February 6, 2016

Oh Lord, increase my faith . . .

Before his death, Paul is writing to a young pastor. Many who read this letter are not pastors, and may not be young. However, Timothy seems one of those people who need continual encouragement, and most of us can identify with that need. Here is what Paul says to him:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. (2 Timothy 4:1–6)

I can relate to these verses even though the only ‘preaching’ I do is reading the Bible and making exhortation to myself, plus the occasional word in conversation with someone who needs to hear what God says. Rather than ‘preaching’ this could be a mild rebuke, cheerful exhortation, or a bit of teaching. Paul’s warning about a time when people will not endure sound teaching has already come. Many relatives and friends turn away from Jesus and follow stuff that sounds good, but is neither biblical nor a blessing to their spiritual lives.

Paul told Timothy to be sober-minded. This could be ‘not drunk’ but more likely is about thinking with self-control, not giving in to excesses or emotional outbursts. He is talking about being level-headed without inordinate passions. I need to hear that too.
Paul also told this young pastor to endure suffering. This can mean physical or emotional pain, and in this context, to keep on doing the will of God no matter how others might be treating you.

Finally, Paul told Timothy to do his job. In his case, it was evangelism. He was to fully perform his role in in ministry to others. No matter what our role is, this also applies to any Christian. God gives each of us something to do. No matter any resistance or emotions it causes, or any suffering it might incur, I am to fully obey God – even as it might mean being poured out like the blood of Christ, a life literally poured out to serve others.

Chambers talks about this as a challenge, a decision of the will to trust God and to yield to Him as He does this work in me, the process of destroying “every affinity that God has not started and of every attachment that is not an attachment in God.” He says that I do not destroy it, God does, and that I simply bind the sacrifice to the horns of the altar and do not give way to self-pity when His cleansing fire begins.

I know this. God has used remarkable events to deal with “affinities” that did not come from Him. He has used situations, people, events that I would never have chosen or even thought of to bring me to a place of greater willingness. He knows how to fill me with the desire for a sober mind. He knows how to give me an attitude that will endure pain and loss and simply to do what He places before me. I’m not a pastor or an evangelist like Timothy, but I have a role and that role includes being poured out to serve others.

Like Timothy, I need to watch out for self-pity, but also pride. I also need encouragement. For these needs, I must trust my Savior to save me from the first two, and to provide the third one as He sees fit.

Family news: Hubby is getting stronger. He actually lost 20 lbs, not 15, so I’m feeding him lots of protein – and pie. He went for a short drive today, just to get outside.

Another person in our family just had surgery. It was a best case scenario – no cancer. We rejoice at the merciful goodness of the Lord.

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