Everyday People

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Have you ever been cut off in traffic by someone driving so recklessly that you wonder what emergency must be happening? Have you turned on the TV to watch people embarrass themselves for a chance to win a little money? Have you seen the name-calling by our country’s leaders in the news? Been tempted by advertising to do more, buy more, eat more, etc.?

I know the answers are yes because this is the world we live in today. These are the actions of everyday people.Everyday People

Paul outlines the many characteristics of people in the last days for Timothy with an important reminder and a strong director.

First, he reminds Timothy that people who have what would seem to be the most awful characteristics will have the “appearance of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5). I don’t think we always remember this. Truth be told we tolerate and flirt with people we should not too much because they are not “so bad.” That negative coworker. The help-rejecting complainer. The person who can’t stop talking about themselves. Paul directs clearly–AVOID SUCH PEOPLE (2 Tim. 3:5).

Now as a minister of the gospel, Paul was someone who spoke to many people. Surely he is not telling us to give everyone in the world the silent treatment unless they already know Christ and leave like Christ. So we have to remember, this letter is advice for leadership and ministry–enduring in the faith. I think what God is communicating here through Paul is that we have to be on guard against potential influences that will take us off mission. A minister who surrounds himself with other ministers who are proud, may find himself tooting his own horn instead of God. A mother who surrounds herself with women who are heartless and impossible to please may find herself showing less grace and less empathy to her children. A community leader who is working with others who are impulsive and fast spenders, may find themselves tapping more and more into organizational resources in negative ways because, well “that’s just the way it is done.”

Who’s in your circle of influence?

In a culture that promotes networks and mentors and connections, we need to be careful and mindful of who is influencing us. If they are not on track with God’s mission, then we need to avoid them.

 

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Difficult Days

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 3:1

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” (2 Timothy 3:1)

Paul begins chapter 3 of 2 Timothy warning him that he will not only face potential opposition and challenges from those connected to his ministry, but that he also must stay on guard given the changing culture he is in. At his moment in history, Paul’s writings seem to indicate that he was aware of the ever shifting moral compass of the world and that he wanted Timothy to be ready to contend with the forces of evil he would have to confront.

Difficult DaysI think I will be ready to write about this more tomorrow, but for this passage, I have spent some time roday thinking about the difficult days we all encounter.

Right now, I am in the midst of my annual difficult season. Since 2013, it has come every October. Grief.

I want to be respectful of the context of these verses in my posts, but I also want to be honest. Sometimes the most difficult seasons in my faith are not what is happening outside in the world, but what is happening inside in my world.

In November 2013, we lost our second son shortly after his birth. He was our miracle baby, and the moments we shared with him were some of the most precious of our lives. But there was a physical side, an endurance challenge, a…heaviness…to the journey that I still carry in my joints and muscles. Right around the change in temperature in October I feel it the most. I don’t need a calendar; my body knows when it was that time. That time when we made the second emergency hospital stop, the last visit with the specialists, the contractions that went on for days, the gathering of family, the waiting, the weight. I feel it all, all over again. And while some days I can carry it with grace as I did then, other days are just downright difficult.

Who is He to you in the difficult days?

But God.

I press on. I endure. Not because I’m special. Not because I’ve “got this down.” I carry on because God carries me. Some days I crumble into His arms, into His Word, anticipating and eager for His living water to revive me. Some days I crankily stomp around the house first before I stop, refocus, and go back head bowed in submission to where I need to be in His presence. It is a journey and a process. Grief. Submission. Faith. Grace. And the blessing is, He is big enough for it all.

Do you trust God for the difficult times ahead?

I know the next week or so will be challenging, but I don’t know around which curve the wave is waiting for me overwhelm me. So I hold on to Him. I cling. And sometimes enduring in the faith is just clinging, and that is okay. Be encouraged–He is mighty, and He is able.

Be Kind

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 2:23-26

There are days when being a teacher is hard. I have a dear friend who has recently gone back to junior high teaching after time at the college level, and I am just shocked and disheartened sometimes at some of the work she is having to do to manage her instruction, her classroom, and her sanity. But I have to be careful to not compare our teaching environments. Thinking you have it easy or no “major” issues can move you from careful to careless quickly.

This last set of verses in 2 Timothy 2 reminds me of the challenges of teaching and how they align with life in ministry, as well as just living a faithful life when others are around you working through what faith means for them and looking to you for answers.Be Kind

Paul’s advice to Timothy serves as a constant reminder to not get comfortable or distracted. We can easily find ourselves, whether in the classroom or in the church or in the living room, caught up in conversations about life and faith that are full of arguments and contentions. I know for me, teaching college students, I am often surrounded by statements and positions that are essential claims without evidence or critical thinking. It can be easy to react to these statements and plough through them with the intention of “setting the record straight” or “checking them.”

But those of us committed to teach as well as committed to enduring in the faith are called to live and speak and lead by a different standard. Paul writes:

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Tim. 2:23-25a)

Paul’s instruction here is clear. If we want to endure in the faith and be a leader of others, we have to proceed with kindness. His words apply to every sphere of our lives. For me as a teacher/faculty member, I have to remove myself from the office politics and unproductive controversies. I must not look to argue over petty things, but instead just be gracious in thought and action to everyone. I must not only teach, but be equipped and prepared to teach. I must patiently endure grade complaints, unfair compensation, and downright mean behavior. And when those moments arise when I must address a wrong for the good of the order, I am called to do so with gentleness–being mindful and sensitive to the other person as much as a mindful and careful with the content being explained.

Teaching can be challenging. And if teaching in a school is challenging, how much more so is living a life of faith that is a lesson before the entire world?! People will attack our faith and seek to bait us into arguments about the most minute points of doctrine, but our call is to be kind and gentle in all things.

Have you ever wanted to “be right” more than you wanted to “be kind”?

The good news is, we do not walk alone and each moment in the faith we are accompanied by the Spirit of God as our helper, counselor, support, and friend. Also, we do not have to carry the responsibility of making those who see it wrong, see it right. Read on to what Paul says:

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:25b-26)

Paul makes it clear that sometimes it takes more effort to be kind and gentle, because we are working with people who are not genuinely on a mission for the Lord but for the enemy. Ouch. But God–and only God–has the power to lead those challenging students to a moment where they turn around and see themselves in the light of His truth and come to their senses. Our job is not to give them our two cents or to knock some sense into them, but to stay in the ready position, walk in the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…) and trust Him to do the truly hard work of changing hearts and minds.

Clean Up

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 2:20-22 

A few weeks ago we celebrated our son’s birthday at my mom’s house. It was our first time celebrating his birthday with all of our family, so it was a special occasion. So special in fact, that we went out and bought a new shirt just for the day. It was a Under Armour shirt of his current favorite college football team in one of those neon colors that he loves.

And of course, by the end of the day, Clean Upthe birthday boy was a mess. Every manner of sticky sugar, sweat, and backyard dirt combination you can think of was on his face, shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, and feet. And of course, he wasn’t the only messy kid, and he had an incredible day of uninhibited backyard play with his school friends. And for the most part, they had no idea they were a mess. They were just having fun. It wasn’t until he started to peel off the layers and dump out his shoes that he became cognizant of his mess. (Look at my sweat, Mom!)

Do you unabashedly pursue youthful passions until you find yourself in a big mess? When was the last time you assessed your mess?

As always, Paul rolls instruction, encouragement, and admonition into his letters, and as chapter 2 begins to wrap up, he offers images of a vessel getting cleaned up and prepared for good work to weave together a message about what to do and what not to do.

We are God’s vessels. We have to be willing to confront that which is dirty in our lives and clean it up if we want to move forward in this faith journey. 

God is indeed full of grace and love, and He has the power to heal us, restore us, and make us beautiful vessels for His glory. But we should want to make choices to stay out of the sticky, sweaty, dirty mess to move forward.

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Tim. 2:20-21)

I believe the Bible gives us ample stories to remind us that God can use us in whatever shape we are in. But when we are clean, we put ourselves in the ready position to be on mission right away. Ready for every good work.

Are you in the ready position?

As a good teacher, Paul does not leave Timothy, or us, without instruction on what to do. In the next verse, he gives a powerful “so.”

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)

If we want to stay clean and be in the ready position, we must actively turn away from youthful passions. And when I think of youthful passions, I think of that birthday party once again. There was quite a bit of fun, but also quite a bit of “mine,” “but I want,” “no, I’m not sharing” and so on. We are called to turn away from those selfish impulses and to go after what looks like God–righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

What are you going after? What do you need to clean up today?

When we are enduring, we cannot get so locked into the circumstances of our journey that we forget our goals–to look more like Him, to love Him and others wholeheartedly, to share peace, to put others before ourselves. No matter is what happening around us, we must not run to our youthful passions but run after Him. And by the power of His Spirit and through the sacrifice of His Son, we can do it!

Certain Truth

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 2:19

Years ago, I traveled to one of my sorority’s national conventions. Our membership had basically taken over a major city downtown hotel and everywhere you looked there were women in our sorority colors hugging and laughing and having a great time reconnecting. It was beautiful mix of business meeting and reunion as everyone moved around quickly between rushing to meetings, sneaking in time for shopping and sightseeing, and grabbing the necks of sisters they hadn’t seen in months or years.

One evening of the convention I was hanging out with some younger members from my graduate school, and their room was one of those adjoining hotel rooms. As we were talking, I could hear sorors in the room next door and after I while I thought I recognized a voice. I knocked on the door and called out the name of a sister I just knew I knew was there, but it was not her. Awkward.Certain Truth

Sometimes when we are enduring in the faith, people, circumstances, problems, solutions, etc. can quickly move from the “sure” to the “unsure” column. What we think we know gets shaken up by someone else’s decision, bad timing, an unexpected diagnosis, the list goes on and on.

How do we endure when what we thought we knew becomes unsure?

In the previous verses, Paul discussed how some members of the faith were taken off track by versions of the truth. He cautioned Timothy to avoid distracting talk as a part of his work to rightly handle the truth. Here in verse 19, Paul reminds Timothy of truth we can hold on to with certainty:

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19 ESV)

There is a lot that can be unpacked from this one verse. Just reading it, I wonder what Timothy was up against in his ministry. What was he facing that may have shaken his faith? Was it just Paul’s knowledge of the difficulties of leading a church? Were the versions of the truth floating around touching too close to home for his mentee? Whatever the case may be, Paul offers a powerful But God here.

The Lord knows those who are His.

I just want to sit right there for a moment. God does not call out to His children from across the wall or behind a hotel door and guess. He knows those who are His. What a powerful reassurance! In times in our faith when things are unclear, and we do not feel confident, or right, or brave, or ready–God claims us and calls us His own.

When things ramp up in our faith walk, the enemy wants to make us question not just what we are doing, but who we are. You are not really a good Christian if you mess up like that (lie). You are not saved–you didn’t pray the right prayer (lie). Why are you trying, you will never be as good of a believer as so-and-so (lie!).

Let this truth settle any questions in our mind and rebuke the doubt that creeps in.  The Lord knows those who are His.

He has called us by name. He is yours but even moreso, you are His! What need do we have to worry when we go through challenges on this faith journey? We know His promises are many to His children! Yes, we have responsibilities to walk away from the things that are not like Him, and those responsibilities should not be taken lightly. But when you are climbing your way out of that valley, friend, please remember, He sees you and He knows you are His. There is no test for you to pass, no extra work for you to do to be His child forever and always. He will not leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5). You can rest in Him (Psalm 23:1-3). And He will work all things together for good because you have been called by Him according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Discern Truth

A big distraction when you are enduring in the faith can be well-intended believers.

“I was given this verse for you.”

“The Lord spoke to me, and told me to tell you….”

“Have you ever tried….When I was in the same situation, God told me to….”

The role of others in our faith walk is undoubtedly important. Paul is a great example. He exhorts Timothy and encourages him to instruct and encourage others.

But.

We have to hold fast to the Word to discern truth. I am not saying the statements above are always wrong, but sometimes we get approached with stuff that sounds like truth but in reality, it is not.

Paul writes to Timothy:

“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 Tim. 2:16-18

Discern Truth

We have to remember, while Paul was not God and was a regular person like us, he was pretty much an expert on Church. He encountered all the types of believers we encounter today and every now and then in his letters, he had to speak on the bad apples, the deceived apples, and the got-on-his-last-nerve apples.

I love that he uses the word “but” here. It is a rhetorical–hold up, wait a minute, let me put some preaching in it. Here, Paul very explicitly warns of the potential negative influence of those who might be identified as believers, but who are filled with unhelpful talk and who have moved away from the truth. (What a great image is “swerved” from the truth for those moments we go around certain parts but still try to stay on the road.)

We need to heed this warning as well.

Sometimes when we are enduring, we so desperately want encouragement and a “sign” from somewhere that we listen to and take in versions of the truth. But this is not a call against people–this is a call to stay grounded in the Word. We must be diligent in lining up everything we hear with the Word of God, so we do not deviate from His plan or His design for our lives and get on someone else’s agenda. Everyone who is with us is not for us. 

But.

Notice that Paul does not advise Timothy to leave the Church or go off and do his own thing. He is to stay where he is, continue his ministry, but to do so with wisdom. Sometimes to endure, we must be planted where we are, even when there is messiness around us, and just be discerning, avoid the babble, and stay close to the Word and Voice of God.

Reminders

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 2:14-15

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14 ESV)

Just this past week, a student thanked me for always posting weekly reminders on our course page. Little did she know that sometimes I am conflicted about these reminders. Part of me wants to be helpful, while part of me wants to promote responsibility. As college students, they should be able to keep track of deadlines in the syllabus as well as from activities covered on class. But as often overwhelmed working women, I know things slip through the cracks, so I continue on with my weekly lists of reminders. Reminders

Right before one of the more well known verses in this book [Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV], Paul instructs Timothy to give reminders to those he is leading.

As a teacher (which is one of the translations of laborer or workman here), part of the job is to give reminders to our students/those we serve in ministry. Yes, we all have the material (The Bible), but we all need reminders when we are enduring in the faith.

Today, I’m looking back over the verses I have written through so far and developing a list of reminders.

What if, instead of sending texts reminding each other about chores, kid duties, grocery list items, and work, we sent reminders to help each other endure in the faith??

Here’s a few examples from my list:

You are called to this work by the will of God. (2 Tim. 1:1)

You are promised life in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 1:1)

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours today from God our Father. (2 Tim. 1:2)

Your faith is a rich inheritance, a part of a godly legacy. (2 Tim. 1:5)

You must fan the fire of your faith. Stay connected to God! (2 Tim. 1:6)

God’s spirit in you is one of power and love, not fear. Be strong! (2 Tim. 1:7)

What’s on your list? How can you encourage someone enduring in the faith with a quick reminder of God’s truth?