There is no doubt that those in Christ are saved the very split second they receive the Savior by faith. But we can also say genuine belief will show itself by faithful perseverance with Jesus throughout one’s life. As our Lord said in Matthew 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” You’ve heard it said, “The Christian life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” Therefore, by God’s grace, our goal is to walk with Christ faithfully until the day we are called home. Jesus reiterates, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
In 2 Timothy, Paul is preparing for the end of his own life as he seeks to finish strong while awaiting his execution in a disease-infested, subterranean prison. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). Yet in this final chapter of his life Paul can boldly say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul persevered to the end and now he’s seeking to pass the baton to Timothy, imploring him to faithfully run the Christian race as well. Like many of us, Timothy needed this encouragement especially since this timid (2 Tim. 1:7) and fearful (2 Tim. 1:8) young man was facing much opposition that threatened to shipwreck his faith.
These timeless admonitions given to Timothy apply to us as well. Let’s examine some of these excellent nuggets of wisdom in 2 Timothy chapter 2 that can assist all believers as we too seek to faithfully walk with Jesus until the end:
1. Most of all, we need to understand that the only reason we have any hope of persevering is because of God. Our salvation is secure in His hands. Thus He will supply the necessary and sufficient grace we need to overcome every obstacle that we will encounter in this life. Hence, Paul initially exhorts Timothy, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (verse 1). Only by God’s grace, His enabling power, do we have any hope of living the Christian life as a victorious soldier (verse 4), athlete (verse 5) and farmer (verse 6).
2. It is also important that we look to other examples for encouragement in this area, others who also proved that it is possible to successfully persevere. First, Paul calls Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ” (verse 8). Jesus was “risen from the dead” (verse 8). When we think about our Lord’s life and subsequent death, we recall that He truly was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Still His life was marked by faithful obedience to the Father until the end. Yes, He was God, but He was also a man just like us, a “descendent of David” (verse 8). Second, Paul puts forward his own life as an example for Timothy to follow. Paul never wavered from his faith despite “suffer[ing] hardship” and “imprisonment as a criminal” (verse 9). He was able to “endure all things” (verse 10) and emerge faithful.
3. More motivation from this passage is seen in the fact that both Jesus and Paul persevered as they kept their focus on the Father, and also as they gazed intently on the reward for their endurance. In His death, Jesus purchased with His blood the salvation of God’s children. Even the single and smallest act of disobedience would have disqualified Him and thus forfeited the “gospel” (verse 8). Now with the gospel available to all who believe, Paul in his love for others as well, persevered so that unbelievers might hear through his proclamation and embrace the Savior. As he said in verse 10, “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
4. And lastly, we are spurred on to perseverance through strong warnings. Do we wish to live with Christ? Then we must die to self and our personal interests that pull us off track (verse 11; cf. Jn. 12:24). Do we wish to reign with Him? Then we must endure at all times (verse 12, cf. Rom. 8:17). And what if we deny Him – the obvious antithesis to perseverance? The answer is clear, the Lord Jesus Christ will then also deny us (verse 13, cf. Mt. 10:33). God will supply His elect with the necessary grace, but by all means, let’s not forget we have a responsibility in all of this as well (Heb. 3:6).
May we all “strive to enter through the narrow door” (Lk. 13:24) watching over our lives closely and assisting other believers along the way. In this world we will “suffer hardship” (verse 3). We will all stumble. But thanks be to God that even “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (verse 13). So by God’s grace may we “bear fruit with perseverance” (Lk. 8:15) as He “confirm[s] [us] to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).