Friends, especially Jessica, Daniel, Haydn and Joel,
A long time ago (1938) there was a shy, spectacled teenager who felt that no one liked him. His name was Jerry Siegel. No one at school talked to him very much. He often found himself alone. He fretted about his unpopularity and often dreamt about being changed from a nerd to a hunk. He started writing stories about a clumsy, awkward man who was changed into a powerful super hero admired by everyone.
He showed his stories to his best friend who drew characters and scenes to fit the stories. Together these two boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, created a superhuman disguised as a clumsy newspaper reporter named Clark Kent. They sold the copyright to their comic book character for $130. From this humble beginning, Superman became a permanent part of pop culture and even today new generations of young people around the world rediscover this bumbling reporter who changes into a super human and rescues people in danger, or saves a city from some kind of approaching disaster. A child in Botswana may have never heard of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but he has heard of the man who “leaps tall buildings in a single bound, is more powerful than a locomotive, is faster than a speeding bullet”.
Paul’s friend and helper, Timothy, was a shy, reserved, nervous young man. Being a Christian in the world of that time was not easy, let alone being a Christian leader and pastor, and for a shy timid person like Timothy it was even harder. To be a Christian was not all that popular. Christians were harassed, ridiculed, threatened, even killed for their faith in Jesus. Paul wanted to boost Timothy’s courage and ability to cope with all this. But in order to do this he doesn’t tell his young friend to go to the nearest telephone box and put on a Superman suit or become Batman; to miraculously change from a weakling to a “caped crusader”, but simply advises Timothy, “Be strong”.
But he says more than just “be strong” – he says, “Be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” or to put that another way,
“Be strengthened in the knowledge that Jesus’ love for you, undeserved as it is, will never stop.
Let the knowledge that Jesus will never give up on you or leave you, strengthen you as you face trouble, difficulty even threats to you Christian faith.”
Jesus is stronger than anything will threaten you. He is your Saviour, your friend and loves you very much.
God’s love has already had an impact on your lives.
Even before you were born, God was taking care of you. God was looking after you long before you were even aware of it.
He gave you life, and nourished you as you developed inside your mother.
He cared for you as you were born into the world.
He placed you in a family and has taken care of you ever since through your family. But there’s more.
When you were baptised you were very small – not even able to respond in any intelligent way when the pastor asked you, “Do you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”
You don’t even remember the water being splashed on your head.
You might have even been having a little snooze because mum had given you a big feed just before the church service.
Or on the other hand, you might have been upset, crying as loudly as possible, because you sensed that someone different was holding you.
You might not have known about God at that moment but God certainly knew about you and loved you deeply. As you were baptised, he brought you into his family.
He gave you the forgiveness and the eternal life that Jesus won for you on the cross.
He made a promise that he would be your helper and guide through the various stages of your life: – as a toddler, a beginner at primary school, then secondary school – when you were scared and upset, and when you were successful and happy.
God has enabled your faith to grow. God has placed in your lives parents, godparents, teachers, pastors and many other people who have taught you about Jesus, encouraged you in your faith and prayed for you.
You may not have even been aware that the Holy Spirit has been very busy in your lives bringing you to this point today when you are prepared to say for yourself what was said by others on the day of your baptism. You are here because you recognise how good God has been to you.
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In a few moments you will stand at the altar, state your faith and your willingness to read and learn from God’s Word, attend worship and Holy Communion, and continue to grow in your relationship to Jesus your Saviour. You will state that you want to follow Jesus and continue to grow in your faith. Then you will kneel and God will once again state his commitment to you as he did at your baptism.
He knows that there will be times when your faith in Jesus will be tested. Circumstances may cause you to question whether God really does care for you. People will challenge you and say that you are silly for believing all that religious stuff.
You will give way to the temptations to do things that are directly opposite what God wants you to do.
You may give up praying because you believe that it doesn’t do any good.
You may just become too lazy, or disinterested in the Church because there are more interesting things to do.
God knows that things like this will happen to you just as they have happened to everyone else here this morning. And so he says to you through the apostle Paul, “Be strong”.
Paul knew what it was like to face all kinds of trouble, to be in dangerous situations, to be jailed, and even have his life threatened. He knew that he needed a strength that was beyond his own human strength. He needed help from God. He says, “In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil 4:12,13). Notice how Paul says he can endure all kinds of situations because it is Jesus who gives him the strength.
In another place, Paul tells us that he is plagued with some kind of ill health. He describes how he prayed and prayed to God but it made no difference. He tells us how painful it was. It was more than he could bear. But in spite of all this Paul tells us that the only way he was able to cope was through the strength that Jesus gave him (2 Cor 12:8-10).
It would be nice if you could look into the future and see what was going to happen in your lives. What will you be doing in 10, 20 years time? What has happened in your life? Where will you be? Whatever happens, today’s text is a good one because it reminds us that we have a strength at our disposal that is beyond human strength. The strength that comes from God will make you a superman or a wonder woman in the face of all kinds of temptations and troubles.
God’s love for you, his presence,
his help and support,
his guidance and reassurance,
his forgiveness and kindness
will enable you to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13).
Jessica, Daniel, Haydn and Joel, continue in your baptism. Continue to live and serve as one his children. Be strengthened with the knowledge that God loves you and will always walk with you. Be strong through the grace that is ours in union with Christ Jesus.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.