Ask almost any guy that I know and they’ll agree that in general explosions are fun and fire is fun. Just watch a bunch of guys around the campfire and you’ll see what I mean. Explosions, because they’re loud, are fun, occasionally useful and generally unsustainable. Fires are fun and because they are sustainable they are inherently useful.
Every once in awhile we have the fortunate pleasure of experiencing the spiritual equivalent of an explosion. These come in the form of revival services or other great worship events. Sometimes they come on the heals of some momentous occasion in life like New Years which motivates us to revive our walk with the Lord in an explosion of Bible reading and prayer but which like most explosions soon dissipate completely sometimes leaving little more than a few straggling embers beneath the ashes. What we really need is not another explosion but a nice roaring fire, something you can cozy up to in the darkness of a cold hard world.
Last week we looked at four principles for pursuing passion from 1 Timothy 6:11-12. Flee from sin; pursue Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness; fight for faith and take hold of eternal life.
This week I want to examine the principle of keeping the fire burning. Or to put it another way, how do you maintain your passion for the Lord? It’s all about staying passionate.
After giving Timothy what is effectively a church 101 manual, he reaches this home stretch with a few parting exhortations and he does so in the form of a charge to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the very day of Christ’s return. Before he can complete the charge though, he interjects with two calls to remembrance which form the backbone for the third.
If you want to keep the passion, remember God is here, Remember Jesus Christ is coming back, and remember your orders.
Remember God’s presence
If you want to stay on target and keep the fire stoked, remember that you are in the presence of God. He’s watching.
I remember hearing a joke about a burglar who broke into a house in the middle of the night and as he began to shuffle around in the dark looking for things he might take he suddenly heard a voice say, “Jesus is watching!” The thief instantly froze and after several tense moments decided that he hadn’t really heard anything. As soon as he started to move around again he heard the voice, “Jesus is watching!”
He clicked on his flashlight and swung around till he saw a large parrot sitting on a perch. At that moment the parrot spoke again, “Jesus is watching!” Relieved the man chuckled and pocketed his flashlight whispering, “Yeah great and I suppose your name is Jesus?”
“Nope,” the parrot replied, “My name is Noah, the pit bull behind you is named Jesus.”
Sometimes we get the feeling that God is like that pit bull; hungrily watching and waiting for you to mess up so he can whack you. But God is here described as the one who gives life to all things. God is the one who gave you life and he is the one that sustains that life. This demonstrates his tender mercy. In the context of all of the opposition that Timothy is facing in Ephesus there can be few thoughts more comforting than knowing that God is there and he is aware. Since he gives life to Timothy and sustains that life than God is ever present and we can rely upon him in the difficult times. Because he is the God who is there.
He mentions not only God the Father but also Jesus, “Who made the good confession before Pontius Pilate”. In your struggle to keep the passion in your Christian walk, in your struggle to stay on target; Remember Jesus.
The good confession in view here is doubtless the only significant answer Jesus gave to Pilate. When Pilate demanded that Jesus tell him if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus confessed that he was. ((see Matt 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, John 18:33–37) – re: NET notes.)
I cannot help but believe that in Jesus’ humanity that Jesus was afraid to answer that question. I know that he had already resolved to obey the Father’s call to sacrifice the night before while he prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane – but even a man resolved would experience fear in a moment like that.
This is the principle in view in 2 Timothy 2:8-9 when Paul will urge Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David according to my gospel for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment…”(NET). It’s the same concept in view in Hebrews 12:1-2 when we are told to keep our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. We have not yet endured to the point of death. It doesn’t matter how hard the struggle, Christ has gone further let his presence as one who has walked through the fire comfort you as you strive to keep the faith!
If you want to keep the passion remember that God who gives you life and cares for you is present; and Jesus who suffered for you is watching. Let his presence keep you passionate.
Remember Your Orders
The section is built around a charge. A charge here is the command passed on from one to another. Paul had received his command from the Lord Jesus and now he is passing on that same command to Timothy. It is both a very strong as well as a very personal term.2 The command in view for Timothy is the Church 101 manual in front of him. Hearkening back to the first chapter (1 Timothy 1:3) Timothy’s command was one of preservation as well as of correction and instruction. “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless Genealogies which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.”(Emphasis added)
Embedded in that commandment for Timothy is all of the material that has been covered in this book. (A) the Gospel must be taught (The administration of God which is by faith). (B) Heretics must be corrected (Instruct certain men) (C) Timothy must stay on Target. (Remain on in Ephesus). He had a ministry to complete and it wasn’t finished yet.
The commandment given to you is both general and specific. Matthew 28 contains the great commission which is given to us all – and we all know it, even if our devotion to it rises and falls from time to time. As much as I want to call you to focusing on the great commission I also want to call you to focusing on your mission.
Timothy’s command came in partial relationship to to his location and circumstance. As Paul moved from place to place fulfilling his call as evangelist and church planter he needed someone to come behind him and train the churches. When it came to Ephesus with it’s own set of problems Paul needed someone who could fulfill the task; so he left Timothy in Ephesus with directions and went on his way.
Look where God has placed you, and consider the skills he has given you. Your orders involve fulfilling the great commission in accord with your circumstance and your abilities.
The great temptation for us is to get distracted with unimportant things. The keys to keeping the passion for Christ is to remember God’s presence, remember your orders and remember Christ’s return.
Remember Christ’s Return
The return of Christ tends to drift into carelessness for us. We may acknowledge in our heads that Jesus is coming back but often times it isn’t a deciding factor in our daily living. Usually we associate the return of Jesus with something far into the future. But if you knew Jesus was coming back this coming Friday our lives would be dramatically different this week.
This is why Paul mentions the return of Jesus here, I wouldn’t doubt that even in Paul’s day that people wondered when the coming of Christ was supposed to be. Even Peter acknowledged that it seemed like it was taking a long time for Christ to return. But his long delay has been so that more can come into the kingdom.
Jesus told several parables illustrating however that when he does come it will be at a time when no-one truly expects it, and it will be sudden and unexpected.
A sure track to keeping the passion is to remember that Christ is coming and with him will be your reward in his hand. The question is, how much reward is your passion for Christ is going to get you?
When the time is proper, Christ will come. Let’s be ready for him.
Remember God’s presence, Remember your Orders and Remember Christ’s Return. Keep your passion!