2 Timothy 1                                       ”Know In Whom You Trust”                   



Let me start this morning by sharing with you a folk tale out of western Africa that has great wisdom for us today:

There was once a young king whose ambition was to rule without the advice of his elders. The young king did not realize that his ability to rule his kingdom came from his elders’ wisdom. He called some other ambitious young men together and said to them: “You have the brains and the brawns to help me rule this kingdom. Why just sit there and let your fathers talk all of the time? Go home, each of you, and kill your father, and then come back and take your share of this kingdom with me.”

            The young men went home, and did as they were told to do. All of the elders were slain that day. Except for one who said to his son: “Spare my life. It is truly only in times of crisis that you will know how useful I am.” So, that young man elected to hide his father rather than to slay him.

            The king kept his promise, and gave royal titles to the young men. But soon he began to grow weary of their interference and tired of their stupidity. So he called them all and said: “We shall build a new palace. All of you shall help. Any who refuse, shall die. To distinguish it from all other buildings, it shall start from the top down.”

            The young men were of course frightened, and did not know what to do. But the boy with the father went to his hiding place and told of the King’s commands.

            “What an old man can see sitting down, a young man cannot see standing up,” he said. Then he told his son what to do.

            The next day, when all had appeared at the building site in fear and trembling, the young man stepped forward. “Oh King,” he said, “we are ready to begin the palace, but according to the custom, you, the king and landlord, must lay the first stone.”

            “Who taught you such wisdom?” asked the king, and the boy confessed that he had preserved his father’s life. Then, the king called the old man and installed him as the head advisor in the kingdom, saying: “Truly it is your wisdom that will guide my kingdom, for you see, seated, what we cannot see standing up.” (Yaruba Folk Tale)


            To show honor and respect to your elders is the Fifth Commandment of the Ten Commandments. It is therefore a direct commandment from God to all of us. You can check this out in Exodus 20 in the Old Testament. This idea echoes throughout the New Testament as well. And, what we read this morning is a fine example for us.

            From II Timothy 1, the first few verses are the opening words of a letter that the Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy in Ephesus. Paul is in prison in Rome and knows that his life is short. Timothy is ministering in Ephesus as the new bishop of that rather unruly church. The first thing that Paul says in his letter is that Timothy is his beloved child. And, Paul then mentions that he is serving God in faith as his fathers had done. Timothy is of course not Paul’s child—at least not biologically. But, Paul says that Timothy is his spiritual child and that this has been confirmed by passing on the Spirit of God through the laying on of hands.

            To be sure, Paul also mentions that Timothy has received faith from his biological mother and grandmother. This is another nod that we owe so much to those who have gone before us. We do not just owe our genetic code. We owe our faith and trust in this world to those who raised us. 

            We must, as Christians, understand that we are not alone in our individual beliefs and faith. We are one in the Spirit with one another. We are still one in the Spirit with our Christian elders who have ascended. This is the same Spirit of love, power, and self-control that Paul had while he was in prison awaiting his death. It is the same spirit that Timothy had in trying to manage the church in Ephesus. It is the same spirit that the first missionaries to Waimea in 1820 still share with us today. This is the same spirit that flows from former pastors that we still celebrate. This is the spirit that has come from those members of the past who have distinguished themselves in faith. This is the same spirit that is shared with others around the globe on this One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday.

You really are part of a structure that has been built from the top down with the first brick being our Lord Jesus Christ! Recognize that you are a part of this one Spirit.


The great 18th Century English philosopher Samuel Johnson once wrote: “When one knows that one is about to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Paul’s mind is now seemingly sharpened as to what really matters in his life. Timothy matters to Paul. Timothy has become like a child to him. In contrast, we can see that there are others who Paul writes off as immaterial in relationship to him. Phygelus and Hermogenes have turned away from the faith apparently.

So, the question becomes clear as Paul struggles in his final days before his martyrdom: In whom can we really trust? In whom do we believe?

Stephen Carter,  in his book The Culture of Disbelief, noted that one good way to end a conversation—or start an argument—is to tell a group of well-educated professionals that you hold a political position (for instance that you are against abortion) because it is required by your understanding of God’s Will. In the unlikely event that anyone hangs around to talk with you about it, the chances are that you will be challenged on the ground that you are intent on imposing your religious beliefs on other people. And, in our contemporary political and legal culture, nothing is worse.

Yes, we are in “culture of disbelief.” We have learned not to trust, not to believe. The whole situation that we have faced during this pandemic is not just one of the spread of a harmful virus. We have come to the understanding through this all that we have lost trust in our government, our institutions, and the ideals of freedom and democracy. One person tells us to wear a mask, and another tells us not to. Do we trust the science behind the vaccine? Or, do we trust that the virus itself is “fake news” and therefore of no consequence. You see, we are being told “not to trust” by those who have an interest in our remaining the foolish masses. This has been called the “Kruschev Pattern” in a book by Frank Gibney that relates how Lenin called those people who would spew propaganda without understanding the evil of communism as “useful idiots.”    

            Yet, I know in whom I have believed. I know you know in whom you have believed. Paul knows in whom he has believed. Just before his own death while he is in chains in Prison abandoned by those whom he once knew, Paul’s mind is incredibly cleared and focused. We are entrusted to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we trust God.

            I have to mention that this theme runs throughout the Bible. It is the central message of the Bible from page one to the end. We have been studying the Book of Job on Thursday nights during Lent with the other churches of the West Kauai Ministers Association. That was Satan’s goal in that story of Job—to make Job break trust with God. Job had everything. Then, he had everything taken away from him—even his health. Yet, he trusted in God. He knew in whom he believed.

            Jesus in John 14 says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. . .” Even if you are suffering to the point of martyrdom like Paul, or the Cross like Jesus Christ, believe in God. Believe in Jesus Christ.

            I want to close with something kind of funny. This last week my daughter and I were suffering through doing our taxes. On the State of Hawaii N-11 form, right next to where you put in your name, is the option of checking “deceased.” Kimberly kind of surprised me by asking “Can’t I just check the ‘deceased’ box and be done with this?”

            I had never realized how morbid that really is placing, that question right next to someone’s name on the tax form. It is a real reminder that maybe you can put your trust in the government in this life, but that won’t help you into the next life—nope, not one bit.  Better to put your trust in God! As we suffer on through this life, paying taxes is a great reminder of the world that is still promised to us!

            That leads us right back to verse one of today’s scripture: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the Will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.”