Being ashamed is a common feeling. I would doubt that anyone has lived long without feeling some sense of shame either for things they have done wrong or right things they failed to do. There are certainly things in life that are horrible enough mistakes that they deserve to bring on a feeling of shame in us. But, something that so often seems strange is when we feel desperately ashamed of things that shouldn’t produce any shame. Think of the child at school who is ashamed because they don’t have the clothes to wear that others in the class are wearing or picture the student a little older who is ashamed of their inability to understand or do the work in class that others may be able to accomplish. It is far from unusual for a person to be ashamed that they aren’t as athletically capable as some others are around them. It is amazing that in such times we all tend to compare ourselves with those who are the most capable rather than with some who have even less ability than we do. As adults the feelings of shame don’t go away. It is then that people often feel ashamed of their appearance, their inabilities and even their physical problems. I wonder how many times through the years I’ve had young adults who were ashamed of their parents for all kinds of reasons.
In the short letter of 2 Timothy Paul was in a Roman prison. This was his last letter and it is very personal to his young friend and mentee, Timothy. From the very beginning of the letter Paul focuses on being ashamed. He reminded Timothy of his great heritage with his mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois who were great women of faith and Paul declared that the same faith was in him. He challenged him to fan into flame the gift of God he had received through the laying on of his hands and said, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control. 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, 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” (2 Timothy 1:7-9).
There isn’t anyone in Paul’s life about which he has said more positive things even saying that he had no one like him who thought first of the others before himself. But Timothy seems to have struggled with being somewhat timid. When Paul was re-arrested in Rome and put into a far more harsh situation, it was likely because he had been accused of being an enemy of the state. In his first imprisonment he had freedom to live in his own rented home with soldiers chained to him all the time. But he could bring in people to teach them and show them the way of the Lord. Now the situation had changed. Being the friend of one charged as an enemy of the state could be dangerous and might lead to your own imprisonment. Later in this book he will say that at his first answer before Nero, all men forsook him, no one stood with him, but the Lord stood with him and strengthened him in that hour. Fear and shame had caused many good friends and brothers and sisters in Christ to turn their backs on him. Paul must have felt that Timothy might be leaning in that direction as well so he pleads with him to not be ashamed of either the message of the Lord or of him as the Lord’s prisoner.
Think about it for a moment. Try to put yourself in Timothy’s place. He will say shortly that all who are in Asia have turned away from him. He named Phygelus and Hermogenes who were likely leaders in the church, perhaps in Ephesus where Paul had preached for three years and had left Timothy to carry on the work, as ones who had deserted him. It was one thing to have these men and Demas to forsake him. But to think of Timothy whom he loved as a son to turn would have been extremely difficult. So he pleads with him not to be ashamed. A few verses further he will say, “For which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 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” (Verses 11-12).
He turned then to give two illustrations. The first was of Phygelus and Hermogenes who like others in Asia had turned away from him. Then in verses 16-18 he gave a very positive illustration of the heart he wanted Timothy to have. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! – and you will know all the service he rendered to me at Ephesus.” We really know nothing of any of these three people other than what is revealed here. But Timothy knew them. He knew their place in the church in Asia and probably in Ephesus. He could either be like those who turned their back to him when he was arrested again or he could be like the one who came to Rome and searched until he found Paul and wasn’t ashamed of the chains he had. This good man refreshed Paul even in the prison. Maybe it was simply encouraging words or prayer with him. He may have brought him food or some clothes, but his visit made a difference in Paul that he wouldn’t forget. Think of how much it affected him that he prayed for mercy for him and his family in the day of judgment.
In chapter two and verse 15 he offered this challenge to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To do that he needed to avoid irreverent babble that leads to more ungodliness. He then named two more men who had gone astray in their teaching, Hymenaeus and Philetus who swerved from the truth saying that the resurrection had already happened. They were upsetting the faith of some. Don’t be like these men. They are shaming the gospel of Christ and hurting people instead of building them up. He challenged Timothy to tie himself to the Scriptures which he had known from his youth and which furnish the man of God completely unto every good work. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching.
Then he came to the very personal conclusion of the book by pointing to his coming death. He knew the time was short and his departure from this life was close. He knew his second appearing before Nero would come soon and he fully expected it to end with his death. His plea to Timothy was “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica, Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books and above all the parchments.” In verse 21 he will add, “Do your best to come before winter.” Instead of shame for what was going on in Paul’s life and the end of his ministry, Paul pleaded with Timothy to have the courage to come, to be with him, to stand by him even in the trial and to be there with him in death. He knew the Lord would be with him. But he longed for the touch of his young friend and the encouragement that he could bring. You can easily imagine him in the Roman dungeon, cold, lonely and without the word of God available to read and study. So, when you come bring the coat, the books and the parchments.
Two questions should concern us as we look at this whole book. First, have you ever been forsaken in a tough time and situation? How did it feel to you when it happened? Second, has shame ever kept you from being by the side of someone who loves or loved you and needed your presence in an hour of trial? Never allow shame to keep you from being or doing what God calls you to do as his child.