Going From Bad to WorseFr. Barnabas Powell
Well today we are doing something we rarely do. We are taking our daily lesson from our Epistle Lesson, and I pray it is a help to you!
Let’s set it up!
St. Timothy was a young, spiritual son of St. Paul, and Paul had placed Timothy as the head of a local Christian community. Now Paul is writing to his spiritual son to encourage him as he serves his first parish.
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-15:
“TIMOTHY, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
What did you say, St. Paul? “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.” Well, thanks for the Good News, Paul!
Seriously, this wise counsel reveals to us today our path through life, and how to weather the inevitable storms that come to us.
St. Paul reveals three insights into enduring and not giving up!
The first insight is Real Communion. Look at what he tells his spiritual son. “Timothy, pay attention to how I have endured persecutions.” The Christian faith can never be reduced to a mere philosophy or some self-help positive thinking. No, the Christian life is a calling to be lived, not merely thought about. It is in pressing out this Christian life in real relationships, both past and present, that encourage me not to give up in my times of trial. Reading the lives of the saints, enduring the often painful but necessary hard work of relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and watching as those I respect face difficulties and don’t cut and run or don’t give away their hope, all of this feeds my own ability to endure!
The second insight is Reality over Fantasy. Those who so quickly fall into the fantasy of “what I’m afraid of” or “what I wish for” always struggle with being deceived and deceiving others. In fact, these poor souls desperately need to have others join them in their deception so they can constantly reinforce their fantasy! Paul warns Timothy away from such brokenness because fantasy never leads to endurance. It always ends up with a burst bubble and a disappointed heart. Eventually, everybody has to leave the Amusement Park and deal with life as it really is. If we don’t, we run the risk of seeing a pattern of broken relationships and increased isolation in our lives. That isn’t endurance, that’s hell!
Finally, Real Application of Eternal Wisdom. Paul tells Timothy “keep doing what you have always done! Avoid the temptations of diverting off your path!” Our commitment to the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures and the devotion to the real people who taught us the scriptures and lived that faith for us to follow is absolutely necessary if we are to endure the times of unfair treatment, innuendo, and down right persecution. We don’t allow the darkness of the moment to snuff out the Light we’ve held in our lives. We KNOW what it True, or better, we know WHO is true. That commitment to the wisdom given to us strengthens us to endure!
Today, whatever you face, you are called to pass through this with confidence and the strength of God’s grace. Whatever you face today, physical illness, spiritual fear, emotional heartache, even the very real consequences of your own mistakes, grab a hold of healthy relationships, reality over fantasy, and the wisdom you know in your heart to be true because you’ve witnessed it change the lives of others, and stand firm.
P.S. I am so excited to visit Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Orleans this Saturday for the Autumn Family Retreat! The presentation is open to the public, so if you’re in the area, come on out and spend some time with us as we seek to be Orthodox on Purpose! Just go to www.HolyTrinityCathedral.org for more information!