Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 10 June 2019

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.  2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV).

It’s tough to keep our heads in all situations.   It’s a tough thing to get attacked for what you believe, who you are, the way you comport your faith and not respond in kind, lash out, seek retribution or revenge.   Paul reminds Timothy to keep his head and NOT respond in kind when people attack him.   It’s good advice that applies equally to us down through the ages.

Make no mistake:   God did not create us to be miserable.   He didn’t create us to always “take it” and be beaten down so others can puff themselves up.  Instead, He created us to be in communion with Him, to share Him, to trust Him.  Paul knew that meant Timothy would be attacked, ridiculed, even persecuted because Paul had personally experienced these things.   Yet Paul advised his protégé to keep his head, to endure these hardships knowing that Jesus was with him in Spirit; knowing that Jesus had endured much worse out of love for Timothy AND those who would do that persecuting.

In survival training, they teach you to keep your head, to keep focused and not try to win a battle of wits.   You can win a battle of wills, but only if you keep your head about you even when things get bad.   If you read about Louis Zamperini, you find that, in the worst days as a POW (in Imperial Japan), he kept his head.   He hated what he was going through, and he didn’t understand why he was singled out for particularly cruel torture, but he kept his head, sought peace, even occasionally sought God.   Many years later, when Zamperini became a believing Christian, he realized that God had been with him throughout his imprisonment and had kept him through such hardship for the life he would now lead.   Millions of people were encouraged by Louis’ story.   If you haven’t read or seen “Unbroken,” do it.

This is part of the life we choose when we choose to accept Christ’s invitation.   He doesn’t force us, and He doesn’t hide it from us that we will endure hardships for His sake.  In fact, Jesus reminds us that, if we are to follow Him honestly, we must embrace the hardships, take up our sufferings for His sake, and follow His example.  In the middle of it, He will always be with us, always encouraging us to love instead of hate, to forgive instead of nursing grudges, to seek understanding instead of festering anger.  Even when it’s tough to keep our heads, our wits, about us, Jesus promises us that He will help us overcome in the ways that matter most.

For further reading:  Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, Matthew 16:24, 2 Timothy 4:6

Lord Jesus, help me endure and overcome today!

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 30 May 2019

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV).

Paul is a delight to read because he talks lovingly to his protégé, Timothy, while also reasoning with him.   He doesn’t preach to Timothy; he doesn’t condescend to the younger man.   Instead, he uses reason and care that talks with we strangers so many years later.   Indeed, break down these two verses and you can digest some of the tones in which Paul communicates with his “son.”

“Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of:” that could almost be a commencement address.   Good teaching speaks for itself and convinces us of truth.  Convincing us of the truth is the primary goal of all education.

“You know those from whom you have learned it.”   Paul is talking about both himself but especially about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who raised him.   They were early followers of Jesus who taught the young man about Christ, preparing him for mission with Paul and then service to the church abroad.   They were honest and trustworthy people.

“How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.”   Then as now, Jewish boys are taught the Torah and the Talmud starting at around age 5.   It begins a life-long pursuit of knowing God more through His word.  It’s the reason why so many Christians so strongly advocate Christian education for the young.

“The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise.”  True wisdom comes only from God, is imparted only by Him and through His Word.   On our own, we the people aren’t wise.   With the Lord, His wisdom becomes an inevitable gift of grace.

“Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”   Jesus did the work of salvation.   He and only He forgave our sins and made it possible for us to live forever.   Yet that doesn’t happen if we don’t put our faith in Him.   If we choose to reject faith in Christ, He allows us the consequence of our choice.   Yes, we will live forever, but the Scriptures say it won’t be with Jesus.

All these things Timothy knew.   And he knew that persecution was all around him, and would come for him, too.   History says that Timothy eventually became a bishop in Ephesus, in modern Turkey, where he was beaten to death during a pagan feast when he tried to minister the Gospel.  He and Paul understood these things because they pursued Godly wisdom from Jesus.   We can do the same.

For further reading:  John 5:39, Deuteronomy 4:6, Psalm 119:98-99, 2 Timothy 3:15.

Wise Savior, only You are truly wise.   Wisdom comes only through You.  Thank You for teaching us Your wisdom through people like Paul and Timothy.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 20 February 2019

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  1 Timothy 6:13-16 (NIV).

People don’t talk like this anymore.  Outside of formal liturgical services, people just don’t use this kind of language anymore, and that’s a shame.  There’s something good to be said from hearing someone formally bless you with the power of God.   Don’t get me wrong:   I like short sermons, and I like it when speakers get to the point.  Yet there’s also something grand, something spectacular, about hearing a speaker like Paul put a capstone on his work (this letter) by describing and invoking God’s action in majestic language.

Granted, Paul’s language in this closing doxology is “Pauly.”   He could be flowery.   He could be formal, and He could be the king of commas and compound sentences.  His rousing conclusion here is full of praise in ways that stand out from the rest of his fairly plainspoken letter to Timothy.  It’s almost as if he didn’t want to end stop talking.   These four verses are actually just two sentences and an ‘amen.’

He’s sending Timothy out into the world (into the ministry) to fight he good fight, to minister to the truly needy, and to stay true to the Lord.  Paul is telling his protégé to stay true to his calling from Jesus.  He focuses on Jesus in language that describes Him as the Savior King that He is, not just as a man or even a great man.   This Jesus isn’t the meek and mild:   he’s mighty.  Paul focuses on Jesus as the true God, the phenomenal cosmic power God who rules over all.

“Stay true to Him, Timothy.   He’s everything and more.”

People don’t talk like that anymore.   Indeed, my simple words seem insufficient compared to what Paul handed down to us.   Yet, in the sight of God (because He is God), the same mighty Jesus speaks mildly to our individual hearts when He leads us as He will.  He did it for Paul; he did it for Timothy; He’s doing it for you and me today.

For further reading:   John 8:33-37, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Titus 1:3, Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3, Daniel 2:47, Revelation 1:5, Luke 10:7, 1 Timothy 6:13.

Magnificent Lord, all thanks and praise be to You.   Thank You for making Yourself known to us in so many ways.