Reflect, Remember, Remind and Ramain
(Transcript of speech given in the tenth anniversary celebration of Sanjay and Asmita Diwe of their ministries in Amaravati City (Mahrashtra) on 5 June 2016)
Paul writes to Timothy is a very personal, intimate and loving manner. Life a father, Paul writes to Timothy. These three counsels are relevant to any Christian leader today.
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (II Timothy 2:3-7) Paul urges Timothy to reflect to get more insights. Paul calls Timothy to join him in suffering. Ministry and mission is a call to suffering.
- Soldier: Devotion
Soldier does not entangle in ordinary civilian affairs. A soldier has a higher calling. Hence, his consecration is rather different. What ordinary people can do, a soldier cannot do or supposed to do. Paul states that a soldier always tries to please his commanding officer. A good soldier does not wait for the Commanding Officer to dictate orders, he discerns by himself. The three mighty men were not dictated or directed to bring water from Bethlehem which was under Philistine siege, but discerned David’s desire and brought water from that well. (I Chronicles 11:15-19) These three mighty men were singled out, because they went on an expedition about which the whole army did not know about. Great leaders in the Church History are like these three mighty men who discern and do great things, which the rest of the crowd misses.
- Athlete: Discipline
An athlete has to compete according to rules. First, the rules are ordained by God. There is a difference being in the audience and an athlete in the arena. A person in the audience can wear any dress, but an athlete should wear only appropriate and essential apparel that would facilitate him to run the race effectively. Audience can come in at any time and go at any time. An athlete has to very punctual. People in the audience can enjoy any kind of food, but an athlete cannot. A person in the audience need to go for practice each day, but an athlete has to.
Second, the route (track) is ordained by God. There are no shortcuts. The route will have mountain peaks, valleys of death, panoramic views, dangers, distractions, deviations. A disciplined athlete is focused. A Christian leader is expected to know the track in which he has been called to run. Other tracks seem to be exciting and thrilling, but he cannot trespass into others.
Third, the athlete also should run in the right direction. An athlete cannot run in the opposite direction. A leader should know where he is going and should be able to take along others with him. There is a story about a prominent hotel in Mumbai that was designed in such a way to be viewed from the ships approaching the sea port. The architect sent the plan and it was executed perfectly. However, the sea front hotel was built in the reverse direction that the back side of the hotel was visible from the ship. The architect seeing the hotel built in the wrong direction, committed suicide. The building was right with all speculations but the direction was wrong.
- Farmer: Diligence
A farmer is expected to work hard, long hours under the burning sun. Physical sturdiness, mental strength, positive attitude, passionate commitment and willingness to work alone are traits of a farmer. Only those who are diligent could stand before kings. (Proverbs 22:29) The Bible warns against slackness. Doing the work of God with slackness will invite the curse of God. (Jeremiah 48:10) A Christian leader cannot be lazy, lethargic and lukewarm.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (II Timothy 2: 8-10)
Paul focuses always on the suffering, cross and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without that, there is no Christian faith. Suffering could restrain us, confine us, confuse us, hinder us, and block us. Paul says that he was treated like a criminal. Suffering is part of our call. (Phil 1:29) However, Paul says the Word of God cannot be chained. The mission and ministry of God is not dependent on us, however, God uses us in our weakness.
Paul states that he endures the suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Running away from suffering is not a wise thing. Sulking under suffering does not make any difference. Murmuring in pain does not alleviate our agony. We have to give thanks for everything in every circumstances, (I Thess 5:18) because we know for sure that all things work together for good for those who love him. (Romans 8: 28) Endurance not with resignation or bemoaning our fate, but with rejoicing and thanksgiving is Christian life.
- Be faithful
Paul exhorts Timothy to be faithful. It is not that our faithfulness will earn his faithfulness. God is faithful even when we are not faithful. However, remember God has trusted and entrusted this ministry. (I Timothy 1:12) When our friends cannot trust us for even Rs. 100, God gave us the ministry of eternal significance and consequence.
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (II Timothy 2:14-19)
- No Quarrel:
Paul reminds Timothy of his important ministry. He should not be distracted by quarrelling about words, vocabulary certain terms. They are of no value or useful for edification. In fact, it ruins both the speaker and listener. Do not argue about non-essentials focus on essentials. Paul says, it is waste of time, and energy that would not edify any person.
- No Godless chatter
False teachers teaching is godless chatter and it spreads like gangrene. There are four individuals who are examples for godless chatter: Hymenaeus, Philetus (II Timothy 2:17-18), Jannes and Jambres (II Timothy 3:8). The first two taught that ‘the resurrection has already taken place’ and wandered away from truth. The other two were Egyptian magicians who produced counterfeit miracles and opposed ministry of Moses. Old wives fables is another category of Godless chatter. (I Timothy 4:7) Idle babblings and contradictions are also godless chatter. (I Timothy 6:20)
- Solid foundation of God’s Word
For a Christian bible becomes the foundation of our thoughts, worldview, values, ethos, priorities, choices and decisions. While the world is crazy about emptying the mind (yoga) or silencing your thoughts (transcendental meditation) the Bible teaches to ‘renew the mind’ (Romans 12:2). Renewal of mind implies that our minds are overcrowded or full. We have to delete that occupies our mind as we delete photos from our digital camera. Our mind has worldview, values and thoughts that are filled with ideas from culture, media, traditions, society and peers. Our task is to delete those and fill with the Truth from the Scripture.
IV Remain as Holy instruments
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (II Timothy 2:20, 21)
- Special purposes
Paul encourages Timothy to be like a vessel that is used for special purposes. In a house, there would be a variety of vessels. All vessels are not of the same material or shape or purposes. Some vessels are for common use while others are for special purposes. God wants us to be vessels of special and unique purpose.
Whatever may be the purpose, the vessels have to clean and holy. Dirty, untidy, rusted, broken, cracked vessels cannot be used. Only consecrated, holy, and clean vessels could be used. Holiness should be the motto, watch word and mark of our life.
- Useful and Prepared
The vessel has to be prepared so that it is useful. God prepares us daily to become his useful vessel. The preparation helps a person to become mature, grow in faith, grace, learn new skills. Useless vessels would be thrown out as they occupy space in our homes. We have to remain useful vessels in the Kingdom of God.
It is always good to stop, listen, reflect and get renewed. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high like eagles. They will run and will not be weary. They will walk and will not faint. (Isaiah 40: 31) Times like birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations are opportunities for reflections that results in renewal.