October 11, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“But, in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted [and you know how I have endured such persecutions]. Meanwhile, those who are evildoers and faith in Christ imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you have learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 3.12-15)
This part of the letter which Paul penned to Timothy during his final prison stay in Rome could have as easily been written in the culture, climate and context of today’s world. We read at the start of this part of the letter the “signs of the times” and undoubtedly footnoted and annotated each event with current examples. I do not mention this to lessen the lesson to be learned of those “last days” when Jesus will return from Heaven to claim, redeem and lift up His bride, the Church, across the threshold of their eternal home. The world as we know it will pass away as in a twinkling of His eye and we will dwell forever in the House of the Lord which He has been constructing for over a millenium (in earth time, of course.) It makes me wonder what Jesus, who can do all things, has been doing all this time. How big is this new home? How elaborate in its detail is this home? What are the plans He has for this home eternal in the heavens which will be established on the “new earth”? And when will it be finished? I am sure that the descriptions from Ezekiel, Daniel and John capture some of its majesty but the human mind is limited even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There is only so much that we can take in; but we must take it in as much as we can. It will continue to defy our imagination in all its glory as easily as the world defies our understanding of such things as “why do good things happen to bad people and vice-versa.”
And it is that which I was alerted to as I read the passage of scripture presented to me today. I believe that Timothy was most certainly asking that very question of himself and of Paul. Their last encounter was filled with tears knowing it could well be the last time they would see each other. Even though Paul extends another invitation to “come and see me,” the likelihood of it happening given the circumstances of both their lives was slim. But, hear in Paul’s words the very truth he presents as an admonishment and an encouragement.
First he says “those who are truly believers in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It is an inescapable truth because the “world” is at serious odds with the gospel and its main protagonist- Jesus the Christ. The world “kicks against the goads,” as Jesus pointed out was evident in Saul of Tarsus. Though he was a learned man of the Scriptures from the Torah to the Prophets, he failed to own the Messianic promise which was threaded throughout the fabric of biblical testimony. Jesus came into the world in the very way God had revealed it. He served through life and death in the very way God had revealed it. Yet, Saul’s colleagues (before his conversion to Christianity) refused to see it. Maybe their desire to accommodate the world for their own purpose while pressing into the Kingdom of God as they had been called to do created such confusion and thus the refusal to see, accept and proclaim the truth. Nicodemus and Simon were the exceptions and there may have been others. Regardless, persecution was a sad and seemingly necessary truth about having faith in God in this world. But, such persecution was not the end of “their” world because their world, like that as Jesus declared, was not of this world. Jesus suffered at the hands of Rome and the Temple leadership even so far as to bear the cross to His own death not so much to take away such inevitability of persecution from our lives but to show there was more to living in the midst of the Kingdom of God on earth than we might imagine. This is why Jesus could present Himself as “a lamb led to slaughter who uttered not a word.” This is why Paul would declare “in whatever condition I find myself in, I will give thanks.” It is not an easy life to live by faith but by faith it is not an impossible life to live either.
Second, we must confront the reality of which I mentioned in part yesterday. If our desire for those “good old days” was for days that were truly good then why have they led us to days which are not so good such as the ones we are experiencing now? When Paul reminds Timothy of those who are deceived and thus deceive others “going from bad to worse,” he was answering the question of “why do good things happen to bad people.” Honestly, doesn’t scripture teach in the vein of thinking such as “it is the love of money that is the root of evil.” The wisdom of that statement does not claim that Adam and Eve received a payoff for disbelieving God. It was stated to a people who were wondering if money, especially being rich, was evil. We know the conundrum which the Rich Young Ruler faced when challenged to follow Jesus but walked away because he was very rich. The disciples were in a quandary “if the rich can’t get there then what hope do the poor have.” But, let’s look at it this way in terms of the modern day dilemma. The pursuit of riches, power, prestige, prominence, affluence, self-indulgence, even technological advance to “be more and do more” comes at what cost? It would seem that governments and politicians and even some church leaders are swept up into the “have more, want more, be more” lie. Paul wants Timothy to see that those who believe they are the masters of the own “glorious future” will continue to believe it and pursue to their demise. The promise for the believer was stated by Christ, “The things of this world will pass away but the Word of God shall never pass.” The “way of the world” shall be the “end of the world” as they know it. In spite of the evangelistic efforts, note I did not say evangelical efforts, many will believe the lie and mistrust the truth. They will eventually be caught up in the final age of fruitlessness and grow barren.
What is the truth then? Trust in the word of scripture, the word of God revealed in Jesus Christ, as the invitation and primer of our salvation. The day will come when trouble will have so crescendoed to a point that the truth will be obvious to all even when all will not accept it. Those who do accept it will be taken out of the world of persecution and made whole and well in the eternal home of God’s favor and blessing. Because of the work of Jesus the Christ, we will get to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Father, we hold to this promise of truth knowing that in these days we will have trouble but there is worse trouble if we fail to live by the promise of Your truth who is Jesus Christ our Lord in whose name we pray and serve today. AMEN.