“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentiles.”
Those were the words that Paul spoke to the church in Rome. Now he writes to a young man, Timothy, “Don’t be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me, his prisoner.”
Timothy was a young pastor who had come from a spiritually-divided home. His mother and grandmother were Christians, however his father was not. Paul took an interest in Timothy and became his spiritual father. He took him on mission trips and instructed the young man in how to minister to people with the Gospel. Their relationship had grown to be very close. So it was natural for Paul, while sitting in a dark Roman prison, to write, “I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.”
When he wrote these words, Paul was expecting to be martyred anytime. They had imprisoned him in Rome earlier. This was a nice imprisonment, if you can ever call being incarcerated nice. He had an apartment, and the only inconvenience was that a guard was always watching to see that Paul did not escape. People came to visit the Apostle, and he had the joy of leading many of them to Christ.
However, his second imprisonment was very difficult. He was on death row. Emperor Nero was determined to do away with the Christians. They had become too bothersome to him, and now it was Paul’s turn to die for Christ and his faith in the Savior.
During this time of waiting, Paul did much thinking. One of his most important questions was who will continue his work after he is gone. Having concluded that Timothy was the logical person to succeed him, Paul was considering some of Timothy’s weaknesses that needed to be strengthened. Paul had noticed that Timothy, at certain times, did not take a definite stand for Christ as quickly as he should have done.
We should stop right here and apply this message to ourselves Ð do not be ashamed of Jesus. Jesus had warned against this temptation. He says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
What does it mean to be ashamed of a person? This dictionary defines being ashamed as “embarrassed to be identified with a person.” The mother of a screeching child in a grocery store might fit this definition. She assumes that all observing the temper tantrum are wondering what kind of mother she is not to have better control of her child. In a more serious way, Jesus confronts us with the thought that we could be tempted not to be identified with him on certain occasions.
Such was the case with Peter in the courtyard when he was asked, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?” Peter denied it saying he did not know Jesus. He was ashamed momentarily, but he was ashamed of Jesus nevertheless.
Do you suppose that Paul, in the early months of his Christian life, could have been ashamed of Jesus? We know that he returned to Troas, his hometown, after his conversion. Suppose one of his boyhood friends asked, “Paul, is it true that you are a Christian?” He might have been a bit reluctant to say he was a follower of Jesus. This is pure speculation, but in his spiritual immaturity it could well have happened.
So it would not have been surprising if Timothy, at times, would have been ashamed of Jesus and being a close friend of Paul. It was for this reason that Paul counseled the young man to confess Jesus as his Savior and Lord, no matter what the circumstances were.
When are some of these times that we are ashamed of our Lord? Could it be when we have every opportunity to identify ourselves with Jesus, but we simply remain silent? Why were we silent? Being the only Christian in the bunch is not always easy. I am often asked to pray before a meal in some public place. I look around and see many people who confess to be Christian, and they are very articulate. Why was one of them not asked to pray? Do we need a specialist to do our praying? Might it be embarrassing to make your relationship with Christ known to your friends?
It is also true that witnessing for the power of Christ in your life can bring suffering. For Paul, it was death. For us, it could be social exclusion from the group whose fellowship we enjoy.
What is there about the Gospel that brings suffering? It tells others that I am dependent on God for everything, and I must bow down to Him. We independent people do not appreciate being beholden to anyone including Jesus. All of this makes me appreciate the testimony of some prominent people like Kurt Warner, the great football player. Never does he hesitate to tell others of what Christ has done for him and his family. Then there is Bernard Langer, the famous German golfer. He won a golf tournament on Easter some years ago. When the media interviewed him and remarked what a great day it must be for him, Langer replied, “Easter is a great day for all Christians who believe in the resurrection.” The testimonies are many.
What a testimony Paul left for Timothy and all of us in the hour of his death. “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (12).
Just remember. Jesus is not ashamed of us. He obviously is ashamed of many things that we do, for they are contrary to His will. However, he takes us as we are. He reaches out to us and says, “You are my child forever.”