As I reflect on these lessons, I think that a very big part of what it means to share the Gospel is not just about bringing the word of God to those who haven’t heard it. That is important, but encouraging those who already know of God’s work in the world to persevere in their faith and to stay focused on truth is also important and often a lot harder to do. Sometimes it is just easier to start a new mission congregation in a developing country than it is to keep a 100 year old congregation together in America’s heartland. Sometimes those older congregations can lose sight of what is really important and begin arguing with each other over little things. These disputes are a kind of unfaithfulness. And being in the midst of it and trying to focus on what is really important can feel like being held in chains. It can bring suffering.
So what is important? Jesus tells us that it is love. The Psalmist tells us that it is truth, humility, kindness, and constancy in keeping the commandments. Paul says it is remaining upright and acceptable to God. That can make martyrs of us all if we take it seriously. There isn’t one day that goes by where we are not challenged to deny the power of the Gospel. There isn’t one day where we don’t back off in some way from the full glory of living out our faith by demonstrating less than what God expects from us in truth, humility, kindness, constancy, and love.
So Paul’s words to us today are to encourage us to stay the course, to persevere. We remember his struggles and those of all the martyrs who remained faithful, even to death. Will we follow them to the extent that we will be imprisoned and die for our faith? Probably not. We’re not all called to be martyrs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hear the words of Jesus and apply all of our understanding and strength to loving the Lord, our neighbors, and ourselves at the levels God expects from us. And like Paul and Timothy, we are all called to more fully demonstrate truth, humility, kindness, constancy and love to those around us, especially in our own congregations, where we work, and in our neighborhoods and our families. So today I pray that all of us will see the challenges of our faith in our day to day lives right where we are and persevere where the going gets rough.
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