Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:3-5
One of the exciting advantages of media today is that you can tailor your feeds, your favorite lists, and your subscriptions to follow sources that relay subjects and topics that interest you. Growing up as an analog kid on the cusp of a digital world, I can appreciate this aspect of media. I remember being “stuck” with just three or four channels that had a good picture. Or missing the one show I wanted to watch because Grandma took forever at the grocery store. Of course I appreciate those analog moments more now that the TV never goes off, but I never cease to marvel at all the options we have now and my ability to find out what I want to know or see at pretty much any time.
Pretty unusual, though, these days for folks to praise media! We are getting a bit run down by media. especially the news. And many of us know the downside of personalized media—selective perception. If I choose to see the world from only one angle, one perspective, it distorts my view of reality, dulls my ability to think critically, and leaves me with some huge blindspots. A social media feed full of filtered images can change a woman’s body image. A constant diet of political news from one perspective can make our community seem more polarized than it actually is. A child fed a stream of images that only show people who don’t look like him can cause him to grow up feeling undervalued and invisible in the world. The list of potential harms goes on and on.
When we have poor media habits, we feed into a culture of itching ears, surrounding ourselves with what we want to hear. And it is not surprising then that we want “have it my way” gospels. We see the signs of this all the time.
Someone leaves a church because the pastor talked about sin or less than happy topics.
Someone de-friends a fellow church member on Facebook, because she talked about the need for the church to be at the forefront of racial reconciliation.
Someone else loses a lifetime worth of savings buying into a ministry that talks about God some but self and comfort more.
We have gotten to a point of following our own desires and feelings rather than measuring what we hear against the truth of the Word.
So Paul’s advice to us in this culture, as it was to Timothy, is simple: keep your head in all situations.
For the time will come when people 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:3-5)
Now truth be told, when I hear “keep your head,” I immediately add “up” and think 2Pac. Probably not appropriate (sorry Paul). So I found myself back in Blue Letter Bible to learn more out the phrase “keep your head.” According to the sources there, this phrase is often translated sober-minded and defined as “to be calm and collected in spirit; to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect” (nepho).
Do people consider you sober-minded?
I have to admit, I fall on the calm side of the personality spectrum. In fact, my new boss is “working to see if they can get me fired up” or get behind my “poker face.” I would love to say that I am always well-balanced because of my constant focus on God, but I’m not there yet. Things do get me riled up, and sometimes I do lose my head. So as I wrote through this verse, four practical ways to keep my head came to mind that I think are important in life and in faith:
- Keep calm—don’t panic.
Since faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we can not see (Heb. 11:1), we should have no need to panic. Faith is a gift that gives us an anchor (Heb. 6:19), so enduring in the faith means that we are able to remain calm in the storms and the winds because we are secure in Him.
What keeps you from pushing the panic button?
- Eliminate distractions and stay focused.
Being calm, collected, and circumspect are not just personality traits. They are actions. We have to make choices to intentionally remove the things (and sometimes people) that take our head out of the game. Have an annoying string of emails at work about to make you lose your testimony? Delete them! (Or at least save them for a time of day when you have prayed and intentionally sought wisdom about them). Having a hard time figuring out to do with your rebellious child but you only have enough energy to lift the remote after a 16 hour day? Turn it off and put the first things first. Keeping our head means we must actively set aside the things that keep us from acting on the truth God has given to us.
What distractions do you need to get rid of to keep your head in all situations?
- Respond rather than react.
Paul talked at length in this book about dealing with problem people in our culture and in our sphere of influence. Part of keeping our head around challenging friends (and foes) is holding our tongue and not spouting off or feeling like we have to break down all the reasons why someone is listening to “the wrong preacher” on TV. Everything around us that pricks us and prods us does not require a loud announcement—OUCH! Many times we need to silently pause and investigate why we are so bothered and deal with our own issues first in prayer. Then we need more prayer and wisdom in reaching out to meet the needs of the offender. When we react, we rely on our impulses and instincts—our flesh. When we respond, we rely on our mind and heart as moved by the Spirit. That is keeping our head.
How can you grow as a responder?
- Replace distress with determination.
I love the word “keep” in the ESV translation. To keep is to hold on to, to retain, to control, to possess. You can not keep something with half-hearted effort. Ever tried to take away a toy from a toddler who has declared “MINE!”? Not an easy or pleasant job is it? When we want to keep something that is being threatened, we instinctively replace feelings of distress with actions of determination. If our lives and our very faith are being challenged by hardship, persecution, workload, etc., we must be determined to not give up but to increase our efforts to get closer to God in those moments, to seek Him aggressively, to cling and not let go.
What acts of determination do you need to commit to today?
I am so grateful that in the midst of a world that wants to distract us and fill us with myths and psuedo-truths, we have the Word and the power of the Spirit to help us live out our faith, to endure, and to keep our head in all situations!