This week's Bible Study - October 9, 2016
One Great Focus
2 Timothy 2:1-10
Quotes of the Week:
I do what I do, and I do it well, and focus and take it one moment at a time.
Focus can be thought of in many ways. When you think of your eyesight, how important is focus? It is amazing how long we go at times, compensating our eyesight. We seem to learn how to deal with things in a bit of a blur. I remember when I was a child and first got my glasses. When I got them and walked out of the eye doctor's office, everything seemed different. At other times, as my prescription changed or I got lazik, it was amazing how much clearer I could see. As far as our sight goes, isn't it amazing that we don't make that a higher priority. As many know, Brian Regan is my favorite comedian, and here is a bit he did on the eye doctor. Click Here!
Focus is also required in doing certain activities. I used to like to play all sorts of sports and in some sports, focus is crucial. I remember coaching soccer to little kids, and if your team was more interested in kicking the ball than looking for four leaf clovers, you were in a better position to win. If you are playing sports and you lose focus, it is real easy to lose momentum and it may be hard to get it back. Focus also applies when you are assembling complex things. Most of these come with instructions that say you should read all the instructions before assembling. I have personally screwed up more than I care to admit due to either the lack of reading all the directions or by totally disregarding them.
Since I have been diagnosed with ALS, focus has become much more important. I have found that I have to be very deliberate in everything I do, with the exception of breathing, but that may come one day. When I take a drink or eat a bite, I have to think about what I am doing, or else I am sure to choke. Although I cannot walk unaided, even with help, every step must be thought out. It is difficult for someone who doesn't gave ALS to comprehend the deliberateness of every single activity. I sometimes think of how deliberate I have to be about everything and wonder if we are missing something in our Christian walk. How often do we consider our words, thoughts and actions? Part of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says "and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." What if I was as deliberate in regards to my thoughts and the words that I spoke, to consider the impact and potential damage to myself and those around me?
I believe that most who are reading this lesson or are engaged in regular Bible Studies want to be focused on the right things, or we wouldn't commit any investment of our time. We hear of the need to focus, but the real question remains as to what we focus on, after we finish our study. Are we getting smarter in what the Bible says or are we being changed? Sadly, too many people care much at all about the rest of their time, apart from church attendance.
Paul wrote the letter to Timothy, while in a Roman prison. It is believed that 2 Timothy was the last letter that Paul wrote before he died. Timothy was a pastor in Ephesus. The church was starting to crumble under the pressures of society and a general pagan attitude. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to endure, because he knew that trouble was right around the corner. In 2 Timothy 1:14, Paul wrote that Timothy needed to 'guard the truth'. This was not written to Timothy for just this point in time, but it is applicable at all times. This was not just for Timothy, but we are all called to guard the truth. This is a key step to enduring as God has called us to do.
Paul refers to Timothy as his son. Timothy was not Paul's biological son, but this greeting shows how much Paul cared for Timothy. This must get us thinking about how much we really care for other believers and how much impact we can have on one another's lives.
This passage begins to explain how Timothy was to guard the Truth, as was written in chapter 1. First, he was to be strong in the grace found in Christ Jesus. This may sound like something you might hear at church and just discount them as religious words. For a Christian church, it is imperative that the church continue to speak of the truth of the gospel.
However, these words are also very practical to each of us, as believers. We will encounter situations and circumstances in life when our human nature wants to guide us. There are many things in life that can distract us from our faith when we try and do what we 'think' to be right. It is important that we realize that there are others that can help us in life. Counselors can play a role. Pastors can play a role. Other believers can play a role. But, true strength comes from the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Don't set the gospel and the Word of God on the shelf as you live your life. In those words, you can find strength through the grace in Christ Jesus.
Secondly, he was to guard Truth, and it was important to pass it on to others. We need to communicate the truth of Christ to others. It was important for Timothy to realize that the church was not entirely dependent upon him as a leader. He was to find other reliable people that were qualified to teach others. You may be a Bible Study teacher and see little need to help other teachers gain experience. However, when we have more qualified teachers that can share the truth, we can reach many more people.
If we are to guard truth, it is utterly important that we be committed to it. When we give our lives to Christ, we should commit, without reservation to obey Him. In fact, we should realize that any other option is not worth striving for. It is amazing that any believer would seek other options rather than commitment to Christ. We know the way that God has called for us to go, but when we choose our own ways, we are bound to suffer consequences.
Paul gave three metaphors for commitment. First, he said that we needed to suffer like a good soldier. In years past, war was often glorified. People thought of parades following a war, largely because it didn't really hit home unless the war was in one's native land. With the advent of the internet, the ugliness and viciousness of war streams, often as it happens, into our homes. We realize that war involves death and all types of human atrocities. A soldier will suffer. One of the deadliest dangers of Christianity is that believers should be seeking comfort and that we would be surprised at suffering.
A soldier must focus on pleasing their commanding officer. He must show dedication and be single minded. In James chapter 1, James wrote about those who don't seek wisdom from God. They are like double minded men, unstable in all their ways. A soldier cannot be a good soldier if they are focused only on pleasing themselves, but instead they must be dedicated to their commanding officer. Sometimes, we get caught up in what we are supposed to do for the Lord. However, Christianity is not about a way of doing special things, but instead it is a special way of doing everything. Do you realize that every aspect of your life is in some way a ministry?
The second metaphor was that of an athlete. They must show discipline and be willing to deny self. An athlete can only truly win when they compete by the rules. In today's society, we have seen many professional athletes that have given in to performance enhancing drugs. While they may seem to prosper for a while, in the longer term their success is diminished. We must be disciplined as an athlete and be willing to do things as they should be done, to win a prize that is not tarnished by our own "short cuts". And just as an athlete, we must be willing to "deny self" in order to gain THE prize for which we were called. There will be many times in our life that we want things now. But we have to have the endurance to keep on keeping on, even when things may seem dismal.
If a person is ambitious in their career, they may make some decisions that might seem to allow them to reach their goal earlier. However, if in doing so, they engage in unethical or immoral behavior, it is quite possible that their entire career can be lost. Perhaps your issue is not ambition in a career, but there is something else that you want. Don't spend your time taking shortcuts, but instead live as God has called you to live and seek Him in that time.
The last metaphor in this section is that of a farmer. A farmer must be diligent. I have never lived on a farm, but there are many people I know who grew up on a farm. A farmer's day starts very early and often goes as long as there is light in the day. Even when there is no apparent reward for their work, a farmer must keep doing the things that need to be done to receive the harvest. A farmer knows that if they decide to take a few weeks off, there will be no crop. A farmer is committed in the expectation of a harvest.
Is there an area of your life where diligence is needed? Our society has become more and more focused on immediate gratification. When we are hungry, we have microwaves for a quick meal or we can easily get fast food. There are 24 hour stores that are always open so that you can buy whatever you think you need at any time during the day or night. Don't spend your time looking for the quick fix in your life. Realize that diligence is required. Do the things that will benefit you on a regular basis. Read the Bible. Spend time in prayer. Spend time with other believers. God can do some amazing things, but you can certainly get more out of it with the time you spend seeking Him.
Paul then begins to write words of encouragement to Timothy. He said that Timothy should reflect on the words that had been written and the Lord would give him insight. It is when we spend time reflecting on the word of God that we find the practical solutions to many of the problems we face on a daily basis. Delving into the word will cause us to begin to see ourselves, others and our situation differently. When we start to see situations for more than just the inconvenience they present, we can see that there is often a much bigger issue at hand - for us or sometimes the other people we are having a difficult time dealing with.
I realize this sounds very 'churchy' and it is and it isn't. Let me give you an example. Sometimes we have negative situations in our life because of negative choices we have made. But at other times, we have difficult situations to deal with because we have difficult people in our lives. My reading of scripture is not going to change that person, but it can change my heart or mindset towards them. Many people read things like this and assume it means we don't confront a negative person or situation because the Bible speaks of being a peaceful person. Ask yourself this question. Is there peace simply because I am not openly addressing the 'situation'? Avoidance of conflict may seem peaceful, but that isn't truly peace.
You don't have peace when someone treats you with disrespect on a regular basis. You don't have peace when those you love choose to mistreat you. You don't have peace when you avoid telling someone that their behavior is unacceptable. It may appear peaceful on the outside, but on the inside there is inner turmoil, which is not peaceful. We often mistake a 'lack of conflict' as having peace and that just isn't true.
On the other hand, we should not be a people who love conflict or go looking for it. But conflicts are part of life in just about every area, and learning to manage them in a healthy way is an invaluable life lesson. Therefore, we are not helping anyone when choose over and over to avoid addressing significant issues with them. In fact, we hinder them and in some cases, even cripple them emotionally. The apostles were in constant conflict with those around them who didn't want to hear the truth of Christ. Jesus was also in conflict with the world. When we speak truthfully to another person about their actions or behaviors and we do it in love - and they get mad and angry - it is they who are creating the conflict and not you. If you are afraid to confront someone and tell the truth and 'do the right the thing' based on their reaction to it, you will never live a peaceful life. You will live in an artificial world where everyone pretends 'it's all ok', when in reality, it is anything but ok. In reality, we are enabling someone in what could possibly be very destructive behavior patterns that they will never learn to manage. When that occurs, they take that 'issue' everywhere they go and into every relationship they have.
Let me pose a contrast for you. If someone I love doesn't believe the Truth of the gospel and I go to them and share the gospel with them and they get angry - should I not have shared it? Shouldn't I care more about their eternal soul than their momentary displeasure with me? Of course!!!! I care about the long term picture. So then, why do we think it is any different in day to day relationships? The Bible is chalk full of times where godly people had to confront difficult people and situations for the sake of ultimate peace. The point of all of this is we need to be willing and able to look at all parts of Scripture to apply to our lives, and not just focus on the select verses that we are comfortable with. The Word of God will truly change you, but you have to be willing to listen and let it do its job.
I often think about the disciples that were with Jesus for nearly 3 years. They listened to Him speak and teach. They saw Him perform miracles and they heard Him say many things that they could not understand. However, after the resurrection of Christ, the Spirit came upon them. One of the things that the Spirit did in the disciples' lives was to remind them of what Jesus had said. After Jesus had been crucified and rose from the dead, there were many things that suddenly became more apparent - things that made little sense when Jesus spoke them.
Are you spending time seeking God in His word and listening to what He wants to tell you? Just as the Spirit did for the disciples, the Spirit will help you understand God's word, but only if you are seeking to understand it. It won't just come to you out of nowhere.
Paul continued with more encouragements. They were to remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead. In Scripture, we hear that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. We do seek power sources. When we know electricity will be out of service, we try and find generators or alternate sources of power. When we face circumstances in life, we find it helpful to speak with others who have been through something similar and can perhaps give us some insight and emotional strength. We may look in a lot of places, many of them good. However, the world cannot rival the encouragement that we have through Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that Jesus was descended from David. The tie back to David showed that God was still at work and fulfilling His plan through Jesus, Jesus was a human. Although He never sinned, which is beyond our comprehension, He does know what we go through. Jesus is the perfect advocate for humans today.
The next encouragement that Paul wrote about was the gospel. This gospel became Paul's passion and has become the passion of so many people. People have been imprisoned and some people have been martyred because of the gospel. Even today, believers are persecuted, imprisoned and martyred. You can read about many current cases at the Voice of the Martyrs https://www.persecution.com/
However, the gospel continues. You cannot chain God's word and the Spirit into a cell. It cannot be squelched. Many have tried to do so, but the gospel continues to change lives.
One more encouragement was to endure everything, including suffering, for the sake of others. When all is said is done, the most important thing in any person's life is to find salvation in Christ. Suffering is an integral part of life. If you succeed without suffering, it is likely because someone else has suffered that you might succeed. If you suffer without succeeding, it is likely so that someone behind you can succeed without suffering. This is true of the freedom that most of us have in our world today, but it is so much truer in our faith. Grace is not easy. Many people have suffered in many different ways to get the Bible to us.
While the passage implies suffering for the sake of Christ, there will be other suffering that comes upon us, and how we deal with that can have an impact on others. As previously mentioned, Berkley and I are in a period of suffering, due to my terminal diagnosis of ALS. We certainly would not have chosen this, and we pray for healing and a cure. However, whatever comes of this will impact others, one way or another. Our prayer is, that even in the midst of suffering that God would be glorified and people would be drawn to Christ.
We know that many believers begin with the best of intentions, yet over time they start trying to live life on their own terms. A life that is self focused is not what we are called to live. Our lives should be all about the grace of Jesus Christ. Isn't that what everyone really needs to hear? We need to propagate our faith and make other leaders. If you are a Bible Study teacher, are you mentoring others to help them become teachers?
We saw examples of commitment in this passage - a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. A soldier must be dedicated and do what the commanding officer says. An athlete must be disciplined and play by the rules to win. A farmer must be diligent on a consistent basis. Each of us needs to learn dedication, discipline and diligence as we strive to be committed in our walk with Christ.
You will experience trials and at some point, you will experience loss. While you are not likely to be martyred for your faith (in America) at this point in history, you may still suffer for the sake of the cause. However, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not centered on any one of us. People have come and gone through history. Some were good people and others were bad people. But, throughout the time since Christ's resurrection, the gospel has grown and continues to spread. Devote your life to something that is much larger than your own self.
Through life, you will have battles. In some of these battles, you may actually win and find success. In other battles, you may lose and experience different types of failure. However, when all the battles are finished and the war is over, Jesus Christ has won. Make sure you stick with the Lord. Even when you have a hard time continuing, realize that He will overcome.