Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pulling it all together

Over the past five months, I have met with a group of ladies on the first Monday evening of each month to read and discuss II Timothy.  I'm less familiar with II Timothy than with some of the other New Testament epistles, so this study was something I really hoped to get a lot out of-- didn't really go in with a set "goal" other than learning and fellowship, but with expectations that the Lord would provide opportunities for growth-- ended up being a very rewarding study, indeed. Here's a synopsis of key ideas I picked out from the book and a few remarks about what I learned and why it matters.

In chapter 1 of this epistle, Paul says "fan into flame the gift of God" (v. 6) and "join with me in suffering for the gospel," (v. 8) and finally "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit" (v. 13-14).

In chapter 2, Paul continues: "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (v 1) "Endure hardship with us" (v. 3). He gives the charge: "God's word is not chained. Therefore endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory... If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. If we are faithless, he will remain faithful because he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding (the brethren) of these things... Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (v. 10-15). "Those who oppose him, he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth" (v. 25-26).

In chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy: "Have nothing to do with [people who are disobedient]" (v. 2-5), but instead "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. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (v. 14-17).

Finally, in chapter 4, Paul declares: "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction... Keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" (v. 2-5)

Now, if you read this epistle, it is likely that what jumps out at you is not exactly what jumped out at me, but the above is the summary that makes the most sense to me.  Here is what I gained from reading II Timothy and from the fellowship and insight of the other ladies in the group:
  • Following Jesus faithfully includes suffering-- suffering in general, and suffering specifically for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are entrusted with spreading the gospel through our conduct and through the proclamation of the Good News.
  • We are called to be actively faithful to Jesus, to the Truth, in response to God's faithfulness to us.
  • The Scriptures give us knowledge and understanding of the Truth and instruction in how to live godly lives
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit, armed with the Truth of the Word, we are to always be prepared to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel and to give an answer for the hope that we have, no matter what the cost.
Phhheewww... glad I am sitting down as a write this.  That last point, especially, if I let it sink into my brain, is a high, high calling.  What a task!  I mean, really, if I read what I just wrote (and written rather quickly, actually... like in, maybe, 5 minutes), there's no way that I can absorb the challenge of what I just typed onto the page nearly as quickly or as easily as I composed it.

So ... how does this affect my daily life, my routine, my patterns, my choices, etc?  Not that this is by any means exhaustive, but here's a start:

  • I often wonder: if I do not feel like I am 'suffering for the sake of the gospel,' am I doing something wrong?  I've wondered this for a few years now.  Still pondering it, don't have an answer; I'll table this one for the time being, because here's where my heart and life are being shaped in a specific way...
  • I work in a place where talking about Jesus ought to be very easy.  Do I take full advantage of this chance when I interact with colleagues and/or with students? Since beginning the study of II Timothy, I have put much more thought and consideration into the Scriptures I choose to read to the students at the beginning of each class period since beginning this study.  Praying with my students became increasingly dearer the closer we got to the end of the year; I began to think really carefully about what I said when I prayed with them.  And the Lord was faithful to me and to my students through that time.  He gave me multiple, specific opportunities to share the gospel with my classes.  At times, kids asked some really intense questions about life, about faith, about being a Christian (in some cases, questions they admitted had been on their mind all year long).  As I answered these questions, however imperfectly, it seemed as if all 25 kids were riveted to my answer -- way more tuned in than they usually were to chemistry.  What a blessing and a burden all at the same time! 
This post has become very long.  Maybe I'll post more on this topic later on.... 

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