it and heed it each day.
To this Book I will cling, of its worth I will sing;
Though great losses and crosses be mine.
For I cannot despair though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.”
We don’t even have time to enlarge on the fifth means of strength:
Separate Yourself From All Uncleanness
Suffice it to say, God cannot use a dirty instrument. If you would me strong, present a clean life to God for him to use.”