Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Though I’ve always struggled with anxiety, I can trace a lot of my childhood anxiety back to one source: the 5 o’clock news. I dreaded the hour-and-a-half each evening that my Dad would sit down in his recliner and turn on the television to hear the journalists report the sad and scary happenings of the day. I grew up near Dayton, Ohio, which has several times been on the “ten most dangerous cities (of its size) in the USA” list, so there were a lot of terrifying updates about local robberies and murders, not to mention domestic and global catastrophes, such as the Persian Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing. My tender heart had great difficulty accepting such chaos and pain in the world.
Then as a sophomore in college, I witnessed a hit-and-run, a robbery gone awry that resulted in the vehicular homicide of a sweet man, beloved in his community. I was forced to relive that terrible day many times over the next several years as a prime subpoenaed witness, until a series of unfortunate mishaps with the trials resulted in the guilty suspects being released with a clean record. I was aghast that the lawyers could be so slimy as to defend people who were clearly guilty of theft and murder, and that such evil could exist in the first place.
With all the terrible things in the world today, it causes me to wonder, how much worse could it actually have been back in Genesis 6 when God felt he needed to start again with godly people on Earth?
The world became corrupt again after Noah, and the wickedness in human hearts has continued for millenia. Paul warned Timothy, starting in verse 2, that in the final days, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Paul reminds Timothy to stay away from such people. That list sure sounds like the tendencies of a lot of people in this world and on the news today… and if I’m being completely honest, it sounds a lot like me at times too, when I lose my Christ-focus. I, too, have been “such people.” I am a sinner saved by grace, and I need to humbly remember how Jesus has saved me. I also need to be careful when I am in the world, to not be of it; it is important to not be influenced by people who are doing evil things, or I might sway to become a part of the sin and be pulled away from my relationship with God. Yes, we need to share the love of Jesus with everyone, but also have boundaries in those relationships.
Sometimes new Christians think that following Jesus should be The Easy Life, but the Bible is very clear that we will have difficulties as followers of Jesus. In verse 12, Paul promises that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus himself said that we will have trouble, but he has overcome the world! (John 16:33). So Paul reminds Timothy two verses later to keep focused on what he has learned, keep the legacy of faith alive. By focusing on what we knew in the good times, we can have the strength to make it through the difficult times.
Then in verse 16, he reminds Timothy that the scripture is a guidebook for life, a manual for living. By following the God-breathed scriptures, we can have the training and correction we need to be ready to do good work for him, and (I would add) to fight any battle that we might face: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I believe that is true today as well. The scriptures have survived for thousands of years because God wanted us to have them as a roadmap for our journey in this life, His special guidance through which He still speaks to us.
I’ll never forget how I beamed with pride as I sat in the front seat of our old red Dodge Omni hatchback, filled to the brim with camping supplies for our family’s annual vacation to the Hocking Hills KOA campground, with the Rand McNally road atlas sprawled over my 10-year-old lap. I was my Dad’s “navigator”; I had the very important job of following the criss-cross lines on the map (which my Dad had conveniently highlighted prior to our departure) to help us arrive at our vacation destination, leading the way for the rest of the clan in the car behind us. Until I was a young adult, I believed I was a good navigator. However, when my husband Dan and I got married and began to go on trips together (before smartphones were commonplace and while GPS car systems were still out of our price range), I realized that a modern Ferdinand Magellan I was not. As a directionally-challenged individual, my mis-reading of maps led us on many, shall we say, unplanned adventures. (Now, we reminisce about those frustrating adventures with a half-smile as we thank God for the invention of Google Maps and data plans.) It turns out that I wasn’t the navigator at all; my Dad had already highlighted the route and knew where he was going. He gave me the map and taught me how to read it at a basic level, but ultimately he was leading us the whole time. Likewise, God has given us a map (the Bible), and He shows us the best way to live. But we need to read His word, study His “map” and seek His ways for our lives through prayer and wise counsel. Then we will be better equipped to do His work.
As a Christian, we are guaranteed persecution in this life. Think and pray about ways that you can prepare yourself to face those trials.
In what practical ways can you encourage and support other Believers who are facing trials?
Look back on your life. How have you felt God’s leading through prayer and His word? How do you sense Him leading you today? (It’s a great idea to keep a journal of God’s faithfulness and answered prayers, which you can read again during difficult times!)