Summary: Three reasons why accurate beliefs are essential to a deepened life with God.
People are now calling September 11, 2001 "Black Tuesday." For many people that day was a wake up call. Attendance in churches across the nation spiked sharply the Sunday after September 11, as people poured into churches like this to try to find answers. In fact our attendance that Sunday was the largest non-Easter Sunday we’ve ever had at Life Bible Fellowship Church. I know one family who tried to come to Sunday morning 9:30 service and couldn’t find a parking place, so they came back for the 11:00 service and still couldn’t find a parking place. They never did make it beyond the parking lot.
But not only is attendance up, but people are also seeking spiritual answers to the deep questions they’re experiencing. Since September 11, Newsweek reports that Bible sales have gone up 28%. Lots of ordinarily non-religious people have become active seekers after God in light of the events of the last few weeks. They’re asking spiritual questions they weren’t asking before. They’re looking to find God, perhaps the God they learned about as a child in church, or perhaps the God they never knew.
Yet I’m afraid that for many people this seeking process will turn out to be short lived. Events like what we experienced on September 11 create a momentary sense of urgency. But when the moment passes and our illusion of safety and routine is restored, our sense of urgency fades into the background. Soon we’re back to work, back to PTA meetings, soccer matches, carpooling, and yard work. Although we were sincere at the time about seeking God, slowly our motivation dissipates.
Do you know what makes a tumbleweed so susceptible to the wind? Tumbleweeds only put down one root, and that root is very shallow. So tumbleweeds are easily uprooted when the wind blows. Soon the tumbleweed is blowing wherever the wind pushes it, without any sense of direction or stability.
Contrast a tumbleweed with a tree, like a sequoia, that puts down lots of roots and these roots go deep. Even in the midst of strong winds, sequoias stand firm, because their root structure is strong and deep.
Is your spiritual life more like a tumbleweed or a sequoia? If you only have one or two roots in your spiritual life and these roots don’t go very deep, you’re more like a tumbleweed. And when the winds of life come, the winds of suffering and tragedy, or the breeze of business and routine, you’ll be easily uprooted. But if you have deep spiritual roots, you’ll find yourself standing firm no matter what comes into your life. Even though life doesn’t hurt any less for you and even though you still struggle with the same questions and issues everyone asks, your faith keeps you strong. You face uncertainty with courage, suffering with hope, and tragedy with confidence because you roots go deep.
How deep are your roots? Are you more like a tumbleweed or a sequoia?
This weekend we start a new sermon series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy in the Bible. These two books from the Bible were written by the apostle Paul, the guy who wrote 13 of the 27 books found within the New Testament. Paul had once been a fanatical religious zealot who’s passion in life was to exterminate Christians. But one day on the road to the city of Damascus, Paul’s life changed forever. That day Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul and Jesus called Paul to become an apostle of Jesus. Paul was never the same, as he became a leader in the first century Christian church, traveling around to start churches and share the good news of Jesus Christ with whoever would listen.
Paul writes these two letters of 1 and 2 Timothy to a coworker named Timothy. Timothy was raised in an interfaith home, with a mom who was Jewish and a dad who was a pagan Roman soldier. Timothy grew up in the city of Lystra, a kind of backwater village in outskirts of the Roman empire. Paul first met Timothy when Timothy was in his late teens or early 20s on one of Paul’s church planting trip. Later Paul invited Timothy to join his team, and gradually Paul trusted several important tasks to Timothy. Now as Paul approaches the end of his life as he writes these final two letters before his death, Timothy is the heir apparent to Paul’s ministry.
Now Paul writes Timothy while Timothy is acting as a kind of temporary pastor in the church in the city of Ephesus. As we’ll see, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to deal with some major problems that was destroying the church in the city of Ephesus. Paul started the church in Ephesus on one of his church planting trips. Ephesus was a large city in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. It was a major city, with its primary claim to fame being the temple to the Greek fertility god Artimus. This massive temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and tourists traveled from all over the Roman empire to see the temple and buy souvenirs. Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians that we have in the Bible as the book of Ephesians. But these two letters Paul writes to Timothy are also letters to the Ephesian church. As we’ll see, Paul expects the church to read these letters as well as Timothy.