I’ll continue sharing my reflections on how Paul guided Timothy when he was facing discouragement, from the book of 2 Timothy. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already. I address these to others, but first to myself.
9. Remind and challenge people not to “strive about words to no profit.” (2:14)
Sometimes a pastor’s discouragement comes because there is disunity in the church, or a lack of commitment to the core truths that we all hold in common. People can become divided over secondary or even relatively minor issues. This may be a signal to the pastor that he should speak to the church family about focusing on the fundamental truths of Scripture and on the person and work of Christ.
10. Be diligent in the Word – to please God, not man. (2:15)
A hurting pastor may become sensitive to what people think of his messages and craft them to either confront his critics or to appease them. Either one is dangerous. He must be motivated to please God first. His responsibility is not primarily to get man’s approval on his study and delivery of the Word, but God’s. He should always be open to suggestions about how to improve his preaching, but not be unduly influenced by what others think. As stated before, the Word is the primary agent through which God does His work in the life of the church.
11. Reject “profane and idle babblings.” (2:16)
While diligently digging in the Word, the pastor should avoid the temptation to introduce popular ideas and people-pleasing messages that arise from celebrity ministries, religious profiteers and false teachers. Don’t fall prey to pragmatism, repeating the messages and ideas that seem to get attention and grow crowds. Reject them.
12. Flee youthful lusts. (2:22)
We tend to look for comfort in sensual pleasure when we’re hurting or discouraged. We may have been exposed to something when younger (“youthful”) that created an appetite that can still be aroused later in life, especially during times of pressure and pain. Food, alcohol, porn, tobacco, remembering and reliving an immoral relationship – these can become temptations when we’re down. Also, we become susceptible to acting in pride, following selfish ambition, and responding to people in anger. In the power of the Spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ, turn away from these. Do not be controlled by them.
13. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace along with others who sincerely . . . (2:22)
What should I pursue?
- Righteousness – what conforms to God’s will; generally doing what is right vs. what is wrong, as I may be tempted to do
- Faith – Simple, continuing trust in God, not only as my Savior, but as my Father, my Comforter, my Chief Shepherd, and my Friend.
- Love – My tendency is to be selfish, do what pleases and is comfortable and rewarding to me. I need to turn my thoughts outward and think of the people around me, starting with my family. Engage in things that are unselfish, that benefit others without any benefit for me. This can include little things – chores around the house, words of kindness and encouragement, praying for people in specific ways. It can also include big things – taking a meal, making a visit, calling or texting, gathering a team and doing a project.
- Peace – Don’t nurse grudges. Give up resentments. If needed, write to or talk with people you are angry, resentful, or bitter against. Make a list. Purge your heart and mind of bitterness.
He says, “with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” My tendency is to isolate myself. I think that’s the tendency of introverts and sensitive souls like Timothy. Be proactive in planning time with “others.” Have conversations with them about how to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Enlist them in praying for you. Keep it up over months of time.
I’ll share more of these lessons from 2 Timothy in future posts.