Monday, May 7, 2018

Fight the good fight: A Charge to Persevere ( 1 Timothy 6:11-21)

AS I was preparing for the sermon this week I came across this wonderful cartoon posted by Middle School West Auckland on facebook. It uses the idea of an iceberg to graphically illustrate all the effort and energy, sacrifice and determination, sweat and tears, ups and downs, joys and sorrows away from the public gaze, that goes into sporting success. It is also a great illustration of what Paul means when he says to Timothy ‘fight the good fight of faith”… it’s not a military metaphor but a sporting one, contending in such a way as to win the prize. Or as The Message puts it ‘Run hard and fast in the faith.’

In 1 Timothy it is like Paul is Timothy’s coach, he has trained him from the start, he has set the goal and the task that Timothy is to achieve, countering the false teaching at Ephesus so that Church can again fully participate in God’s mission of seeing all peoples be saved and come to knowledge of the Truth in Christ Jesus. He had outlined the strategy and tactics of the enemy  and given Timothy the tools and the strategy to counter that:  holding fast to the faith, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, and living it out in love.  Now it is as if we have this final motivational speech, maybe like a coach would give to a sports team that had come in after a hard fought first half, heads down breathing hard, batted and bruised, everything on the line, a speech to lift their heads and focus them to persevere and to keep going till the end.

While this last charge is specifically for Timothy it resonates with, and applies to us as well as we are called to maturity and ministry in Christ Jesus, we are called to fight the good fight and run the race. So what is Pauls charge to Timothy and how does it relate to us.

Well it is a race that we are called to run, a fight we are called to content in.

Paul starts ‘But You, son of God’ he had been talking about what was going on in the church around Timothy and the false teachers and now here he stops and focuses on Timothy. The answer to what was happening the danger of the draw of wealth and the false teachers focus on controversy and derision was for Timothy to be and live differently, to live the calling he had to be a man of God.

Man of God is a term that is only used in the New Testament in Paul’s letters to Timothy, I wonder if it wasn’t a personal term that Paul had for Timothy, but in the Old Testament it was used of people like the prophets or beloved leaders, like Moses, David, Elijah and Elisha, who were set aside and called by God for specific roles and tasks.  You might think well I don’t fit that title or identity. I’m a women; well Paul used the Greek word Anthropos which means human being rather than a specifically male, so it can be man of God or women of God, or the gender neutral person of God. You might say it obviously applies to a special person not me! But in Christ’s death and resurrection we have all become the people of God, you are a person in that people. God has commissioned as all and set us aside to proclaim the kingdom of God. God has poured his Holy Spirit out on all who believe that we are enabled and empowered to do what God has called us to do in Christ. 

The but you applies to us; change, renewal and transformation starts in us. As we live out that identity in Christ.

Paul sets out the course we are to run, he shows us the direction, sets the start line and the finish line.

Paul tells timothy the direction he is to run…that he is to flee from all this, The all this is what he had been speaking about in the previous section, the false teachers had focused unhealthily on controversy and obtaining wealth and it had led to unhealthy outcomes envy, strife malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction. But it wasn’t to flee in any old direction rather it was to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith. Love, endurance and gentleness. A virtue list diametrically opposed to the false teachers. Righteousness and godliness speak of a life of integrity where who we act and react reflect the God in whom we believe. Faith in the pastorals refers to that invisible vertical relationship with God made possible through Jesus Christ, and here it has the added dimension of being faithful to that in how we live. It is linked again with love and we see that faithfulness to our covenant relationship with God lived out in sacrificial service to others. Endurance and Gentleness fill that out in how we show that love. Endurance speaks of patience, its active patience committing ourselves to the faith and to love, by how we treat others and gentleness is the word meek. Which means that all our strength is harnessed to achieving the common good and the common goal and we will not be nudged or bumped off course or loose our discipline, because of the harsh words and slights, sledging, the stray elbow and jostling or down right dirty play of others. That is why the meek will inherit the earth, they will not be put off loving others by anything.

Our race also is one of fleeing and of pursuing, turning away from those things that do not reflect our identity in Christ and pursuing a Christlikeness, as we pursue Jesus Christ. I like the idea of pursuing because Paul acknowledges that he is also in the race with us, he is in the fight with as well and that you know we are all out there on the course somewhere, we haven’t made it yet, the key thing is that we are keeping moving forward in the right direction.

Paul tells us that the start line and the finish line. He says to timothy grab hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made good your confession in the presence of many witnesses. The starting point is when we confess our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul here was probably referring to Timothy’s baptism. The start line was when we professed Christ, in referring to Jesus confession before Pilate Paul is talking of that affirmation of Jesus as Messiah and King in front of those who would oppose him. It’s an open Public confession in front of both supporters and those who would think it a wrong. We live in a world where many find it a difficult thing to confess Christ. I read an article this week about a girl in Laos who became a Christian and her family beat her and threatened her with death, she finally had to flee from them when she overheard them deciding to take her to a big city and sell her into prostitution because it was less shame on the family.

But says Paul the finish line is eternal life. Paul says Timothy is to contend to grab eternal life that he had received when he made his confession of faith. It is a gift that we are given from Jesus Christ as we come to know him as our Lord and Saviour, we don’t contest to somehow earn it, we are not like mice caught in a spiritual running wheel, trying to get to the top and never managing it till we are exhausted and frustrated. Rather as we flee and pursue that eternal life that we will have when Christ returns enters our lives now, in what we would call abundant life, a life full of the presence of God and that reflects Christ’s presence to those around us. In verse 19 Paul applies this teaching to those who are have wealth and he say they are to invest not in this world but in the kingdom of God, that they may take hold of life that is really life. Take hold of is used in both places it is as we pursue a life that reflects Christ that we find out what real life is really like, a life that will go on into eternity.

There is an ethical element to this as well as Paul tells Timothy to run the race with out spot or blemish. 

Paul also tells us about the glory that is there in running the race and contesting the fight. It’s not like the adulation and acclaim of the athlete or team that wins the trophy or the tournament or the gold medal in the race that is focused on us and is there for a while and then fades and is placed in a draw somewhere and pulled out now and again to show people. But for Paul the glory is that of Jesus Christ and God himself. Paul finishes this section of his letter with a doxology a song of praise to God. Paul focuses on God’s sovereignty, he is the great ruler, king of kings and lord of lords are titles that human rulers have claimed for themselves, but here Paul applies them to God. When we think of the race through life it is reassuring to know that God is sovereign and in control. That the course has been planned out with purpose and precision. He also focuses on the holiness of God, the only true God who dwells in unapproachable light. What a great thing to know the one who reigns and rules in glory.     The glory of the race is with God. The one who initiated it by creating us to know him, who saved us by making himself known in Christ Jesus, who stepped down and gave his life for us, who enables us to run the race by the presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit. Who welcomes us into fellowship. To know and meet with face to face. To have run and been part of the God story and the God mission, to the glory of God. That is a great prize.

Paul tells Timothy how rich people are to run this race as well.

Remember from last week he had talked about the dangers of fixating on getting rich, now Paul turns to address a group in the church who were rich, who must have been wondering if that would disqualify them from the race. Is the gospel anti wealth? Pauls response is to tell timothy to command them not to be arrogant, or put their hope in wealth, rather to put their hope in God, who is the one who richly provides for all what is good.  To become rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share. He finishes by echoing Jesus teaching of storing up treasure in heaven on focusing on the kingdom of God not the kingdom of this world.

In the end for those who are rich the race is the same they are to flee and to pursue. Flee from self-reliance. Self-indulgence and self-importance to focusing on trusting God, showing that trust in care and compassion and practical love for others and focusing on Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

Paul finally tells timothy what he should hold on and bring with him on the race. Here the focus is the apostolic teaching that he has received, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I think that means more than just having a joggers bible with him or listening to teaching on his MP3 as he runs. Rather it is the good news of Jesus Christ, that body of truth that is our basis of our faith: That Christ came into this world lived and died and rose again. And to throw away and dodge carrying the false teaching.

You know when I have a look at that cartoon we started with and think of the sporting analogy we’ve been using all the way through this message there is one thing missing. It’s easy to miss, its easy to think that the focus is all on our endeavour, our effort. It’s easy to miss the four words that Paul finishes his letter with, to simply see them as a polite nicety, but they make all the difference. Grace be with you all. Grace be with you all. Of course when Paul says grace,  we know it is the grace of Jesus Christ that he is talking about. Out on the course, in the fleeing and pursuing, the contending for the prize, we are not alone, we have grace. It is Christ who called us and made it possible for us to become people of God, by his death and resurrection, it is Christ who promised to be with us till the end of the age, it is Christ who has run the race before us and who goes with us and encouraging and strengthens us on the way who marshals us and sustains us. Who stops to pick us up and restore us when we fall, who sends companions and team mates to contend alongside us, who provides the coaches and mentors to keep us on track and calls us to do that for others. It is Christ who waits for us. Grace be with you all.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Contentment in Godliness ( 1 Timothy 6:2b-10)

The science fiction writer Ron L Hubbard was famously quoted as saying, “You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” And of course, that is what he did, he is the founder of the Church of Scientology.

It’s sad but in modern pop culture, in novels, movies and Tv shows, Christian evangelists are most often portrayed as simply in it for the money, or the sex. They usually end up the villains. What is even sadder is that we’ve given them good reason to form such an opinion: Christian leaders convicted of fraud and the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by celebrity pastors… the prosperity gospel which comes close to selling Christianity as a get rich quick ponsey scam.

These are some of the sort of things that Paul is helping Timothy to deal with in Ephesus, false teachers whom Paul says think ‘Godliness is a means to financial gain’, who are in it for the money and encouraging others to follow suite. Paul counters that by telling us “godliness with contentment is great gain in and of itself” and gives some general teaching on the dangers inherent in focusing on wanting to get rich, and in the section we will look at next week speaks about how that applies to those who already have wealth.

The examples I start with may seem to be far off and distant but the passage is of great relevance for us today, as we look to see what Paul has to say about maturity and ministry for us today. One of the great challenges for the church and Christianity in western society is assimilation into our consumer materialistic society, there is a tension between wanting what we are presented with as the good life and our God life. Our material comfort and our spiritual vitality. Our material possessions and our missional passions.  We are bombarded with advertising that tells us our wellbeing and happiness are dependent on acquiring this and that. Simply staying where we are now demands two incomes and the pressure that puts on family and time is intense. To be blunt it is the difference between “greed is good”, spoken with religious fervour as a defence for rampant capitalism by Michal Douglas’ character corporate raider Gordon gecko in the 1987 film ‘Wall Street’ and ‘God is Good’ an affirmation of trust from God’s people in times of plenty and in the face of abject poverty.

Let’s look at what Paul has to say and how it applies to us. It’s interesting but this final section of Paul’s letter mirrors the structure of the opening section.

Paul had told Timothy of his mission to Ephesus to counter the false teachers and here that is reinforced in verse2 by Paul saying to teach these things and insist on them, when he says that he is referring to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here Paul calls it sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and Godly teaching. The idea of Godliness in the pastoral epistles is that we live our life that reflects the God in whom we believe. It is faith that has its goal in love. That invisible vertical relationship with God worked out in Christ like love in our horizontal relationships with each other.

Remember Paul had told Timothy that the false teachers devoted themselves to myths and endless genealogies, promoting controversial speculation and meaningless talk. Here Paul reiterates that by telling Timothy that the false teachers had unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words. The contrast between the gospel and the false teaching is one is healthy and the other is not. Paul lists envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction as the unhealthy fruit of the false teachers, they are directly opposed to the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced by the sound teaching that Paul lists in Galatians 5;22 love, peace, joy, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. The false teaching breaks down community, the healthy instruction of Jesus builds it up in love.

In the first section of his letter Paul had said that the false teachers had misunderstood the law, emphasising it over the grace of God shown in Jesus Christ; the false teachers have used it as a way for people to be put right with God, here Paul says the false teachers have misunderstood godliness, they see it as a means to financial gain. In Both the false teachers see them as ways to earn God’s blessing, rather than trusting in Gods grace to provide our spiritual and physical needs.  

At the start Paul counters that misunderstanding of the law by saying that when used properly it is to show us our need for God’s grace and mercy. Not to condemn us to hell, that is not God’s plan for anyone. Remember God’s desire is that all people are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Here Paul says that there is great gain in godliness, but godliness with contentment, that God will provide our needs. It is not about financial gain but spiritual gain.

Paul moves away from the structure by now talking about the danger of focusing on wealth. He follows up his statement on Contentment with proverbial wisdom, he says well we bought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells the a parable which illustrates that. A farmer has an abundant crop and builds a bigger barn and hordes all he has, but just as he sits back to enjoy it he dies, and God calls him a fool. He had gained from what God had provided and lived his life without reference and reverence of God and what was it worth. Jesus concludes “This is how it will be for those who are store up things for themselves but are not rich towards God.”

He then states that if we have the basics of life we should be content with that, food and clothing. Now Paul here is not saying we should all live in poverty, he is not holding that up as an example for life. He is advocating what many people have called the simple life style.  What we often find ourselves wrestling with is the difference between needs and wants. One exercise which commentators suggest is simply sitting down and making a list what are our needs, food clothing housing etc and what are our wants. When Jesus taught us to pray the prayer was ‘give us today our daily food” not the Janice Joplin song ‘Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”. That song by the way was written as a rejection of consumerism.

Then Paul moves on t
o talk of the dangers of wanting to be rich. He speaks of a four-step process. That wealth can start as a temptation, nice things are nice, good things are good and they are not bad in and of themselves, but as Paul says they can be like the bait to a trap, we can want more and more and not satisfied, he sees the trap springing and those desires taking over, when Paul uses the word foolish it is talking of peoples focus moving from God to other things. They can lead to ruin and destruction… The Onceler from the Lorax by Dr Suess, written in the 1970’s about ecological issues, demonstrates this on a world scale… the Oncelers determination to get biggerer and biggerer, making more and more, consuming non-renewable natural resources with not thought for the future, ends with the natural resources depleted the sky and water polluted and the onceler all alone as his family had only been there for economic benefit and when it finished they moved on. In real life we could talk of crippling credit card debt or those who to feed gambling habits or a n addiction to a certain standard of living embezzle and cheat. The exploitation of immigrant workers, slave labour or sweated labour in third world countries so we can have reasonably priced goods.

Paul finishes this section with one of the most misquoted scriptures, that’s because of trouble translating from the Greek to the English, but as we had read from the NIV today ‘For the love of Money is a root of all kinds of evil. Paul concludes with the sad reflection that some eager for money have wandered from the faith and pieced themselves with many griefs. I’ve watched many of my contemporaries and some of the youth group members I’ve worked with not give up their faith as recant it, but simply it has simply stopped being important amidst the everyday demand of life, and making ends meet and getting a head.

So what does this say to us today.

Paul’s remedy to viewing life simply from financial terms is contentment. In Philippians 4 Paul thanks the church at Philippi for their gift and support, then he wants to differentiate himself from the false teachers who are in it for the money. By saying that he has learned the secret of being content in all situations, in times of plenty and when he is in prison or destitute, that secret is that he can do all things in Christ who strengthens him. The secret to contentment is to trust in God’s presence and provision. We don’t come into the world with it and we can’t take it with us, but God gives it and it and God are good.

I want to share two things that help with contentment. One is that Paul talks of the false teachers having an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that results in envy, the way to counter that for Paul was sound instruction of Jesus Christ and Godly living. We get bombarded by so many adverting’s  messages so many words and images, usually telling us that we are disadvantaged or poorer because we do not have this item or use that service.  You know I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that My life is not complete because I don’t go and get some hair growth treatment. Women have had body image exploited for years… right!. Women have been wrestling with it for years with body image right! We need to realise that the messages are unhealthy!  J V Taylor is his wonderful book ‘enough is enough’ says we need to start having a healthy cynicism to these advertising messages. His response is “who are you trying to fool”, the heart string pulling ad which triggers and emotional response to make us associate love and justice with that brand “ who are you trying to fool”, the luxurious and problem free life because of the right appliance “well who are you trying to fool!”. Along with that we need to have a healthy theology… Again Paul to the Philippians… My God will supply all my needs according to his riches and glory by Christ Jesus… we counter it by our understanding of God, his goodness and his providence.    We counter it with identity... I am not a sum of what I consume, I’m not just a cog in the economy I’m a child of God, called not to simply consume but to commune with God, not to buy good new things but bring good news in what I say and how I live. That is the healthy teaching, the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ. It helps us set our priorities and be content.

The second thing is a simple way we can put that into action in our lives… to be thankful. It is a simple thing but it makes a world of difference. Paul talks of the false teachers brining envy and distance between people, I think if we are talking of the ten commandments it would be the sin of coveting.  We are not happy with our lot, we want what they have… But contentment is about being happy with what we have. The key way of doing that is to give thanks. To acknowledge all the good things God has given to us. Every good gift comes from God, as we’ll look at next week as Paul talks to those who are rich being thankful opens up the door to generosity. At the feeding of the five thousand Jesus asked his disciples what they had and when they gave him the little they had he gave thanks and was able to take it and feed the whole crowd with enough left over for later. God has given us so much we can share it with those in need. The reward is knowing how much God cares and shows his love and seeing him more and more in our lives and how his kingdom is able to expand through us.

The image that we’ve used for the service this week is a kingfisher. I took it out on a Monday walk on my day off. It was down on the waterfront of one of the suburbs along the Manukau harbour. The kingfisher was sitting on this rock, either waiting for the disturbance in the water that would show that with the high tide the small fish it lives off were coming close to shore in the shallows, or sitting in the sun with a full belly because it had already had its fill. If this photo has a soundtrack it would be the buzz of skill saws and the bang of nail guns as the old batches and 1950’s family homes along the landward side of the domain were being transformed into larger and more palatial properties, it’s the sound track of urban renewal. The wild life wasn’t phased by this. The kingfisher sat on his rock content and happy. The only thing that seemed to disturb it as this rather dishevelled man creeping up it with a zoom lens. It flew away after the click of my shutter. But in the Sermon on the mount Jesus invites us to consider the birds of the air… they don’t sow or reap but God is able to feed them…how much more precious are you to God than they are. So don’t worry be content God can provide your needs and put first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A short ANZAC address at a retirement village(Isaiah 2:3-5, John 10:11-18)

I was invited to take an ANZAC day service at a local retirement village care facility. 
It is hard to know how to speak at ANZAC day. I have always been drawn to stories of daring, courage and bravery. War stories of men and women who have put them selves in harms way and made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believe in, for the sake of country out of duty, and for an over-arching hope and vision of peace when conflict and tyranny has been opposed and defeated. 
But at the same time I am aware of the great cost and tragedy. Death and the pain and sorrow and suffering that those who serve in war and armed conflict and experience war suffer. There are not many of us who it has not touched. I was born in 1963 which makes me the last of the baby bom generation, those whose parents served in world war two, both my father and mother served during that war. My father in the Airforce and my mother as a WAAF, neither saw action.  I have a grandfather, whom I never met who was wounded at Passchendaele, on that darkest of day for New Zealand troops.  I have an uncle who both received a field promotion and was injured and invalided home at the battle of El Alamein in 1942. In a parish I served in in Tauranga one of the men who came back from world war two always told his wife he had been overseas during the war and had seen enough and simply wanted to stay home. It was only towards the end of his life he talked of being in the artillery and knowing that every time he pulled the rope and fired his weapon that it meant death and destruction and it still hurt and haunted him. Another acquaintance was a child during the blitz in London and is instantly transported back to that time when she hears the thunder and lightning on a stormy night.  For many of you the people and the scares are closer.  Our returned service men and women from modern battlefields speak of wounds that don’t bled and the deep scares within them.
The passage from Isaiah speaks of the hope of peace and prosperity and justice and righteousness that the reign of God would bring to our hurting and suffering world. A hope for the end of war and its practise fading from memory. Our Gospel reading speaks of the great sacrificial love  that Jesus showed by laying down his life for his sheep.  A gospel hope for peace with God and the reconciliation of human beings together in the Kingdom of God. Today we remember a similar sacrifice and hold a similar hope. We remember the sacrifice of those who died in war and in the process peace keeping and we say that we will not forget them. Maybe the best way to do that is the work of peace. Peace at a personal level as we forgive one another and look to love one another as Christ loved us. On a community level as we seek to resolve conflict, injustice and oppression with compassion and commitment to justice.  On a societal scale as we are willing to speak and act to resolve and to mend, to reconcile and come together. So our children will not know the pain and sorrow that our parents and grandparents have known.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Maturity and Ministry in Practical Pastoral Concerns ( 1 Timothy 5:1-6:2)

Old white men need to step aside…Sexual harassment of women law students, and the me too movement…people claiming benefits they are not entitled to …The retirement of the baby boom generation and how that will stretch superannuation…Person appeals sacking because the correct complaints procedure was not followed…Who is fit to lead…Exploitation of immigrant work force and human trafficking… They are the kind of things you’d find in the headlines of our papers and news feeds today. They are some of the issues that we face as a community and a country. Yet they also are very much the kind of issues that Paul is helping Timothy and the Church at Ephesus to deal with and he offers some very practical advice which is still helpful and relevant for us today.

We are working through what are called the Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, letters Paul write to co-workers and fellow leaders working in difficult pastoral situations. We are looking at them to see what Paul has to say to us about church leadership, about maturity and ministry within the household of God. This week Paul gives some very practical and sage advise. It’s not totally easy to simply transfer to our own time and place… as one commentator says “sorting out widows was not only a pastoral burden in the early church, it has also proved to be an exegetical one for modern commentators”. In other words, it is a hard passage to understand, interpret and apply.

In the pastoral epistles Paul’s overriding metaphor for the church is the household of God. It was appropriate as most if not all members of the church and society were structured in households, and Churches met in people’s households, not in church buildings, so it was obvious and applicable. Church leaders were called elders, like they were family or household heads, there were slaves and masters, people of different generations, men and women, young and old. So when talks of issues to do with pastoral care and pastoral concern it reflects that structure.

The first two verse we had read out to us today reflect that, Paul gives Timothy advice on how to relate to people of different age and gender, so he uses the idea of family to explain it. You’ll remember from last week that Timothy was younger than a lot of the people and leaders in the church and this was an issue Paul gives him instruction about overcoming. Now Paul gives him the correct posture and tone to adopt as he goes about his ministry of teaching and preaching. To the older men he is not to rebuke them harshly, rather he is relate to them as he would his own Father, the word he uses then is exhort, it has the idea of persuasion rather than command. He is to treat younger men as his brother, if you remember from Psalm 133 the idea of brothers living together in harmony is the image used for God’s people having unity. He is to relate to older women as he might to his mother. There is the undertone of respect and care and honour. Finally, Paul says when it comes to younger women he is to see them as sisters, there is an added clause with absolute purity. Recently young women have been speaking up about how they have been mistreated and sexually harassed or worse in the work place education and sadly some of them in churches, here Paul is very clear and serious about the fact that the church should be a safe place, where hey are treated as sisters. It sets a good pattern for all of us in showing honour and dignity to one another.

In some cultures that attitude to older people is very strong. When I worked at the university I was organizing an event with an Asian Christian organization and I started to speak and sort of got off track with a long drawn out story, half way through I thought this must be a very profound thing I’m saying because everyone was silent and intensely listening… then I twigged… and said this is an age thing isn’t it… everyone gave me a rather embarrassed smile and I said OK and we got back on track… so lets get back on track again.

Paul then takes some time to work through how to care for the widows in the church. The number of widows in the church community and city was a major issue in the first century, life expectancy was short and a women’s well being was embedded in her relationship to a man. Either her father, her husband or her children. Men’s life expectancy was far shorter than a woman’s.  In Acts 6 we see one of the first conflicts in the church was over the care of widows, making sure that the Hellenistic, with a Greek background and Judean widows were treated equally. The issue at Ephesus is working our who are the real widows in need. So Paul goes through a whole series of different scenarios to help Timothy in that process. Age, their own resources, life style, and the ability of family to look after them. The primary care for widows in Jewish and roman society was their sons, or  other close relatives, and the church would take that role for those who didn’t have that. In fact Paul is very careful to insist that families take responsibility for their widows as he does not want to see the level of are for the widows be less than the pagans, because they can leave it to the church, maybe in our day the state.

Commentators wonder about putting people on the list, and it seems that older widows were cared for, but also given a role to play in the pastoral care of others in the church. Not only was the church their to care for them as their household, but they gave widows purpose like they would find in a household, Paul goes through some of those bringing up children, hospitality, washing the feet is probably more to d with service and care rather than just actual foot washing, caring for the poor and other practical things. There is some discussion that this may have been a position like a woman elder, set aside to minister within the church. So there is not only the need to belong and be cared for but to contribute.  Paul’s teaching about younger widows wanting to get married again, is that yes that is a good idea for them, but it would be hard for them to commit themselves to the life of service in the church and then have to give that up for being in their husband’s household.

Paul also talks of widows making choices about what they do with their lives as well, and seeing that people like Anna in Luke’s gospel who was living in the temple and dedicated herself to prayer, and is the first person to really witness to Jesus Christ. Widows are warned against following a life of ease and luxury and Paul is very aware that benefit dependency can be a danger. He ells of widows who have been lost their faith because of some of them.

For us dealing with similar issues of need what Paul does with the widows is helpful. He firstly assesses the need. He looks to see what societal help is available, in his day it was the family, and wider whanau, and we need to be asking the same questions today, but in our day there are also state welfare agencies and aid. While it is not popular to talk about it, Paul also mentions, personal responsibility, church care and aid is not simply to help people carry on a lifestyle that is contra to the gospel.

Paul then moves to look at how to treat those who are elders in the church. Those who have the responsibility for administering and preaching and teaching in the church. The household heads as it were. He says three things. He tells timothy they are worthy of being honoured, which when Paul was speaking of the widows had the idea of care and support. People who devote their time in leading are worthy of being paid, particularly those who take on the role of teaching and preaching. He uses a saying from the Old Testament which originally had to do with animal care  ‘do not muzzle the Ox while it treading grain” from Deuteronomy 25:4 which he also then links with the words of Jesus in Luke’s gospel “a workmen is worth of his pay”. In the Old testament the Levites set themselves aside to minister to God and the people in the temple, that was their inheritance and they didn’t have large blocks of land to farm,  and so were  cared for and provided for by the people.

Earlier In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul had warned against those who tried to make a profit from their teaching  and elsewhere in scripture there are warnings against greed. But Paul is encouraging Timothy and the Church to make sure those who minister in leadership are recompensed. In the Presbyterian church we are helped by that in that the minister living allowance, what we call the stipend is set nationally and is connected to the average wage in New Zealand and yes housing is also provided, or an allowance equivalent.

Paul also sets out a procedure for dealing with complaints against elders. There is a process of natural justice to be followed. In this case Paul follows the Jewish tradition that you need more than one witness to bring the charge, and they are to be admonished in public without any favouritism. I’ve been on a couple of commissions which is the way that our church deals with such issues, and can I say it is a difficult and strenuous process working through such complaints. I really valued the prayers of the elders and prayer team here at St Peter’s during that time. But is important as we are seeing in industry and entertainment that leaders and people in power are held accountable and that there is a rigorous and fair process. Inside the church as well as outside. We serve a God of Justice and we need to act justly.

Paul then goes on to tell Timothy not to be quick to lay hands on people, and this has to do with ordaining people and setting them aside for roles and offices, rather than simply praying for them. AS we saw with the book of Titus and also earlier in this book there is a process to go through to appoint people to leadership as well. The Presbyterian church has a very long and drawn out process to test the call of those who put their names forward for ministry, likewise we have a system for appointing elders which allows for people to bring up concerns and issues before we ordain someone.

It seems strange right in the middle of all this Paul should then give Timothy some teaching on his drinking habits. It maybe that Timothy was concerned about the aestheticism of some of the false teachers and so was drinking only water, which in first century times wasn’t as safe as it is today, so Paul tells him to have some wine for his health. Likewise it may have been he was staying teetotal to avoid the danger he saw with some in the church of abuse of alcohol. David Stewart was the principle of the Bible college when Kris and I were there, and he told us of being a missionary in china and seeing some of the local Christian’s watch the European missionaries from France an d Germany drink wine with dinner, and the Chinese followed suit and became alcoholics, so David Stewart, vowed to be teetotal as not to have the same thing happen to anyone around him. The section gets covered off with Paul’s assertion that peoples good deed and bad deeds will all come to light eventually, it’s a way of rounding off a section where he has talked of the character of leaders.

Finally, in this section Paul turns to deal with the master slave relationship. Remember in the church was one of the only places where slave owners and salves would have come together on equal terms socially. He commands the slaves to show honour and respect to their owners. For those whose masters are non-Christians it is so they will be able to show them by their service about their faith in Jesus Christ. The church was in danger of being seen as an institution that as opposed to order in society and as such would suffer persecution. He tells slaves with believing masters to be even more diligent because they are fellow believers and in a way of telling the masters how to behave says they are devoting themselves to their slave well being. While we don’t live in a society that endorses slavery anymore, there is a lot to say to us here about Christian employees and employers, that both should be committed to the well being of the other, to work for the employers good and to work at seeing your employees are treated well.

This passage may seem a bit dry a bit like implementing legislation and processes and best practises. But it takes the ideas of faith and love that Paul had been talking of to Timothy and brings them down to the nuts and bolts of relationships and dealing with pastoral concerns and issues. It helps us as a community in working through those things together in a just and caring manner, sometimes its easy for people to feel put upon by others and in what Paul says here are guidelines and boundaries and ways for us to both care and to know where to refer and to draw the line. To deal with being wronged by church leaders even. That’s not easy for people who want to share the grace and love of Christ  to do so like young Timothy we benefit from Paul’s practical words and helps us to relate to each other in God’s household. It’s our faith and love in practical action and that is Good News.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Maturity and Ministry at All Ages (1 Timothy 4:11-16)

Having been involved in youth ministry for many years, I’ve heard the passage we had read out to us today from 1 Timothy often used to encourage young people to step up to leadership and ministry in the church and the world.  There are times in church history where Christianity has threatened to, die out with a particular generation, at other times the church has been renewed and become a vibrant youth movement and people tend to forget the tender age of those who have lead that renewal, I’ve only seen images of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon as an old man with a beard, however he was filling his church in London to overflow at the age of eighteen. John Calvin had written his famous systematic theology the Institutes and was the leader of the reformation in French speaking Europe at the age of twenty-five.

Maybe because I’m advancing in years, I am also encouraged by a list that Leonard sweet uses in his book ‘Soulsalsa’ of people who produced most of their best work when they were older. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Fallingwater house when he was sixty-nine, and the Guggenheim Museum when he was seventy-six and was most productive between eighty and his death at ninety-three. Cecil B DeMille produced his most famous film ‘the ten commandments’ at seventy-five. Michelangelo was appointed chief architect of St peter’s in Rome at age seventy-one. You just have to listen to sage words of Pope Francis, or the wisdom and grace of nelson Mandela, and the way in which the love and compassion of mother Theresa have been valued in the world to realise the contribution of older generations.

So as we come to this passage today I want to look at what it has to say to people of all ages about how we can provide leadership in the church. To see what it has to say about Maturity and ministry at all ages.

Paul is writing to Timothy whom he has sent to Ephesus to correct the effect of false teachers in the church there.  Paul’s letter is to both give Timothy instruction as to what to teach, but also to encourage him in that ministry and to add the weight of Paul’s apostleship to Timothy’s work as well. Part of the issue is that Timothy is younger than Paul, and the elders and false teachers at Ephesus. While the word in Greek which we translate young does not equate with Timothy being what we would call a youth, he is younger. In many cultures age is a major issue. In some cultures how you address someone and interact with them is dependant on weather you are older or younger than they are.

What Paul has to say on how Timothy is to handle that is relevant for people of all ages and stages of life.

The first is that Paul encourages Timothy not to let people look down at him, or put him down because of his age. Rather to invite them to look up to him as an example and model for the believers.  It is not age that matters but maturity in Christ.

Paul uses five categories that Timothy is to show his maturity in. speech, what he says and how he says it. This week at the common wealth games we’ve seen a prime example of this. When the New Zealanders won Gold and silver in the commonwealth games men’s mountain biking cross country and that victory and achievement was soured by the eventual winners display of bad sportsmanship. Love and faith again are central to Paul’s understanding of the Christian life, faith speaks of that relationship with God, and love in its outworking in relationship to others. Purity is talking about how Timothy handles his sex life. We are all to aware of how important ethical behaviour is in that area of life.

This week marked not only the 50th anniversary of the sinking f the whahine in wellington harbour, but also the sinking of the titanic in 1912. The Titanic was said to be unsinkable because it was constructed with fourteen watertight bulkheads down the length of the ship. Four of those compartments could flood and it would stay afloat. It was originally thought that the impact with the iceberg had ripped a long gash in the side of the ship and flooded five of those compartments. However when the wreck was found on the sea bed  in 1985, it was discovered that the impact with the iceberg had damaged only one of those compartments. But that was enough to cause the flooding of all the rest. We can try and compartmentalise our life, but if we don’t have integrity in all areas of our lives then issues in one area can impact all the rest. PAUl’s comprehensive list here is  a call for integrity in all areas of life. 

Paul goes on to tell Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of scriptures, to preaching and to teaching. This is the ministry that Timothy has been called to. Before we look at that, it is also goo to look at it as both, a commitment to public worship, in our reformed tradition the reading of the word and the preaching of the word and teaching are the central elements of our worship. All that goes before is designed to prepare us to hear the word read and preached, and what goes after is designed to help us to respond to the word. So it speaks to us about continuing to be involved in public worship, it becomes a priority in our lives, part of our regular routine of acknowledging God in a non-Christian world, pushing back at the worlds encroachment on our time for family and faith. 

It can also speak to us about our devotional life. In the Old Testament days and Paul’s time public reading of the scriptures was often the only way people had of hearing them. With the invention of the printing press, mass media and the internet etc, and the rise of literacy we have unprecedented access to the scriptures, as well as devotional, and teaching material to go along with it. Part of that setting an example is devoting ourselves to the scriptures and allowing the Holy spirit to use it to speak into our lives and bring transformation and new creation.

But Paul is here commanding Timothy to keep at the ministry that he had been called to, this passage is also often quoted at Ordinations, because Timothy is being called to a public preaching and teaching ministry. This is the chief way he going to co bat false teaching by expounding the truth and living it out. Talking the talk and walking the walk. Paul in this section is encouraging him to do that with authority to command and teach these things’, both the things Paul mentions in this book but the apostolic teaching of the gospel. But this equally applies to all of us. We are called to various kinds of ministry in the church and it is as we serve and are prepared to do the things God has called us to that we show others that example of the faith. Young or old or somewhere in between.  We are Christs body and we are all to play a part.

hat moves on to Paul reminding Timothy to not neglect the gift he has been given to you through prophecy and by the laying on of hands. Timothy has been endowed with a gift by the Holy spirit, which was both testified to by God and was affirmed by the church leadership, he is to use that to glorify God and edify others. We set an example whatever stage of life we are at when we take the risk to use the gifts that God has given us. We just ran the Network course and about eight people went through it and it was interesting as we discovered giftings and looked at how that matched up to what we were doing in the church. We are still working through what that means for each of the people on the course.

Then Paul finishes by commanding Timothy to work diligently at these things. Last week we saw how Paul used the metaphor of an athlete training to speak of us training for godliness, to live a life that reflects the God whom we believe in. Paul reuses that metaphor here and you see the idea of  Timothy putting that effort in like an athlete puts effort into their sport. We have this faith and love again when Paul says watch your life and doctrine closely. No we might think that setting an example is about perfectionism, reaching the summit, however Paul is more realistic, he says that we work at it so that people may see your progress. While we’ve been at St Peter’s Isaac has gone from a child and boy to a gangly youth/teenager, and often when we are together people will comment on how much he has grown, they look to see if he is taller than me now, I’ll have to stand up straight to ensure that I haven’t been passed yet. People see his progress towards manhood. You kids might hate bringing home report cards from school, but as a parent I appreciate being able to see your progress, and know where I can affirm where you’ve achieved and encourage you in areas that you need to be encouraged about. It is the same with us as Christians it is good to see how people develop and grow. For your children when your faith becomes their faith, in teenage years and in young adult hood they own heir own faith. It’s not always an easy journey. As someone who is in my fifties and been a Christian for forty years, its encouraging to hear people older in the faith than me and who have been through my life stage speak of how they are still growing and learning. It’s wonderful and important that we share what God is doing in our lives with one another. It’s also as we share our struggles and where we meet God in them that we can help each other.

As we do this says Paul not only will we save ourselves, we will save our hearers and those who look on. That is a difficult phrase to comprehend. Paul is not talking about earning our salvation here, that is always and only through the grace and life of Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection. In Philippians 2: 13 Paul talks of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is the ongoing process of working out in our lives what it means for us to be saved by grace. In the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy it is also in holding strong to the faith in the face of opposition and false teaching that would try and drag us away. Also as in what we say and do we point towards Christ people will see and hear that and the Holy Spirit will use it to draw people to Christ. Our mission statement at St peter’s puts it like this, that we might grow as followers of Jesus and inspire others to join us on the journey.

aul identifying age as an issue in the church at Ephesus is also helpful for us. Intergenerational conflict is one of the main dividers in churches. Music, formality v informality, how children should behave in church, expectations on time, what is important and permanent and what is transitory and changeable, who gets to decide are all often generational things. In my first parish one of our elders a retired farmers wife in her eighties, spoke about the fact that ministers always seemed to be old, until a friend and contemporary of hers left his job as a high school principle and trained as an ordained minister and served at that church. Her experience of church changed, the minister was now a friend and they were really in sync, he met all their expectations as a minister. She stopped talking so I asked the obvious question what it like was having a minister the age of your children. After a silence she said Oh Howard we don’t think of you like that we see you as old… There was much laughter and a little embarrassment for me. But nearly all the conflicts we had in that church were over generational approaches to things. It didn’t help that the Pentecostal church down the road had a leadership team with the same last names as our church, as they were the children of the elder who had moved because things were not going to change.

Very quickly Paul gives us some insights into how to deal with these conflicts. The first is to recognise the faith in people of a different generation, sometimes that’s not all that easy as we have learned to express it in different ways. We need to recognise and affirm the gifts we see in each other. The older to the younger. There is a need also for one generation to be willing to graciously allow the another to take on leadership and lead in their way. Often failure to be willing to let go of power results in leadership simply going elsewhere. But also for those being asked to take on  leadership to have the wisdom to listen and to hear from those who have gone before them, like Timothy listens to paul.   We need also to affirm and acknowledge when we see progress in each other’s lives.  Not just as we see someone grow taller but maybe as we see the way they react and interact with others, and as we are willing to share what God is doing in our lives.

So to conclude, Paul’s message to Timothy is for us all regardless of age. Do not let people put you down because of your age, rather set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Devote yourselves to the reading and preaching and teaching of the word. Do not neglect the gift God has given to you, allow God to identify those things and serve, allow the church to affirm them and do the same for others, be diligent in these matters, watch your life and doctrine, because not only will you save yourself but your hearer as well.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

Training for Godly Living in the face of False Teaching ( 1 Timothy 3:14-4:10)

If you are a sports fan it’s been a great time over the past month or so. We’ve had the winter Olympics from Korea, the cricket season has come to a tense and exciting end at the same time (unless you are a Blues fan) that the super rugby season and league have started off with New Zealand teams doing well. Go the warriors. There was the Parker v. Joshua world heavy weight championship fight, with all its build up and hype, now the commonwealth games over on the gold coast, everyone’s a bit bleary eyed as we are watching that great plethora of different sports and great athletes, celebrating Kiwi success and having to put up with hearing the Australian national anthem a little to much for our liking.

We see in points on the league table, rare series wins over England, unanimous points decisions meaning  millions in prize money and podium finishes with medals awarded the benefits of all the physical training that goes into these achievements.  We rightly applaud the athletes.

Paul in the passage we had read out to us this morning says that physical training is of some value… and when he says that it’s almost as if I feel him turning from his writing to look straight at me… or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit… double underlining it… but says Paul because of the hope we have in our living God, who is the savior of all people, especially those who believe we should pursue  training in Godliness more: lives that reflect the God in whom we believe.

For the last few weeks we’ve taken a break from our journey through 1 Timothy to celebrate Easter. Now we are moving back into it. It’s part of a larger series we’ve been doing looking at the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon) that Paul wrote to other Church leaders wrestling with difficult pastoral situations, encouraging them in their ministry and Christian walk. In that we are hoping to see what the spirit has to say to us today about leadership, about maturity and ministry.

The passage we had read out to us today, is in three sections. The first is like the central message of the letter, it splits the book in half. It’s Pauls summary of all that has gone before about Christian behaviour in worship and prayer, and the character of Christian leaders. And it sets the scene for the rest of the book as Paul goes on to give instruction of how to deal with the false teachers which threatens the mission of the church. In the second section Paul, deals directly with some of the false teaching. Then he moves on to give Timothy instruction on how he is to counter that teaching.

The opening verse is great in helping us set the scene, Paul is travelling and he has sent Timothy to the church in Ephesus to deal with the problem of false teachers in the church there. The wider consequence of dealing with that issue is that the Church, which is the household of God, would act in a way that reflected the basis of their faith. Paul uses a hymn to express the mystery of what is the source of true Godliness. It is a hymn that focuses on the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ.

The lyrics start by talking of Christ appearing in the flesh, with the incarnation, there is a sense that in saying that he appeared that the song acknowledged the pre-existence of Christ, with God in eternity. It may seem strange to us that there is no mention of the crucifixion directly in this song, but when Jesus appeared in the flesh, there is a sense that this covers his earthly life and ministry which climaxes in his death on the cross. it speaks of Jesus life and ministry that we have a record of from those who were eye witnesses.  In the beginning of chapter 2 Paul had talked of the man Jesus Christ, who was the one mediator between God and humanity who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

The second line talks of Jesus being vindicated by the Spirit. Vindicated speaks of being found innocent and exonerated. It points us to the resurrection, God witnesses to Jesus Christ by raising him to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. The final witness to who Jesus Christ is the empty tomb.

Was seen by angels, is also difficult to understand, and we are dealing with lyrics we are dealing with poetry. Some have seen this as speaking of those humans who saw and witnessed the risen Jesus, as angel means messenger, but as Paul will be going on to wrestle with a false understanding of the difference between the physical and the spiritual, we see that it is important for him to point to both the spiritual and human responses to Jesus. We read of angels proclaiming the good news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds in Luke’s gospel, the angel at the tomb that we had in marks gospel who knew Jesus had risen, of course in angelic worship of Jesus is very much in the scripture like in the book of revelation, with the living creatures, the angels and the elders worshipping at the throne.

Then the lyrics go on to tell of the continuing ministry and mission of Jesus, he was preached amongst the nations, and the people in the nations believed in the world. We have Jesus ministry continuing through the preaching of the gospel and changing lives.

Finally, he is taken up into Glory. While this does not fit the ascension chronologically, the song and Paul gather together both the ascension and the future fulfilment of Jesus glory when he will return, again this time in glory. So in this song we have the great mystery of the whole work of Jesus Christ his incarnation, his resurrection, his being preached and believed in and being raised to the right hand of the Father. This is the story which forms the basis of our lives, that is the source of Godly living. Paul had talked of God’s work which is by faith resulting in love. The song expresses that vertical reality of our relationship with God through Christ and he sees it as the source of true Godliness vertically living it out in love.

Paul goes on to contrast that with the false teaching. We have it explained in spiritual terms and human physical terms. There teaching does have a spiritual element, but it does not come from God, it is from deceiving spirits and the demonic. It is anti-Christ, in the case of Ephesus it moves away from the person of Jesus, what he has done for us and his mission in the world to what we do. The church and the gospel are always going to be under attack from the spiritual forces that oppose Christ, who want to hold humanity captive in sin and death. But Paul is quick to note that there is human complicity, here Paul talks of hypocritical liars and those whose consciences have been seared over like a hot iron. In the first century there were people who would travel from place to place and make a living off others peddling their philosophical and theological thoughts and plan and systems for profit, many of them deliberately willing to mislead people for the sake of making money. Here Paul likens the false teachers to these people. Maybe today you just need to look in the newspaper and online and see people advertising this new age spiritual thing or that some even speaking of Jesus without as Paul has said focusing on the life and apostolic faith about Jesus.

I had a friend write me recently concerned about another friend who was getting into the writings of a womenwho claimed to be a medium channelled Jesus, she’d written a book where she says Jesus speaks through her, where he denies the crucifixion and the resurrection, talks of his time in India, learning yoga, and tantric sex, which he practises with his wife Mary Magdalene. She says, he says, that the gospels were false and couldn’t be relied upon. Many people are into this and of course buying her six books, you have to buy all six, and there is no historical basis to it, it steps fully away from historical evidence and Jesus claims to being the son of God to a claim simply channelling a spirit. Forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God are replaced with individual enlightenment. Spiritualists think they are speaking with the spirits of the dead but they are deceived and in contact with deceptive spirits and demons. 

Paul says in Ephesus the focus of the false teaching is not on Christ but on a form of asceticism, where people are forbidden to marry and they are commanded to abstain from certain food. The focus moves away from doing what Christ has said to other practises. Forbidding people to marry may mean not just young people but also doing away with marriage for those who are married. In Corinth, one of the factions believed that the resurrection had already come and so we were spiritual beings now and sex and marriage and gender markers were no longer relevant to Christians. The food laws could connected with Paul’s talk of myths and genealogies may point to the fact that they also had a warped sense of the Jewish food laws. By the second century one of the major heresies in the church was Gnosticism, which had a false dualism between the spiritual and the physical. It saw the physical as shameful and little importance, and the spiritual as important. So much so that they could not see God having anything to do with creating a material world, so built a series of intermediaries in their teaching between God and the world, almost a pantheism of demi-gods. Maybe there is the start of that in what is happening in Ephesus.

Paul's response is to go back to genesis narrative and acknowledge that God made all things good that marriage and sex inside of marriage and food are gifts from God for humanity. They are good and should be welcomed and enjoyed with thanksgiving.  He finishes the paragraph by saying it is consecrated, through the word, God has told us it is good, and through prayer, we have acknowledged God’s goodness in it.

Paul turns to give instruction to Timothy on how to counter these teaching and help the church to be godly he continues to use that by likening the Christian life to the physical training of the athlete.  To be a good minister of Jesus says Paul, hold fast to the truth of the faith, in the Jesus story, not the godless tails of the false teachers. Using the same analogy of an Olympic athlete the writer to Hebrews says ‘et us run the race before us, with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. When you listen to interviews with athletes they will talk of the goals they have set themselves that have driven them and sustained them through the hours of training and practise. For us that is because we have put our hope in he living God, who is the savior of all people. While physical training is of value, paul says that training in godliness is of eternal value. When I heard that I couldn’t help but think of the matra of the current All black coaching staff that good people make good all blacks, great people make great all blacks, even sports people are realising the surpassing importance of character and substance.

Sadly Paul does not set out for us a training regime in his letter. It would have been good if he did, and we could talk of spiritual practises and exercises and routines that help us to develop. But in this passage we have one specifically mentioned. Thanksgiving, recognising and acknowledging all the good things that God has done for us. From the food we eat to if you are married your spouse, they are a gift from God, but also with the inclusion of that song at the heart of his letter, thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us. It is living that gratitude for God’s love and Christ’s forgiveness and new life, and the Holy spirits presence that motivates and compels us to listen to Jesus and to do what he has said and to respond to that love with love for others. We sang rend collectives ‘counting every blessing in our service today, and it highlights the spiritual discipline of acknowledging all God has done for us, to help focus us on God’s goodness even when we are going through difficulties. Maybe we have things the wrong way when we think of blessings and difficulties, we think the difficulties are the  things there first, and God’s blessings counter them but in my devotions this week I read a comment from Bishop Sandy Millar that No Blessing goes uncontested, god’s blessings are there first, Gods provision, God’s presence, God’s love shown through Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness, God’s enabling and empowering, giving thanks allows us to see that clearly.

Paul’s instructions to Timothy tell us living a godly life, springs out of the Jesus story: his life, his death his resurrection and his ongoing mission. That that is the best remedy for falsehood and false teaching. It is the gospel truth believed and expressed: a life where our faith, results in love. It’s not easy, Paul finishes by talking about labour and striving, just like athletes do to achieve the prize and goals they set themselves and that we honour them for. They set goals for physical achievement but we have placed our hope in the living God, who is the saviour of all people, remember Paul had talked of God’s desire that all be saved and especially of those who believe, that results in eternal reward and us hearing “well done good and faithful servant" from the one who was taken up into glory.