I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: A Need to be Aware of Our Times
An article from the Magazine 'Our Daily Bread' had this to say a few years ago:
"In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, "I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, 'Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?'" Rader continued, "I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr, and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in the Apostle Paul's heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome." Those early Christians "lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back."
I think Mr. Rader was right. The early Christians, at least the ones that had consistent lives that glorified Jesus Christ, constantly lived knowing that this earth wasn't their home. They knew that there is something better ahead. And this fact is one of the the major things that helped them to live in a world that is no friend to Jesus Christ.
As we learned earlier in chapter 3 of II Timothy, Paul calls the times in which we are living, between the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the moment He comes back to this world again, 'perilous times.'
In America we have been lulled to sleep by the Judeo-Christian culture in which we have been living that gives us freedoms unknown to most throughout history. None of us have gone through the persecutions that the early church knew, or that believers in other cultures know today.
We mustn't take it for granted and we shouldn't think that it could never be stripped away. There are those out there who don't want any type of religion to exist or to have any place in our culture. And they have a hatred for Christianity especially. If you don't believe that then read some of the writings of atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or the late Christopher Hitchens. If people like these in numbers get any sort of political power, our constitutional rights could be taken away.
Further, if we continue to slide away from our Judeo-Christian worldview that has governed our land for nearly two and a half centuries, we will see more people who are militant haters of what God says is good.
In II Timothy 3:10-17 we have a continuation by the Apostle Paul of his final instructions, before his death at the hands of the Romans, to his young friend Timothy who is the pastor-teacher in Ephesus. Timothy is his spiritual son in the faith and he wants to warn this faithful man of what he will be experiencing as he attempts to live a godly life for the Lord.
There are two key ingredients that should be cultivated in order to successfully navigate life, both in the perilous times in which Paul lived as well as the times we are still living in today. Let's delve into these ingredients.
I. Looking at Faithful Role Models (10-14)
The first thing that Paul reminds Timothy of, starting in verse 10, is that he has had role models, including Paul himself, that have been able to live successfully, and to remain faithful to the Lord and His Word, despite opposition. Paul isn't talking about idolizing men or women here. Even the best person isn't perfect and is never to be put above God. He is simply saying that there are faithful people that have gone on before him, who were able to do what he was seeking to accomplish. And he can learn from how they handled their lives. The Apostle gives himself as an example of who to follow. Here is what Paul says:
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them."
The Greek word for 'persecutions' here literally means; 'to be put to flight.' If you remember from the book of Acts, Paul had been forced to flee from Damascus (Acts 9:23-25). Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50). Iconium (Acts 14:6), Thessalonica (Acts 17:10) and Berea (Acts 17:14).
Timothy was a native of Lystra (Acts 16:1) so we can see why Paul mentions the persecutions that he had undergone in the cities of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Timothy would have been very familiar with what went on in these places.
These cities were among the first in which Paul preached in his missionary journeys and they weren't pleasant experiences. It was in Lystra that Paul was stoned and left for dead. We see from Acts 14, during Paul's first missionary journey that in Lystra, the people tried to worship Paul and Barnabas as the gods Zeus and Hermes (14:12-13) but were later persuaded to turn against them by Jews from Antioch and Iconium. Acts 14:19 tells us:
"Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead."
After they drug Paul out of the city, the Scripture says that his disciples were standing around him. Then verse 19, in a matter-if-fact manner, tells us that while the disciples were standing there, Paul simply stood up and entered the city. And the next day he and Barnabas went into Derbe. (14:20-21).
No amount of persecution kept Paul from doing what God had called him to do. Furthermore, the Apostle tells Timothy:
"And out of them all the Lord rescued me!" (11).
Paul then warns Timothy that:
"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (12-13).
There will be people out there that will hate you for no reason other than the fact that your godly life makes their life look awful in comparison. They are opposed to God and to His rule over their lives, and you remind them that there is someone beyond them to whom they must give an account.
Evil people will continue to go from bad to worse. They may seem to be doing well but we must not let them, or their temporary lifestyle affect the way we serve and follow Christ. Even if they live 100 years and lead a life of ease, eternity will be long and their folly will soon become evident at the judgement when they will have to give an account before Christ.
Paul goes on and tells Timothy:
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them." (14).
Timothy was able to witness Paul's character, and see someone in a successful fight against this evil age. He learned that it is possible to do this because he knew someone personally who was doing it.
Not only Paul, but we learned in chapter 1 of this book that Timothy had his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice that consistently lived a godly lifestyle before him as well, while he was growing up (1:4,5).
Timothy had no reason to say that it can't be done. These and many more, with God's help, had been able to withstand the evil age and come out victors in the Lord's eyes.
Most of us have those godly examples in our lives as well. We can follow them as they followed Christ. But if you don't think you've had such an example, then, by all means, seek to be that role model for someone else, just as Paul and these ladies were for Timothy. This world has way too many pictures of what not to do. It's time that there were more on the side of God and good, showing people what to do to lead a truly successful life.
Also, if you don't have role models available to you in your everyday life then seek them out. That is one of the reasons we meet on a regular basis as members of the Body of Christ. We were never meant to live this life alone. In our church family, hopefully, we can find one person whom we admire for their godly character who can mentor us on our journey or whose life will inspire us.
And the Paul-like figure that we are seeking doesn't necessarily have to be living today. It might even be someone we've only met through the pages of a biography who may inspire us to live as God would have us to do. If you find such a person then, by all means, read everything you can about that individual and seek to follow all the parts of his or her life in which that historical figure remained faithful to the Lord. We can learn a lot from the great saints of the past.
This leads us to the second key ingredient for a successful Christian life in perilous times. All those whom we see and want to emulate in their walk with the Lord were able to do what they did because they had an intimate knowledge and love for the Word of God.
II. An Intimate Knowledge of Holy Scriptures (15-17)
Paul reminds Timothy of the great things that he probably learned from his godly grandmother and mother. He learned to read, study and memorize the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle tells this young man:
"And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
The sad truth is that today the average Christian takes the Bible for granted. They confess that it is the Word of God with their lips and has the power to save us and give us eternal life. However, their actions say otherwise. In fact, research tells us that, of over 2 billion Christians in the world, less than 30% will ever read through the entire Bible. The fact is over 82% of Christian Americans only read their Bibles on Sundays while in church.
We are living in a biblically illiterate society. And, from these statistics, the disheartening truth is that many Christians are just as bad off as everyone else. Because of this there seems to be just as many people who profess Christ who are in the same boat as everyone else spiritually. Is it any wonder that believers, on average, are having many of the same spiritual problems with sin as the rest of the world and often act just like this society that opposes God?
It was Charles Spurgeon that once said that:
"A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't."
We must take God's Word seriously! Without it, this perilous, savage and cruel world in which we are living can tear us apart.
The Apostle Paul uses the rest of this section in chapter 3 to explain to Timothy exactly what Scripture is and what it does for the believer.
The very first thing that we need to know it that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God. This word 'inspiration" literally means God-breathed.
Biblical inspiration is the doctrine that the authors and editors of the Bible were led or influenced by God with the result that their writings may be designated as the Word of God. Sometimes God gave the writers the exact words to say. But more often He used their minds, vocabularies and experiences to produce His own perfect infallible and inerrant Word.
When we hold a Bible in our hands or read it online in some fashion, we are not holding a common book from a fallible human. We are holding God's Word to us today.
When we start to take this book seriously, it can literally change our lives for the better. And it will help us to remain spiritually strong and vital in this perilous and sinful world in which we find ourselves.
But just how does this Divinely inspired book profit the believer? Paul gives several ways.
He says first that it is profitable for doctrine or teaching. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, when correctly handled, provide the believer with the comprehensive and complete body of Divine truth for life and godliness.
It's also good for reproof. This is rebuke for wrong behavior or wrong belief. The Word of God exposes sin and allows the sinner to deal with it through repentance and confession.
Scripture also corrects us. This word means the restoration of something to its proper condition. This is the only place in the New Testament that this word appears. However, in secular literature, it is used of righting a fallen object or helping someone who has stumbled back to their feet. So the Word not only rebukes wrong behavior. It also helps us back to godly living.
The final profitable thing that Paul teaches about the Word of God is that it trains or instructs us in righteousness. The Greek from which this phrase was translated was originally used in the training of a child in godly behavior. Scripture, not only rebukes and corrects but it helps us to know how to positively behave in life as well.
And Scripture does all of these things so that:
"The man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (3:17).
Since Paul is talking with pastor Timothy, he uses the technical term 'man of God' here which indicates an official preacher of divine truth. An intimate knowledge of Scripture makes him adequate or capable of everything that he is called to do. And it equips him for every good work. It enables him to meet the demands of a godly ministry and enables him in godly living. Though this is said of the man of God, every believer who loves and studies the Word will get the same benefits in their lives as well.
Indeed, the Bible is the most important book ever written because it's Author is divine and it gives us everything we need to know for life and godliness, as well as entrance into the next life. An unknown author put it this way:
"This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.
It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.
What a grand statement for a priceless book!
When it comes right down to it, we are indeed living in perilous, savage times. And it can get overwhelming. However, we are not put here by ourselves. We have, within the Body of Christ, those who are beautiful examples of following God and His Word, living a life that is pleasing to our Lord despite great trials.
And we have the Word of God, given by inspiration of the Lord, that teaches, reproves, corrects and trains us in righteousness. It equips us to do all that God would have us do despite the great opposition.
Also, Paul doesn't speak of it here but he does elsewhere. We have God's Holy Spirit, living in us who gives us the power to do what we cannot do apart from His might. He makes us capable of obeying the Word that He also inspired.
So, no matter what happens to us in this world, we mustn't be fearful. They may harm us. They may even kill us, like they did the Apostle Paul. However, though they take our lives, they can never take our salvation. And they cannot rob us of the eternal rewards promised to those who love Christ and are anticipating His return for them.
Faith in Jesus Christ and His Word, is the victory that overcomes the world. Since the beginning of the Church, many have proved this fact with their lives. Now it is our turn to do the same. Let us be faithful until we are taken home in death or taken up to meet our Lord in the rapture. And may Christ be pleased with us, when we see Him in all His glory!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on November 01, 2020:
You're welcome Bill. Welcome back!!
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on November 01, 2020:
Hi, Jeff. My computer has been down for the past two months. It's good to be back and check out your articles again. Thanks for sharing your study with us!