Today’s devotional puts down rational thinking in favor of always agreeing with God and the authority of His Word. While that sound commendable, I’m not certain that it is possible or even what God wants.
A few years ago someone told me that the strongest faith is built in those who think it through, who argue the pros and cons and do their best to make sense of living for Christ. Instead of accepting faith in Jesus something like the “don’t worry, be happy” song, the people who wrestle with biblical concepts can at least explain them better to others than those who never question anything.
Paul writes to a young pastor named Timothy. He warns him about false teachers who are “treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” He says they have “the appearance of godliness” but deny its power. Timothy is told to avoid such people for some of them work their way into households and take advantage of weak women. He characterizes these as “burdened with sins” and “led astray by various passions” – ever learning but never able to know the truth. They are “corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” He says they will not get far for their folly will be revealed. (2 Timothy 3:4–9)
Then this wise Apostle turns his attention to Timothy and commends him for following Paul’s “teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings” . . . that he endured and from which the Lord rescued him.
As I read this list, I thought how much I would like to have those qualities and be able to commend someone else for following me and developing the same.
Yet Paul also gives a warning for this. He knows from experience that living such a life has negative repercussions as well as positive. He says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:10–13)
Living like Paul did affected Timothy, but it didn’t have the same positive results on everyone. Some hated him for being a godly person, even tried to kill him. Paul was not surprised and he didn’t want Timothy to be surprised either. After all, Jesus was God in human flesh and He was despised and crucified because of it.
Paul encouraged Timothy to keep trusting God and continue to rely on the Word of God. He said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17)
Then and now, thinking with the mind of Christ involves learning how to recognize it. That comes from two things. One is realizing God is not into the ‘name it and claim it – become healthy, wealthy, and comfortable’ game. Paul did the will of God and suffered because of it.
The second one is becoming totally familiar with the Word of God. It is in the Bible that we find out how God thinks, what He says, and what His will and values are. By letting that be our wisdom and our guide, we will be made complete . . . but we will be persecuted because of it.