Summary: God gives us the resources to face the uncertain times we may face. Paul's brief word to Timothy gives us insight into how we can face challenges from our health, our financial situation, or our culture. The three key terms in the text provide the key.
Staying Steady in Unsteady Times
For years now, I’ve met almost every Thursday for lunch with a couple other pastors. We usually talk about all kinds of important things. We discuss Biblical and theological issues. We discuss the state of the church in America. We discuss politics. We discuss what’s happening on Dancing with the Stars. You know, important stuff.
The past couple of times we’ve met, though, we haven’t been able to get away from one subject: the economy. Each of us has seen retirement funds shrink. We all know people who’ve lost jobs. Our own churches or churches we know are facing financial challenges.
You could probably tell me that it’s not just pastors who are discussing the economy. Rumor has it that Hollywood types are cutting back on Oscar parties. That probably means they’re buying their caviar online, like the rest of us do.
Anxiety seems rampant these days. School nurses are reviewing how to spot depression and anxiety in children, children who are overhearing what their parents are saying.
We’re fearful of growing older, fearful of losing our edge, fearful of failing, fearful to things we cannot even name…..
Paul’s young protégé Timothy knew fear. His may have been the fear of failing as a minister, fear of ridicule, fear of the Roman authorities. We don’t know.
In any case, Paul’s words remind him and us that a life permeated by fear is not what God intended for us. “God,” he says, “has not given us a spirit of fear.” The word could be translated “cowardice.” What Paul told Timothy lets us know that the Christian faith isn’t just for the ‘sweet by and by,’ it’s for the not so sweet here and now.
Though these may be unsteady days, we don’t have to be unsteady.
WE MAY STAY STEADY IN UNSTEADY TIMES
You may start to feel unsteady when you think you’re unequal to the task.
It’s a problem we may face at any age and at any time. But it’s a real problem during unsteady times. You may wonder if you will be able to handle changes and challenges that these times bring. Will you be able to balance your budget or pay your bills? Sometimes you may wonder if you can handle a job change, learn the new tasks, and get along with a new gang of co-workers. Start feeling unsteady in a situation like this and you’ll approach the situation with the sense that failure is inevitable, that success is not an option, that you won’t be able to do what needs to be done.
It’s a feeling which has caused some to say “no” to opportunities to serve God in the church and elsewhere. It’s a feeling that makes you say “why bother” when you have to face new challenges.
We don’t have to succumb to that fear.
The word “power” implies more than just raw, untamed energy. It means the capacity to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
Timothy faced the task of leading the Ephesian church through some of the most difficult years in its history. Aware of this, Paul used one word that told him, “With God’s help you can do it.”
Certainly we can apply this principle to doing the work of the church, but I believe it also lets us know that God will enable us to do what we fear is impossible to do, to face the challenge we never expected, never wanted.
WE MAY STAY STEADY IN UNSTEADY TIMES
Does it seem strange to include “love” in the list of resources to help us stay steady?
We know better, but when we face troubles in times like this, we may begin to think God has stopped loving us.
Paul wants us to know we can be confident of God’s love. His love abides.
Nothing life throws at us can separate us from the love of God.
In another context, Paul spoke about this love. His words have inspired martyrs, missionaries, and simple saints for centuries. They’re found in Romans 8. Listen to The Message paraphrase:
35. Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?
36. (Even the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep." )
37. No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
We can keep on because we know the love of God remains unchanged.
English poet Edith Sitwell was born into a wealthy, aristocratic home. She was a bright child but singularly unattractive; she knew she was unattractive because her mother told her.