I yelled at the TV screen that hung on the wall. I yelled again as if it would help my team to somehow realize that the pig skin was on the ground and now having heard my yelp, certainly they would be more inclined to jump on the ball.
Nope, my team, the Miami Dolphins, lost the ball… again! And such was yet another season as a Dolphin fan. How long has it been since John Riggins ran all over my team in the Super Bowl? Or, Joe Montana picked us apart, two years later, in Super Bowl XIX? 30 long years! It’s tough being a Dolphin fan.
There is nothing more fundamental to football than the fumble. Coaches drill it into their players beginning at the earliest of ages. NFL coaches still drill it into the heads of athletes that are paid millions of dollars to NOT fumble the ball.
It is a part of the game. Opposing teams train their players to cause the fumble. Jarring hits and powerful swipes at the ball often cause that seemingly slippery ball to fall to the turf. And when it does….. it changes everything. One team has a newfound energy, the other… deflated.
Sometimes, I read Paul’s letters to the churches and to Timothy and I can hear him saying over and over and over, drilling it into our heads, “Don’t Fumble The Gospel.”
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy we hear the refrain:
- Guard the gospel
- Continue in the gospel
- Suffer for the gospel
- Proclaim the gospel
Why the emphasis, why the repetition?
Because people then and now, fumble the gospel. What do I mean by: “Fumble the Gospel.” I mean we mishandle the gospel; we don’t pass it on to the next generation, or we bail on the gospel for some sort of – better, and seemingly more relevant message. You know the kind. The message that suits the culture and aligns itself with the wisdom of this world. (By the way: is there such a thing as a more relevant message than the gospel? No message is more relevant than Christ died for sinners! We can now repent and believe in Him for the forgiveness of our sins!) Seriously, are we actually attempting to improve on those truths? Improve… to what?
Perhaps John Stott, speaking of 2 Timothy, says it best.
“The church of our day urgently needs to heed the message of this 2nd letter of Paul to Timothy. For all around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp on the gospel, fumbling it, in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether. A new generation of young Timothy’s is needed, who will guard the sacred deposit of the gospel, who is determined to proclaim it and who is prepared to suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation which in due course will rise up to follow them.”
The Message of 2 Timothy
The quote above was written in 1973. I read it and think he must have written this last week. Paul was well acquainted with the gospel fumble in his day. Consider how many fumbles he is addressing in a short letter, only four chapters long.
- You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
- But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18 ESV)
- …. having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:5-9 ESV)
- For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:10 ESV)
- Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (2 Timothy 4:14-16 ESV)
Paul is at the end of his life, observing all these fumbles and so he writes to Timothy to say don’t fumble! Except, when Paul says it, it sounds more like this: “As for you….”
Ours too is a day of gospel fumbling. When the church, when its’ pastors fumble the truths of glorious gospel, we do much harm.
Christian, there is no greater message to a lost and dying world. We would do well to mine the truths of the gospel like we were searching for a lost diamond. Every parent, every pastor, indeed… every Christian should hear from the apostle Paul and be moved to make every effort to not let go of the glorious gospel.
Below are some articles and books I recommend to help you from fumbling:
In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
The Gospel For Real Life by Jerry Bridges
Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary
The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
Christian, let’s apply ourselves to the gospel message. If it is the….”Power of God unto salvation….” then we would do well to study it, know it, and apply it to our lives.