October 12, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“All of Scripture is God-breathed and therefore useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness for the purpose of thoroughly equipping the servant of God for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
Was this Paul’s way of telling Timothy “You don’t have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express” to be qualified for ministry? Yesterday’s reflection ended on the note of truth that the Word of God is sufficient and eternal: it will never pass away. Think about it. Do you have a favorite comfort food that, no matter what, is a “go to meal that never grows old”? Is there a movie that you could watch over and over again which moves you every time you watch it? Is there a scene of nature that causes you to sit in awe and wonder regardless of how it is presented and how many times you see it? I can say “yes” to each of those questions as I am sure you can. But, the truth of the matter is that one day all of that will pass away. The day will come when that truly transformational movement will happen in our lives and everything will change but one thing. It is that one thing that has always been there for us. It was probably being experienced in small part by the answers to the questions posed above. “That one thing,” as Curly pointed out in City Slickers which everyone had to learn for themselves, is the sum total and final word on the meaning of life. For us as mighty ones of God, followers of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Son and our Lord and Savior, that “one thing” is the Word of God. It is the sum total of who and whose we are, what and what we are to do, when and when we are to do it, where and where we are to do it, how and how we are to do it, why and why we are to do it. In a day of authority and authentication, it is the Word of God alone which breathes life into us and gives direction to that life we are made for and called to live.
What credentials did Timothy have to authenticate and empower his ministry of the gospel to the Roman Empire? This would be an important question now as the mantel of responsibility for the future of the Church founded on the frontier was being passed from Paul to Timothy. We do not hear of his years of education leading to degrees and conferrals of position and power. We do not hear of special titles such as Rabbi, Pharisee, Prophet, Priest, etc. which are associated with Timothy as precursors to him being an apostle, bishop or elder. But, we do hear Paul identifying him with all those who have presented the Word of God to him from his birth. It was his mother and grandmother who raised him with the vitality of scripture from the Torah to the Prophets and then to the witnesses of the disciples concerning the gospel of Jesus as the Christ. Paul himself called Timothy his “son.” We do not hear of Timothy’s father and what influence he may have had in his life. It may have been because of a cultural situation or a philosophical one. It may have been that his biological father was no longer a part of the picture for whatever reason from death to abandonment. But, somehow, Paul had stepped into the gap and took on the role of mentoring Timothy and “adopted” him as his son in spirit and in truth albeit not legally binding in the world. It speaks to the influence which a mother and father are meant to have and what benefit the presence of two parents is for raising the next generation. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 1.8-9, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” I dare say most of the issues which trouble the world today are propelled by the lack of the total parenting package. Children need godly parents, a father and a mother, to help discover and empower their spiritual growth and purpose in the world. It was the consideration of Satan to break down the relationship between father and children by tempting Adam and Eve to see their lives as independent from God. It is the very reason, I believe, that Jesus continued to speak of God as “Abba, Father” and Himself as “God’s Son” to promote to men their vital and necessary role in spiritual leadership. The world certainly promotes a breaking down of the fabric of the family and empowers other “acceptable substitutes” to fill the gap. But, none of those “substitutes” can replace the unique and unchanging relationship which God intended and created for us, in us and through us between Himself and humanity. And it is these relationships which help us focus on the validity, truth and impact of God’s eternal, abiding and abundant word.
So, let me return to the possible “why” Paul reminds Timothy “all Scripture is inspired, that is God-breathed, and therefore useful in equipping each of God’s servants for His good work.” It is an affirmation of Paul’s declaration to all members of the body of Christ to “walk by faith and not by sight.” Our faith is born out of and into the Word of God from which we learn the things of the Kingdom. Our sight is based on the world around us from which we learn the things of the world. Our education serves as a “corrective lens” which allows us to focus on the application of knowledge and learning. Our faith serves to help us focus on wisdom and truth. There is value in both and they are necessary for us to have balanced and productive lives. They serve a similar purpose as being raised, according to Solomon, with a father’s instruction and a mother’s teaching. The father’s instruction guides the mind to consider the truth. The mother’s teaching guides the heart to consider the value of the truth. There are other illustrations which could be made here, but I think you see the point. That point I have heard expressed before as a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., who said “Some people are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good.” Johnny Cash even included it in the song “No Earthly Good” from the 1977 The Rambler album. I have heard it elaborated further to say, “Thus some people are so earthly-minded they are no heavenly good.” And while we may certainly debate the validity of such observations and accusations, they most certainly admonish us to remember we need balance in our lives of body, mind, heart, soul and spirit. If Timothy suffers from any accusation of “You are not qualified,” Paul would offer, “They did not believe I was qualified to be called an apostle; but I am.” His qualification was his belief in the revelation of Jesus Christ to him borne by the power of His resurrection. The word of God concerning the resurrection is the validation of our faith in God and in Jesus as the Christ, God’s Son and our Savior. Paul proposes that “we are to preach Christ and Him crucified.” That very word then becomes crucial to understanding the reality and power of the promise of resurrection, new life and deliverance from the clutches of this world which is sin-fected, my way of saying “infected by sin.” For Paul, being authenticated by the word of our “Heavenly Father” is all that is truly needed to be His faithful servant and the sower of the gospel seed into all the world. In the words of a Jewish mother “From God’s mouth to your ears.” In the words of an old favorite hymn, “Breathe on me, o breath of God, fill me with life anew that I might love what thou dost love and do what thou wouldst do.” I do not need a stay at the Holiday Inn Express to express the word of God authentically in word and in deed. All I need is the inspired, God-breathed word, flowing through me in spirit and in truth among so great a cloud of witnesses!
It is our hope and prayer, God our Heavenly Father, to be filled with the breath of Your Holy Word. It is our hope to love as You love and do as You would have us to do for the good of humankind and for Your glory. This is the pathway of Your Son who leads us like a shepherd to still waters and green pastures, through valleys filled with death’s shadow to sit at banquet tables in the presence of our enemies and to be restored to faith, hope and love which culminates with the invitation to dwell in Your House forever. Your word is inspired and inspiring. We receive it anew today in Jesus’ name. AMEN.