Paul gives some clear instruction to Timothy. Be sober minded and endure suffering. This is not the fluffy stuff. It is the mature, gritty, stake in the dirt stuff that demands more of us. I love grace. Grace is what snatched me from the pit of despair. Grace taught me freedom. Grace showed me that perfection is not required, only surrender is. What I discover, though, as I walk further with Jesus, is that grace is not sloppy like some would have me believe. It allows me to stumble, but it calls me to rise up and keep going. It is the hand constantly there, ready to catch me when I stumble. The belief that grace is a free pass to follow the whims of culture just doesn't fit with the Jesus I have come to know.
Sober minded as it is used in 2 Timothy (and one of Peter's letters) is defined, "free of intoxicating influence." Paul says to Timothy, "Be free of intoxicating influence and endure suffering, do the work of evangelism and fulfill your ministry."
Free of intoxicating influence. There are the obvious things like drugs and alcohol but the Spirit of God inside of me says its more than that.
Money can be intoxicating
Sex can be intoxicating
Fame can be intoxicating
Mobs can be intoxicating
Careers can be intoxicating
Fact is, there is not shortage of ways to be under an intoxicating influence in today's world. This brings me back to grace for I find I cannot discuss this sober minded vigilance Paul describes without also examining grace. Grace, in all its precious, majestic and astounding beauty is not something I can put in my own little box and carry around to meet my whims. On the contrary, this astounding measure of grace I've been afforded compels me to set myself apart from everything.
The intoxicating influences of this world abound and without the unmerited favor of God (grace defined) I would be at a loss as to how to overcome any of it. It is all alluring, soothing, exhilarating... no, I don't trust anything in me to withstand such things. I find I must look to grace.
There is nothing free about grace. I live daily with the vivid picture of what this measure of grace cost. It is coated in innocent blood and tears of deep heart rending. It bears scars in its hands and feet. Indeed, there is nothing free about it. It was purchased on my behalf.
And it compels me to be set apart.
The world is getting darker, friends. The scriptures are not mysterious about the reality that as this age comes to an end, darkness will increase. It could be easy to think that the only darkness we will face are the evils of murder and mayhem. I think it will be not only those things. Paul says in the last days (we are in them by the way) many will be lovers of self...
an intoxicating influence, indeed.
This warning Paul gives Timothy echoes to me in 2023. I am certain if I were to ask Paul what I should do in this moment, with all that is swirling around me he would say the same thing.
Be sober minded and endure suffering.
I haven't suffered for this gospel. I will not pretend that I have. But, I have been easily drawn to the intoxicating influences of this world. Intoxicated by entertainment, self promotion, the need for approval...I have faced these in my life and I know just how intoxicating they are. So I know I must lean on grace. I know that this grace I've been freely given came from a cup of suffering and even though I have not tasted that same cup I must live in a willingness too. I must put myself in the position to receive whatever may come, and to stand firm and soberly in it. Grace gives me the freedom to be honest. I openly admit my weakness and inability to follow through on my own. I am, after all, only human.
I think sober minded endurance carves out more places in our soul for God to fill. This standing firm and enduring is the blacksmith that thrusts us into the fire of refining. I have faced some fires. I have been refined, but I am not arrogant enough to think there is not a need for more refining. Standing against the flow of this world's intoxication is part of that refining. And grace will be the arm that holds me secure as I stand.
Grace to you, friend. I pray you are sober minded in all your ways. I pray you will yourself to stand against the flow of culture. All of us must be ready for the fire to refine us. It will come unexpected, it will test us and ultimately, if we let it, change us.
Let the hard come, and let us be ready to endure.
"Be sober minded and endure suffering, do the work of evangelism, and fulfill your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5