What do you do when you see a storm coming? You take shelter. Well, you do if you have any sense at all of danger. There are some people who think it’s fun to stand outside in the rain (you know them, the sports fanatics that are determined to finish the game!). Haven’t you ever heard the saying, “He doesn’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain?”
God’s creation (the physical reality we live in) is a reflection of spiritual realities in so many ways, and dark skies, threatening clouds, and the sound of thunder and flash lightning are especially clear. When a storm is coming, you take shelter.
I was reminded of this principle this morning as I finished reading 1 Timothy for the second time in two days. It’s such a short little letter, an encouragement from Paul the apostle to his young mentor/disciple Timothy, who he has left to pastor in Ephesus. That idea of approaching storms is on my mind a lot these days, and not just mine. It is a recurring theme in many Christians’ thoughts as we watch the Bible prophecies about the end of the age unfolding right before our eyes. God’s people know the storm is coming.
In 2 Timothy 3:1 (we’ll read this passage tomorrow), Paul warns Timothy about the difficult times that will come in the last days. In this first letter, he sets the stage for how Christ-followers, believers, the true church of Jesus Christ, ought to live in anticipation of and in the midst of the coming storm.
There’s too much meat in these six chapters to contain in a blog post, but in a nutshell, Paul reveals his purpose in writing in 1 Timothy 3:15 – But in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
The church – us, as believers – is the pillar and support of the truth. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ, that God is building. We stand for, and stand on, the truth, demonstrating to the lost world who God is, why Jesus came, and everything else in God’s Word – His revelation of Himself.
This great privilege and responsibility – to stand for and stand on the truth in a dying world is the reason for all the encouragement, admonition, and challenges Paul gives Timothy as he leads and teaches the believers. It’s the why for the what. The “what” are the specific instructions on how to live (please read the letter for yourself so you know what God expects!).
There are a couple of themes running throughout this letter. The first is the matter of living “above reproach.”
Elders are to be above reproach (3:2).
Deacons are to be beyond reproach (3:10).
Widows are to be above reproach (5:7).
Young women are to give no occasion for reproach (5:14).
Believers are to keep the commandments of Jesus without stain or reproach (6:14).
This idea of being blameless, living above reproach (any hint of sin or cause for the world to accuse us) is directly tied to Paul’s second theme, which I sum up as diligence. Paul is not expecting sinless perfection but is challenging the desires of our hearts and the focus of our lives.
We are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (4:7).
We are to labor and strive for godliness because we have fixed our hope on the living God (4:10).
We are to take pains with these things…be absorbed in them so that our progress will be evident to all (4:15).
We are to pay close attention to ourselves and our teaching (4:16).
We are to persevere in these things (4:16).
We are to fight the good fight of faith (6:12).
We are to take hold of the eternal life to which we are called (6:12).
We are to guard what has been entrusted to us (6:20).
In this letter, Paul touches on our conduct, purity, holiness, attitudes toward one another, love of worldly things, pursuit of money, speech, doctrine, leisure time, relationships, family dynamics, and roles in the church. He speaks to practically every aspect of our daily lives and gives instruction on how they are to reflect the salvation in which we walk. We are to please God and stand for, and stand in, the truth. The point is, while the Holy Spirit is the One empowering us and living out this life in us, it takes some diligence and effort on our part.
Discipline…labor…strive…take pains…pay close attention…persevere…fight…take hold…guard.
The storms of the end of the age are coming. Our faith is already being tested, and many will fall away. Godliness doesn’t just “happen.” We don’t “fall into” spiritual growth. If we follow the natural desires of our flesh, we will find ourselves far from God, believing the lies and deception of our enemy, and fall away in the times of difficulty that are certain to come.
The storm is on the horizon. We see the dark clouds of deception and hear the thunder of the plans Satan has for our world. Seek the shelter of the firm, unwavering, eternal Word of God. Draw near to Him and flee from any hint of evil. Live above reproach. Let no stain or hint of sin remain. Spend your time and energy and effort and diligence on pursuing Christ. Stand firm on the truth. Stand for the truth. Do not be afraid of the storm because you have taken refuge in the only safe place.