By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
We returned from a vacation where we saw the ocean and mountains, both compelling and yet foreboding. We feel drawn to each of those, but realize the power and awesomeness of each.
For some reason, I also equate being a Christian to that: it’s one of the greatest opportunities in the world but there are times we fail and are afraid to try again.
If you’re ever in need of a lift, there’s a fun video on YouTube entitled, “Thumbs up for rock and roll” featuring a little guy giving encouragement to kids learning to ride a bike. There are people who can put a damper on things, and others like him who know how to influence and encourage.
For the Christian, Jesus offers strengthening grace.
The apostle Paul wrote a number of letters, with 2 Timothy probably his last epistle written from prison in Rome shortly before he died a martyr. The recipient was a young pastor in Ephesus, a cosmopolitan city of that day. Timothy grew up with a Godly heritage from his mother and grandmother, but there’s no mention of a father. Paul became his spiritual mentor, and addressed the letter to “my dearly beloved son.”
When I first became a Christian, there were people in my family and church who were supportive. Later, we served in a congregation where we were blessed to have members who took an interest in our children, sometimes inviting them to lunch individually or attending their sports events. One lady even became a “secret sister” to our daughter, showering her with small gifts and cards on special occasions.
As Paul outlined his instruction to his friend, there are two promises given (2 Timothy 2:8 and 3:12).
First, he assured Timothy there would be suffering. Not great news to a young eager guy, but Paul didn’t try to sugarcoat the truth or feed him a “health and wealth” gospel.
The second promise was that people would oppose him. The opposition faced by Christians is not yet as great as it was in Timothy’s day, but we’re realizing more each year how that could change.
Paul also offered advice. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” he wrote (2 Timothy 2:1).
Grace is sometimes described as God’s unmerited favor, and the word gracious is derived from it. There’s nothing we can do to earn grace, but if we accept the gift from God we become empowered to offer graciousness to others. If we’re afraid to fail – or if we fail and fear going back – we’ll never experience how amazing some experiences can be.
The mentor also pointed Timothy to Jesus, whose words from the cross were directly from Scripture. Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
A believer grounded in truth will have the resources of the Holy Spirit available, and thus can move people forward instead of alienating them. Showing grace doesn’t mean we don’t address issues, but any problem will be confronted with kindness and love.
A song by Casting Crowns called Voice of Truth tells of a longing to climb from a boat into the sea. But the song goes, “the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed.” Then, “But the voice of truth tells me a different story, and the voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’ And the voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’”
Whether we’re afraid of oceans or mountains, sharing our faith or even riding a bike, the difficulties will be minor compared to the end result.