If you knew death was near for you, and you had one final opportunity to make a spiritual deposit in someone’s life, what wisdom would you offer that person?
That’s a question I found myself thinking about several years ago as I read through the Apostle Paul’s final letter to his young protégé Timothy. This letter that we refer to today as 2 Timothy is a plea from the Apostle who is facing death that Timothy would continue to keep his life centered on those things that matter most in life.
Certain verses jumped out and me as I read through the letter. Verses that prompted me to ask myself a few questions.
For example, I read 2 Timothy 1:8 where Paul writes “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” And I found myself wondering how often I shrink back instead of boldly and unashamedly following Jesus.
I think Paul knew that Timothy was having doubts about his faith. He was wavering. It was increasingly dangerous and unpopular to stand for Christ in his day. His mentor was in prison. There were division and disputing in his church. He found himself wondering not just about staying in the pastorate, but about whether he really believed what he’s been taught about Jesus. It is worth it to follow Christ?
He began with a sincere faith. But trials, doubts and discouragement had caused him to waver. He had become timid and fearful instead of being bold and unashamed.
What about you and me? Do we shrink back in fear? Or do we boldly stand for Jesus in our day?
Next, I found myself meditating on 1 Timothy 1:13, where Paul tells Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
And then in chapter 2, vs. 15, he tells Timothy to do his best to present himself to God as an approved workman who has no need to be ashamed because he is carefully and correctly handling the word of truth.
And I found myself wondering “Am I committed to growing in my understanding of and obedience to scripture? In what ways is my life being conformed to cultural ways of thinking instead of being transformed by God’s Spirit as I align my thinking with scripture?
In other words, does God’s word have the priority in my life that it ought to have?
Taking God’s word seriously is not in vogue today – certainly not in the culture, and sadly in many cases, not in the church. There are people you know who will disparage you if you believe the Bible, if you believe that there really is a God, if you believe that Jesus actually came back from the dead, if you believe that God created the heavens and the earth– stuff like that. There are people who will mock you.
Meanwhile in the church, the Bible is too often reduced to a self-help manual or a motivational book or book that contains pearls of wisdom or beautiful poetry. Instead of serious study of God’s word, we have helpful tips baptized with a few bible verses for how you can live your best life now. Too many skim the surface of the scriptures and never go down deep. When people find a passage that is hard to understand or confusing or troubling in any way, they just skip ahead until they find something that they like better.
I’m afraid there is too much casual workmanship today when it comes to God’s word. Too much “this is what it means to me” kind of study. Too many opinions and not enough real work going into understanding what God is saying to us in His word.
Here’s what Paul tells Timothy.
Be diligent to handle the word of truth rightly. Be zealous. Be eager. Make every effort to dig down deep in the Bible. This is not casual, in your spare time, when you have a problem you can’t answer on your own, dig out your Bible way of thinking. This is a call to make the study of God’s word a priority in our lives.
Be diligent to cut it straight. Rightly dividing the word of truth is about cutting a straight path to Jesus and the gospel as you read your Bible. Don’t get sidetracked. Make sure you keep the main thing the main thing.
Be diligent to follow. Paul is not telling Timothy to simply make sure his doctrinal positions are orthodox. He’s not saying “make sure your views are correct.” He says “follow sound words.” Yes, it’s important that we affirm the inspiration and infallibility and clarity of scripture. But the bigger question for us is whether the Bible is authoritative in our lives. Does it rule and control our actions? In other words, do we follow the sound words of scripture?
Paul’s words to Timothy are as applicable for us in our day as they were for Timothy in his day. And while Paul addresses a number of issues in his letter, he wanted to make sure Timothy continued to be bold and unashamed of the gospel. And he wanted to make sure Timothy was diligent to follow the teaching of scripture and to study it carefully and faithfully.
I have no doubt he would call us to the same priorities in our day. Whatever else is going on in our lives, let’s make sure we continue to keep our focus on these essentials.
Have you noticed that it’s October? Have you felt a chill in the air? Before long, it’ll be getting dark at 5:45!
Before Daylight Savings Time expires, we’re going to have one last all church outdoor get together:
Some of you have heard about the good work that Urban Promise, a relatively new ministry in Central Arkansas, is doing in our city. If you haven’t, you can get an idea of what they’re up to by checking out their Facebook page. Or better yet, plan to attend the Urban Promise Annual Celebration event on Thursday, October 24 at 6:00 pm. You can find details here or get more information from Sarah Waymire (and maybe plan to sit with her at the dinner!).
What was Jesus really doing when He changed water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana? Was he doing a favor for Mary? Or was there something more happening?
We’ll find out as we dig into John 2 this Sunday.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!