The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to encourage his young disciple Timothy. Paul is nearing the end of his time of ministry, while Timothy is just getting started. Paul wrote:
I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry…I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now 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. 2 Timothy 4. 1-8
As I contemplate the crazy things that are going on in our world, and in my own life, the challenge is very timely. There is an inner hope that things will “get back to normal after covid.” But what will “normal” be? There is a 20 year war that our nation’s leaders have decided to pull out of. But, what about those innocent people who get left behind? There are people taking out their frustrations by getting a gun and shooting innocent victims. There are family trials and strife. The parenting decisions that mothers and fathers have to make regarding school, or behavior, or how to balance activities are often overwhelming. The death of a loved one can leave our lives empty, and our souls very fragile. And add on top of this, the battle that believers face when we battle a culture that seems to avoid any mention of God, or faith, or Jesus Christ.
Paul warned Timothy, that there would be times of spiritual drought. People will simply hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and listen to myths, and falsehood. It sure seems that Paul is speaking to believers in Jesus today!
So how do we deal with the hurts, and the disappointments. How do we make sense of the culture that we live in? How can we know what to believe and what is false? We know that “just because it is popular” doesn’t mean it is true. Just because it is on the internet, or on TV, doesn’t mean it is God’s will. Just because one pastor or minister says it’s ok, does not mean we just take his/her word for it!
As I read Paul’s message to Timothy, I think about my own life and ministry. I have lost so many wonderful people– some to death, some moved away, some have joined other churches, some have been disappointed in me, and I have been disappointed in others. I wonder sometimes, “What happened? And Why?” Why did they leave? Why did they fall away? Am I to blame for not going after the lost sheep? The losses hurt! There are the personal trials. Illnesses, frictions, family matters, aging parents, personal responsibilities. I’m sure Paul knew of these kinds of spiritual battles. No doubt Timothy would face them also. So Paul’s admonitions are still so apt for today. “Keep your head,” “discharge your duties,” “endure hardship.” He also told Timothy, “they will turn aside,” “they will gather around them …teachers who say what they want to hear.”
Is your Christian life feeling like a battle lately? Does the culture you live in make light of your spiritual convictions. Have you given up your commitment to worship on Sundays, or to read and pray and walk with the Lord daily? Are you backing off from telling your friend about Jesus, or about how the Lord has worked in you? Does your Christian faith cause you to say “no” to certain things, and to “stand up” for others? Paul’s message to us is to spur us on. “Keep running the race.!” “Fight the good fight” for the souls of men and women and children all around the world, and especially in our community. Don’t forget the “crown of righteousness” which will be awarded to you someday.
Sometimes it helps to have “running partners,” or “walking partners.” That’s why church, and worship, and being together in fellowship is so important. The souls of our families, and children, and friends are at stake! The battle for their eternities is crucial. So don’t give up the important things of your faith, for the trivial opportunities that abound. Keep on running! Don’t give up the battle! The afterglow of the well-run race will affirm that it is worth it all!
Blessing to you as you run your Christian race!