2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Little boys are in a hurry to get big and strong. When I was a little boy, telling me that eating certain vegetables or the crust around my piece of bread would make me strong was all the motivation I needed to clean that part of my plate. I couldn’t wait to get big and strong like dad, or grandpa, or one of my sports heroes.
As adults, we don’t want to be thought of as weak, either. Why? Our childhood idols aren’t our inspiration anymore. Rather, we don’t want to be an easy mark. We don’t want to be victimized. We want to be safe and secure.
The Apostle Paul wanted his young friend Timothy to be strong. This had nothing to do with his physical or psychological security. It wasn’t a matter of being like other Christians. He wasn’t trying to make Timothy into someone who would impress others.
What Paul wanted for Timothy was spiritual safety and security. He wanted him to be strong in his faith. With such spiritual strength, Timothy could overcome the temptation to give into sinful desires. He would be equipped to defend the truth about Jesus from attack. He would have the courage to share his faith with others.
Where would Timothy find such strength? Not in eating his vegetables, or following some spiritual training exercises. Paul says, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Being strong in “grace” reminds us that we are not strong in ourselves. Grace is God’s undeserved love for us. The very fact that we need grace assumes that we are spiritually weak. Scripture goes even farther: we are dead in our sins. We have absolutely no spiritual strength of our own.
But God has loved us in spite of our total lack of strength. What would you give for something that was already dead? You may not even accept someone’s money to take it off their hands. They couldn’t even pay you to take it. Our God, on the other hand, paid the highest price ever paid for anything when he gave the life of his Son Christ Jesus to have us, dead and powerless as we were. That is undeserved love! That is grace.
And that gives the power of new spiritual life to those who know and trust that grace. If God loves me like that, my life is filled with new possibilities and new capabilities. I can be content even when I have very little (Philippians 4:12-13), be happy even when I suffer (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), say “No” to temptation (Titus 2:11-12), find God’s help in every need (Hebrews 4:16), and generally love everyone, even my enemies (Romans 12:19-20).
That is the strength that does not come from ourselves, but from the grace that is in Christ Jesus.