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1 Timothy 6-2 Timothy 1: Timothy’s Fears Comfort Me

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

 

 

II Timothy 1 is actually a great comfort to me. 

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. However, in this chapter it appears to me that Timothy has been having some struggles. He has been dealing with some fears regarding doing his work as an evangelist. Paul is lifting him up and encouraging him to stay on track.

Paul lets Timothy know about how much he has prayed for Timothy. He reminds him of his legacy of faith. More than that, instead of shaming Timothy for any seeking lack of faith, Paul affirms he knows the faith really is there. Timothy just needs to rely on it. He reminds Timothy of the miraculous gift of the Spirit he has through the laying on of Paul’s hands. That is, Timothy is not alone but the Spirit is working through him therefore he does not have a spirit of fear but a Spirit of power, love and self-control. He reminds Timothy that there is no need to be ashamed of the suffering of the Lord or of Paul. This suffering is no reason to think Timothy has ended up on the wrong side. Rather, he is on the winning side and needs to join in the suffering because despite all the suffering, Jesus Christ can be trusted with what Timothy and Paul committed to Him, that is, their souls.

This gets into II Timothy 2, but Paul reminds Timothy of the grace that is in Jesus.

Of course, all this information is really good. However, what comforts me the most is knowing I’m not alone. Even a great evangelist like Timothy had times of struggle. He had times when he needed to be provoked to love and good deeds by the likes of Paul. How easy it is for me to hit moments of despair because I don’t have a 24/7/365 powerful motivation to do what is right and do my work. Sometimes I have fears and struggles with preaching the truth, talking to others about the gospel and just generally doing the work of the Lord.

Don’t misunderstand, this chapter doesn’t give me permission to wallow in that. Rather, it simply lets me know that I’m not a loser because I have struggles. Rather, I’m like every other person who works in God’s kingdom. We all need encouragement at times. We all need to be stimulated, stirred up, spurred on and provoked. I may have struggles, but those struggles don’t mean I’m lost. They just mean I’m still living on earth. 

Therefore, this passage has a twofold help for me. First, I see that Timothy went through what I go through and I don’t have to feel alone. Second, I can also read Paul’s encouragement and be provoked to love and good deeds myself.

Hope this encourages you as well.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, Evangelism, II Timothy, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4-5: Getting Past Discouragement


“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

II Corinthians 4:7-10 (ESV)

I need this attitude. How easily I get distracted and discouraged in my service to God because things in life aren’t easy. I get sick. Someone gets mad at me. Someone says something unkind. Somebody leaves the congregation. Somebody misunderstands me. These things happen and I get depressed and sometimes wonder why I keep trying. 

But then I remember Paul. He went through real trouble. Shipwrecks, beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, attempts on his life, thorn in the flesh… He kept his head up. He kept on in faith because he could see the big picture. All these things happened, but none of them took salvation away. None of them took heaven away. None of them took the love of God away. 

Sure, bad things happened to him. But the worst thing didn’t happen. God did not forsake Him. God won’t forsake me. God won’t forsake you. 

I think too often we get bogged down about all the blessings we would like but haven’t received that we forget the great blessing we have received. Jesus died for us and washed our sins away. He has reserved a home in heaven for us who are protected by the power of God through faith. I’m not shopping for a car here. What more could I ask for to sweeten this deal any better? 

I just need to keep in mind that the life of Jesus is in me, if I stay in Him and don’t let Satan discourage me and get me to turn my back on my Savior.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC 

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16-2 Corinthians 1:Relying on the Lord who Raises the Dead

II Corinthians 1:9-10 jumped out at me today.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (ESV)

Paul and his companions were close to death. No doubt it was because of persecution. Yet, he saw a different purpose. Being pushed to that point forced him to rely on God. He knew he could not deliver himself from death, he could only rely on God. 

How often does that happen to us and yet we can’t see the lessons God has for us. We get sick to remind us our health is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose jobs to remind us our security is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose loved ones to remind us that life is not in our hands, but Gods.

All this goes on around us reminding us to quit relying on ourselves but to rely on God instead. No matter where we are, He is there. No matter what we face, He can deliver. The longer we try to work harder to preserve ourselves, the longer we wait to truly have God’s blessings.

I’m not saying we sit on our backsides and wait for God to hand us our free lunch. It doesn’t work like that. Rather, we must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and then He will add to us. Of course, God’s blessings are not merely the material and financial. Rather, He blesses us with contentment, peace and joy no matter what we face and He blesses us with a home in heaven.

Perhaps this struck me because I’m sick this week–strep throat. It has thrown major wrinkles in my plans. But maybe what I need to do is remember that God is in charge, not me.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, God, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Peter 5-II Peter 1: Now That I’m a Christian, What Must I Do To be Saved?

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

II Peter 1:5-11 (ESV)

I recognize we cannot earn our way into heaven. If we are saved, it will be because God is good enough; not because we are. At the same time, I recognize not just everybody will be provided with an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems not just everyone who has ever believed and obeyed Jesus for a time will be provided that entrance. 

Rather, those who pursue this standard of growth will gain entrance. Our growth rests on the foundation of faith, but we must add to it. We must continually work on…

  • Faith–believing in God, believing God and trusting God’s way is right.
  • Virtue–the moral excellence to do what is right because it is right.
  • Knowledge–getting God’s word into our heads and hearts.
  • Self-control–doing what is right in the face of persuasion to do otherwise.
  • Steadfastness–stringing moments of self-control together in a row, even in the face of opposition.
  • Godliness–honoring God and revering Him with every action.
  • Brotherly affection–treating our brethren with kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
  • Love–obeying God from the heart and seeking what is best for others.

There are some things I recognize from this passage:

  1. “Going to church” is not the equivalent of being a disciple.
  2. I need to work on me; I need to work on my relationship with others; I need to work on my relationship with God; I need to work on these every day.
  3. I don’t get to rest based on what I accomplished yesterday, I have to keep growing.
  4. I don’t have to be perfect today, I just need to make progress.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Growth, II Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, salvation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Peter 1-2: God’s Tests Show Me Where to Work

On Saturday, I had a heart to heart with my oldest daughter. She had to take an online quiz for a class she is taking. Her first time through, she didn’t do so well and became very upset because she knew her teacher would see it. That was when I explained to her the purpose of tests. The purpose of the test is not to do really, really well and impress the teacher. The purpose of the test is simply to see which parts of the class she has already learned and which parts she needs to study harder. Granted, I get the fact that few teachers present the tests that way, but that is how we need to look at them if they will do us any good. Otherwise, we will merely get upset about how poorly we did, not learn anything and then do even worse as the course progresses.

That is very much like what Peter says in I Peter 1:6-7:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (ESV).

God will allow our faith to be tested, but then Peter describes it as being like gold that is tested by fire. That is an interesting picture. When gold is tested by fire, it is put in a crucible and then heated past the melting point. When that occurs, the denser gold goes to the bottom of the crucible and the less dense slag and impurity rises to the top. This allows the refiner to skim the impurity off the top. This testing is not to see if the gold passes or fails. This testing is to let the impurity rise to the top so the gold can be refined.

That is exactly what testing our faith does to us. God does not test our faith to see if we pass or fail. He tests us so the impurity will rise to the top and we can work on it.

Sadly, I often do something wrong when stress is high or trouble is happening. In those moments, I often say, “That’s okay, God will understand how difficult things are for me right now.” The point of the heat, the trial, the struggle, the test is not to grant us an excuse and an exception to sin. The point of the heat is to cause the impurity to rise to the top so we can see what we need to work on. 

If somebody slanders us at work and we get caught up in the moment, allowing malice to set in our hearts and then seeking vengeance, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands, they did such and such to me and I couldn’t help myself.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this.” Then we can skim it off the top. If we get home and our spouse says something accusatory and we blow up with wrath and clamoring, showing our resentment and bitterness, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands when my spouse acts like that I’m just going to blow my top.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this. I need to skim this off.”

God doesn’t test us to let Him know whether our faith passes or fails. God tests us so we know where to work. Further, we don’t work on these issues to try to impress God. Let’s face it, none of our work could remotely impress the all-powerful and all-holy God. We do this because that is what the tests are all about. They are not there to give us a pass or fail grade. They are given to show us where to work because we believe God’s way works. Let’s get to work.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Growth, I Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, Testing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mark 3-4: Satan Has Plans for You; So Does God

We all know the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9). He spread his seed everywhere and it fell on different kinds of soil. Granted, the point of this parable is from the perspective of the sower. We need to sow everywhere if we want any of it to fall on good ground. However, this passage helps me see the plans Satan has for us.

Plan A: Satan wants you to STAY OUT

The packed down path with its accompanying birds represents the heart the gospel does not penetrate. Satan doesn’t mind so much that we hear the word, as long as we don’t listen to it and allow it to sink in. I can’t help but think about Ezekiel 33:30-32:

As for you son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say but they will not do it (ESV).

Satan will do what he can to keep you from accepting God’s word so you will stay out of covenant relationship with God and avoid the eternal salvation God is offering.

Plan B: Satan wants you to DROP OUT

To Satan’s chagrin, he can’t seem to steal the Word out of everyone’s heart before they believe it, accept it and act on it. He does not, however, accept defeat easily. He has a back-up plan. He capitalizes on the rocks in our heart. That is, he makes use of anything that will keep the soil of our heart from being well-suited to grow the plant. He lulls us into a sense of safety, letting us believe we do not have to work very much to be safe in the arms of Jesus. He lets us believe we have had our moment of salvation and now everything is good. 

Because of that, we do not grow in Christ. The roots of our faith do not dig deep and gain purchase that can withstand the attacks that will inevitably come. Because our faith is shallow, the moment Satan brings an attack, like the blistering heat of the sun, we are scorched and wither away. We drop out. We head back to our old ways. I can’t help but think of the Israelites, freed from Egyptian bondage. The first sign of trouble and they cried out

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'” (Exodus 14:11-12, ESV).

Their faith in God was shallow. Even after God’s ten plagues, they simply did not believe God would really deliver them. They were ready to turn back to Egypt.

Plan C: Satan wants you to FIZZLE OUT

Once again, to Satan’s chagrin, his repeated attacks don’t always work. Some folks believe and hang in there even in the midst of real trials and full frontal assault. Satan, however, is not done yet. He has one more plan up his sleeve. If he can’t keep us out and can’t make us drop out quickly, he will make us fizzle out. To be honest, I think this is his main plan in our time. Instead of directly attacking, he allows that sense of safety to continue to grow. Then he allows little things to creep in like weeds and thorns to choke us out. He brings in the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. He lets us get so worried about paying for our kids college or planning for our retirement. He lets us get so focused on our own personal pursuits that we forget to focus on God’s will.

This makes me think of the restored Israelites following the Babylonian captivity. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and got to work. They rebuilt the altar and restored the sacrifices. They reinitiated the feasts of the Lord. They laid the foundation of the temple. But then they got sidetracked. God explained what was going on in Haggai 1:2, 4, 9:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord…Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?…You looked for much, and behold, it came to little, And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declared the Lord of host. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house (ESV).

Satan is actually happy for us to think we are still in the safe arms of Jesus so long as we aren’t bearing any fruit. If he can get us more focused on earthly things but still think we are being spiritual, then he has accomplished his greatest coup.

God has plans for you too!

The final soil represents what God wants for you. In this final illustration, God explains that He wants you to COME IN, STAY IN, GROW UP and BEAR FRUIT. Whether you bear as much as someone else, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find salvation in Jesus and let Him build you up and grow you into the fruit bearing child of God He planned for you to be.

As II Peter 1:5-11 says:

for this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (ESV).

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 1, 2008 Posted by | Daily Bible Reading, God, Jesus, Mark, Obedience, perseverance, salvation, satan, Walking with God | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 3-4: Pressing on for the Goal

I’m not sure that there is a more comforting set of verses than Philippians 3:12-14.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

Wow! You mean Paul, the apostle, wasn’t perfect? He didn’t do everything right? I mean I know before he became a Christian he did some really bad things. I’ve always been certain he did become great the first day he was a Christian. But here he is writing letters to let people know how to live in their service to God and he claims he is still not perfect. He still has to grow. 

That just comforts me. I’ve been a Christian now for 22 years. That is hard for me to imagine. When I consider how badly I still mess things up spiritually I get very discouraged. Some days I even am willing to just throw in the towel. Why keep trying? 

Surely Paul felt that way sometimes. Yet, his response was to just keep pressing on. Think about it. If Paul could say he wasn’t perfect, then just like me, he could pinpoint somethings that had just happened that demonstrated his imperfection. Instead of allowing that to make him stop, he pressed on. He kept going. He understood that serving God is not about where we are, but about where we are growing.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint a dozen things and more that have happened in the past few days to remind you how imperfect you are. Don’t let those get you down. Keep looking forward. Keep pressing forward. Keep running the race. As long as you don’t quit, you will win the prize.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, perseverance, Philippians | , , , , , , | Leave a comment