One of the most amazing testimonies to God is how He gets His points across through sinful man. And if you keep track of such things, you might look at this morning's tale and say, "Wait a minute, Chris, aren't you one book short this week?"
That I am. Part of being a sinful man. But God plans ahead of my sin, just like He forgives ahead of my sin, and thus it was that the last lines of the chapter that I finished with this week- which wouldn't have been the end, had I not been sinful- actually begins and ends what God wanted to say. Those lines are from 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So the story is, how does Scripture equip us? Well, let's look at what I did read to get an answer.
This book's first three chapters is a primer on the things we need to know. It contains teaching on the Divine nature of Christ (1:15-18), how he delivers us from condemnation (19-22), the Mystery and how we are to communicate it (24-29), things to avoid like vain philosophy, the judgment of men, improper worship, and false doctrine (2:8-23), and what to seek out, for example mercy, longsuffering, and love- in other words, all that comes with "putting on the new man" (chapter 3), and extending beyond the Church into your family and work life as well.
Encouragement- I Thessalonians
This book is about the reciprocal nature of encouragement- Paul draws encouragement from their faith, and encourages them, when he can't get there himself, by sending Timothy. So many times we come to the Bible or come to God in need of encouragement- but Paul teaches us that we draw it by giving it.
The Promise- 2 Thessalonians
This entire letter is telling of the promise- that we will be drawn to Christ before the terrible end of the world, to be with Him forever in heaven. No matter the horrors of what the world is becoming (which he goes into in a bit), the Hope is in the next world.
The Charges- I Timothy
This letter was written to a fellow teacher about what is necessary to carry out our ministries. Near the end of the 3 chapters I read, there are the more stringent qualifications for Bishops and Deacons- and I can tell you from bitter experience that if they are not followed, it will not come out well. I was asked to be a Deacon in my former Church. I had a HUGE problem because of the phrase "Let deacons be the husband of one wife..." At this point, I was divorced (which I thought should have disqualified me in the first place) and to me, this qualification didn't mean as much "don't have more than one wife" as, "you need a wife to give you the strength and emotional stability to do the job." The Pastor, though, really felt strapped for helpers and was willing IMHO to "poo-poo" this. I agreed on the firm condition that I be tested according to v10, "But let these first also be proved; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless". This also got "poo-pooed" with a "the deacons and I talked it over". And the results were far from spectacular, and IMHO not all that close to "average".
But the charges are for those not called so high, as well, and include being willing to "wage the good warfare", being gentle and humble in instructing those against you, and praying for ALL men, with an emphasis on our political leaders.
The Qualities- 2 Timothy
Paul warns us of what is to come- much of which is being vividly demonstrated in today's world:
(Chapter 3) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
And to combat such apostasy, Paul tells us to have certain qualities:
Be a teacher not only able to teach others, but raise up teachers- in other words, mentoring.
Being single minded, avoiding that which the world will use to distract you from being a soldier for God. Definitely not my strong point THIS week.
Like the farmer, we must have the patience to endure hardship. Think about it this way- no matter how bad things are for people of faith now, we have a ways to fall to get as bad as things were in Paul's day.
Be diligent in your work, keeping the goal in focus.
Make sure you keep yourself a sanctified vessel, remembering it is the untarnished chalice that gets the good wine. How? Paul says, "Avoid youthful lusts", which to him meant rejecting all the extraneous crap that isn't important.
Finally, be a gentle servant. Teach with patience, humility, because you never know who God might be using you to save.
Do you note a recurring theme? On one side is diligence, not getting off-tracked by sin, cleaning yourself and keeping it clean. And on the other, cultivate humility and gentleness to both save and instruct others. That is truly the overview of the equipment we need.