Have you heard the story of the dog who waited for his owner to return on the train every day? This faithful dog would meet his owner at the train station every day after work. Sadly, his owner died in the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy, but it didn’t stop his dog from showing up every evening when the train arrived. He remained faithful for years until he died. Did you know that Jesus stays faithful even when we don’t? God won’t change who He is.
“It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Stand on the Promise
By the time Paul is writing this to Timothy, people are dying for their faith. He tells him that if we die for Jesus, we will live with Him in eternity. If we endure the persecution, we will also reign with Him during the millennial reign. Those are promises that Jesus proclaimed and that upon which we can stand. He is faithful and will not forsake His people.
At the same time, if we deny Jesus, He will deny us. Millions of Christians treat God as a cosmic Santa Claus and only go to Him when they need something. The rest of the time, they want nothing to do with Him. They go about doing their own thing, and if someone asks them about their faith, they brush it off like an old tradition. Jesus said that “if you deny Him before man, He will deny you before His Father.” Many will say in the last days, “Lord, Lord!” and He will say, “depart from me, I never knew you.”
Jesus Stays Faithful
Discipleship costs us. You have to remain faithful and endure, whatever comes your way. Our security and comfort are entirely in Christ’s hands. Jesus stays faithful to us through all of it. All He asks is that we do the same thing.
Jesus was questioned by the Sadducees and Scribes right before He went to the cross. The subjects they challenged Him on covered almost every area of the Jewish faith. They were hoping to catch Him is some doctrinal error, but His answers not only answered, but astounded. One of the final questions came from the scribes asking Him the greatest commandment. His answer left them silent.
“AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'”
Nail It to a Doorpost
This command was first given in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. It is known as the Shema. Jews were to write this on a scroll of paper and then put it into a tiny box and nail it to their house doorpost. It was to remind them of what was most important. Jesus uses this to tells the Jews the greatest commandment. He summarizes the first four commandments into one.
God wants all of you. He won’t be satisfied with just your heart or just your mind. He wants the trifecta; your heart, mind, and soul. The heart, mind, and soul encompass the whole person in God’s eyes. Your mind represents your thinking. Your heart represents your feelings and emotions, and your soul represents your spirit. Giving all three of these means that God has all of your life.
The Greatest Commandment
There is a fourth part to this command, your strength. This last part symbolizes our effort and energy. God is commanding that your best be given to Him and His work. He doesn’t want lethargic effort in your endeavors of the church. He wants our full energy and attention. When our heart, soul, mind, and strength are wholly given to the Lord, then we are an open vessel ready for the Holy Spirit to be poured into for the Kingdom’s work.
I have a friend who’s dad is a retired ironworker. He had built huge buildings and bridges over his career. Just recently, they called him out of retirement to help with a project that had gotten out of control. It was a high rise building four inches out of plumb by the fourth story. They needed him to get things back into alignment. When we don’t make Jesus the cornerstone of our church and life, we can get out of alignment.
“Have you not even read this Scripture:’ THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone;”
In ancient Israel, they built their houses out of stone. They would begin by carving a stone into a perfect ninety-degree angle. Then they would set that stone first and measure everything off it. It would keep the walls turn and ensure that the building would be around for a long time. Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, on which the whole church is to be built and the Jewish leaders rejected Him.
Many Christian ministries are out of alignment because Jesus isn’t the cornerstone. They have great causes they support, but when Jesus isn’t the basis for which they do it eventually, it veers off the path. Soon it will crumble unless it gets back into alignment. When it is based on God’s love and the truth of God’s Word, it will line up and exist for a long time.
Back Into Alignment
Is Jesus the cornerstone of your life? If not, He can bring it back into alignment. All it takes is you getting right with the Lord. You need to repent of your sins and remove anything from your life that contradicts the Bible. Once this happens, the Holy Spirit will come in and start to make things right. The benefit is that you will experience a sense of peace and joy cascading over you.
Were you very good at drawing within the lines? I wasn’t. It not that I was trying to be a rebel; I just had too heavy of a hand on my crayon. I know it is hip today to draw outside the lines because it supposedly expresses creativity. That can get us into trouble in other areas. When we stray outside the lines of doctrine, it gets us in trouble. Paul tells Timothy to follow the pattern.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
As the Apostle Paul begins his final letter, he gives some sound advice to his protege, Timothy. He tells him to follow the pattern of sound words he has heard and guard the good deposit the Holy Spirit has installed in him. To follow the sounds words means to stick to the teachings in which he was taught. Timothy followed Paul around for years, and Paul is telling him to follow his example. All of that good teaching needed to be guarded against unsound doctrine.
As believers, we need to be loyal to God’s Word. We need to read it, commit it to memory, and store it up in our hearts, so when some false doctrine is floated our way, we instantly know it is wrong based on the reservoir of truth we have inside of us. We measure everything based on what God’s Word says. Then we know that God works everything for good but that He doesn’t help those who help themselves.
Follow the Pattern
Too many Christians are still drinking the milk of the Word and not eating the meat. Just like with babies, milk nourishes at first, but meat leads to maturity. It’s the deep stuff of Scripture that helps us to discern if something is a false doctrine. It also helps us articulate what we believe to new believers and skeptics alike. Fill your heart with God’s Word and then guard it with all you got.
Have you ever noticed how selfish toddlers can be? Their favorite word is “mine!” They don’t like sharing, and if someone takes their toy, they will often hurt the person. Teaching them to ask for forgiveness can be straight-up comedy. Nothing in their body wants to cooperate. Learning to forgive others when they have done something wrong is even more difficult.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”
Do You Want It?
Jesus was never shy when He spoke on the topic of forgiving other people. Here He tells us that if we are in church worshipping and haven’t forgiven somebody, then we need to go and make things right so that God will forgive us. Essentially what Jesus is saying is that we need to want to forgive others as much as we want God to forgive us. That’s easier said than done.
Forgiveness is so much more than the wrong that occurred. It also includes getting over the pain inside and the fallout on the outside. For some people, the hurdles are too significant. The thought of forgiving sends them into depression or fits of anger. That is called bitterness, and the longer it is allowed to remain, the harder it will be to come out. People have died from the health issues associated with it.
Learning to Forgive
To begin the process of learning to forgive, you need to start with recognizing your sin. You withholding forgiveness is a sin in God’s eyes. Confess your guilt, and ask God to remove the trespass. Then start to pray for the right spirit. Tell God you forgive them. Speak it out loud instead of in your mind. Speaking something audibly has a powerful effect on your heart. Finally, go to the person and extend grace. It will do wonders for your soul.
Yesterday the stock market hit a new high, property values reached all-time levels, and consumer confidence is on the rebound. The gurus would have you believe that the rebound is happening, and prosperity is right around the corner. Before you drink the kool-aid and buy into what they are selling, ask yourself one question, “Is this all there is?” Your greatest gain shouldn’t be in your portfolio or bank account but in your spirit. Your greatest gain comes with the combination of godliness and contentment.
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.”
Work on This
As a young pastor, Timothy has a lot of challenges coming at him all at once. It would be easy to focus on the wrong goals and end up frustrated. His mentor, Paul, tells him how to take those in stride. Before Timothy was to work on the issues of the church, he was to work on himself. Paul tells him to build godliness and be content. If Timothy concentrated on those, the mounting stress of the church would diminish.
All of us should be developing godliness in our lives. Godliness is acquiring the traits and character of Jesus. It is being molded and shaped into His image and manifesting His Spirit in our dealings with others. We are to pursue this before we attempt to acquire anything else.
Your Greatest Gain
We also need to couple contentment with that pursuit of godliness. Contentment is a state of mind where we are satisfied with where God has us and what we have. I know this flies in the face of everything we are told, but this is some real gold. Instead of pursuing the next goal, be content with where you are, and trust God to take you to the next step. When we release that to Him, it takes all of the pressure off. Be content and focus on your godliness, and you will discover your greatest gain.