Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day Three: Arsenal

The WORD of the Day:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 
--2 Timothy 1:7 

Let Me Give You a Lift:

In the first chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul is writing to his young brother about how blessed he is that his mother and grandmother raised him to know God, and how that knowledge is something to lean into for strength. (The apostle Timothy might be the poster-child for how important it is to teach values to our children; Paul credits the women in Timothy's family for making him the good man he is; but that is a different message for a different day).  

Sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed by the world around us. Everything can seem so big, so many times have you found yourself saying "How am I ever going to..."  But Paul's message to Timothy in the verse above is simple: because God made you capable.  Later in the same letter, Paul tells Timothy than he is "thoroughly equipped for every good work."  God did not make man to live afraid, and when we find ourselves fearful (or anxious, or bitter, or any of the other things that go along with being concerned for ourselves) he gave us these tools to rely on: power, love, and a sound mind.  

Power is perhaps the simplest of them all to understand, in that it is the ability to accomplish.  We can DO things about our situation, about injustices, about things we want to change.  We are not stuck afraid. We are able to change and to make change.

A sound mind, likewise, is easy to understand. We have the ability to make judgments between multiple paths to take, and to identify the right one. We can also identify the difference between judgment informed by a heart of wisdom versus judgment informed by emotions of the moment that might be fleeting.  We can choose not to be afraid. 

Love is the most complex of the three, and the most powerful. It is our own love that drives us to search for the right and to do it.  It makes us consider what is best for our families, our communities, people in need, and ourselves; and often it is the push we need to act on the right once we have identified it.  But even greater still is God's love, which helps us to chart our path.  Knowing God is power because when I know of God's great love for me,  I know I don't need to be afraid. I know there is a way out of whatever is troubling me, and I know He will help me find it.

Two final thoughts.  First, I think that one reason Paul juxtaposed the idea of fear (which we are not) with power, love, and a sound mind (which we are) is to give us a clue about what to do when we find ourselves afraid.  The antidote for the fear is often the tools in the arsenal, and using them not only makes us good and productive, but also chases away the fear.

Second, I think Paul's message here is another way to sum up the whole of Christianity.  Jesus said that the two greatest commands are (1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and (2) love your neighbor as yourself.  Here, Paul is saying this: God gave us everything we need to do those things--power, love, and a sound mind--and all we have to do is use them well. Don't live afraid. Live well.  

Give it a Listen:

The song I chose for today is Finding Favour's “Slip On By”. This is a great song (a bit of a tear jerker) about the importance of priorities.  So often we get caught up in what is right in front of us--work, stress, finances, you name it, really--and forget about the things that are really important.  The song comes from an actual conversation that the singer had with his grandfather one day while they were fishing and talking about life.  It is just a little reminder that, every day, we should take a deep breath and meditate on what is important--and then act in line with those priorities. 

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