2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (New International Version)
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4
1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Leanne and I viewed that new movie with Julia Roberts staring called “Eat, Pray, Love”. It was a very “now” kind of story of divorce, marriage, spiritual searching, inner journey and an honest attempt to reflect on love and life and the meaning of it all. It is also so very orientated on the self and the whole notion of “the god within” and finding one-self. God is so human that he is no longer objective or divine.
In contrast and direct challenge, Paul, at the end of his life and his life’s work does not point us to look within ourselves only (even though this is necessary for wisdom and understanding), but to search outside ourselves – not mainly with our eyes but more with our ears to an Outside presence and teacher.
How can Paul, a man in a dark prison, who has lived his life fearlessly, boldly and seen great acts of God played out right before his eyes and through his very word and presence, very human and flawed though they be, stay faithful, and more importantly hopeful about his own life and the life of all of us?
How can this master keep his young apprentice, Timothy, in the game of life and ministry? How can Paul trust that the church he has had a huge hand in planting around the Mediterranean will stay strong, truthful, faithful and full of life as he wallows in a seemingly hopeless bondage to godlessness?
Closer to home, how can you and I as parents or grandparents or teachers of students have any kind of real hope that we have done enough for faith to win the day in our kid’s lives?
As people who know the love and power of Jesus, we dearly want that for the next generation. We want that for our own kids and grandkids, but it seem too precarious in them. Having lived a little longer than them, we know how hard things will be for them in this ever secular, oversexed, material culture in which we live.
How do we find a hope that God will keep them and they will keep God and all that they have been taught regarding faith in God through our lives – again, imperfect though they be?
The truth is that in ourselves we have no such hope. Without God’s direct intervention from outside of us; without God’s powerful love and grace operating within us and in our relationships with those we mentor, teach and encourage, any hope that kids, grandkids, students and friends will run the race of faith with strength and loyalty to the Lord would be just wishful thinking.
But with the one thing God gives us that we all can access and be helped to understand in our hearts we can hope and we can trust.
When it seems that your hopes are being dashed, or you just don’t feel up to life and work and parenting and being church; when you are not sure if your leadership is the best it can be or you’ve got what it takes to do all the things you know God wants you to do, the thing that will sustain you and keep you hoping, even against hope, is the Word of the Living God.
I don’t know what is going on for you these days – where your fears are, where your hope is fragile and your faith is diminished, but the direction from the Spirit given to Timothy is to “continue in what he has already learned in life from God”.
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it
Not only will hope remain as Timothy remembers the things he has come to understand from God’s grace being poured out into his life in many and various ways through the Word, hope will be strengthened by also remembering those who did the teaching; those through whom God graced his life – beginning with his childhood mentors.
…….you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Friends, I can tell you that I get despondent about many things – as you probably do. I get despondent about my work, my parenting, my husbanding, my health, my selfishness, my idols, my regrets and sorrows.
I get despondent about the world and the state of affairs. I get despondent when the big companies deny the little people justice or when corruption has its way or when another sporting cheat is found out in the sporting arena and so it goes.
We should not be at all surprised by all we find stressing, worrying and threatening. Paul has no illusions when he speaks of what he sees in the future (and the present).
The old man says to the young man, “. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
That’s a damning word on how we human beings carry on. I can relate to what Paul is seeing. I see it. I see it in our community, our world and in my own heart!
Paul says he has “run the race of faith in God’s power and grace”. Somehow he has got there through all his despondent and dangerous times. Somehow he has been led through his own foibles and pain to be on the edge of the great reward which he seems to be almost able to taste and see as he writes this final letter to his son.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Are we longing for his appearing? Probably not, most of time anyway. There is so much to be and do. Good things I mean; faith-filled things like teaching the kids, loving our partner, friends and learning to be a better human being.
But there are times when the thought of Jesus coming to wrap everything up and deliver on his promise to bring in a new heaven and earth – a new existence in his presence seems a pretty good option!
Paul’s is there. He wants Timothy and all those who will hear these words throughout generations to be there too – and find the faith he has been given.
There is only one place to find it, he is saying. It is in the God-breathed, God-charged living Word which the Spirit fills.
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Friends, if you want to be equipped for life, parenting, working, wise decision making, recovering from grief, divorce, loss, and regret, staying truthful and honest and showing others how to stay there too, then the Scriptures are the force behind bringing those things to fruition in your life.
I know. You know this is the case but somehow we just never get to actually taking God’s word personally and putting this kind of weight on it in our week. We know the theory but struggle to do something about the practice.
What I am hearing is a little bit of the Word is better than no Word. Taking time to receive God’s word here most weekends is good. It is better than not being here and not hearing the Word with other travelers – not just the spoken Word of a sermon, but the word in the praying, the singing, the liturgy, the silence; the actions of the Spirit that free us and forgive us. Keep that up.
But there is a few more moments than Sunday morning to live and that is where I know it is hard. Then again, is it that hard? We consume plenty of other media. We do tend to over work. We fill our days up to the full with lots of things – many good, some not do good.
I hear Paul urging Timothy to “stay in the Word” however he can. For Timothy in his calling it is preaching the word. He is to;
2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction…
It definitely sounds like the Word in our lives is a long term and demanding thing requiring patience and great care. Its message is not always immediate; its meaning from the Spirit is not always easily heard or understood at first – so it requires time and space and intent, and conversation with fellow hearers, like producing a good garden, making a house a home, raising children, becoming good at a complex skill.
The difference between hearing the Word of God and hearing and learning other things is that God’s Word is supernatural. It is spiritually charged by the Spirit of Jesus. He speaks when it is spoken. It has power to make wisdom part of us, to shape us internally, to give us God’s life in our life. That is Paul’s belief.
So he says, speak it, learn it, share it – at all times, when the going is easy and when it is not; when it is well received and when they look at you funny.
God, help us search for the truth and include your Word in our search as we strive to stay faithful to you and one day reach the end of the race of faithful life and receive your great reward – now and then. Amen