“When I first answered the call of God, no one would stand with me. Every person did forsake me. I have prayed, though, that God would forgive them for this. Nonetheless, the Lord Himself stood with me, and He strengthened me; so that He might be able to use me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that all those who did not yet have faith might hear it. The Lord delivered me out of the mouth of the lion then, and the Lord will now deliver me from every evil work. He will preserve me until it is time for me to enter His heavenly kingdom. To Him, then, be the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
2 Timothy 4:16-18
2 Timothy 4; I encourage you to read it, study it, pray it, and know it in your Spirit.
God started me out there when He first called me to ministry, and I have now seen almost all of it come to pass in my life. Two specific verses from that chapter provide the combination to the briefcase that I have owned since the early 90’s; to remind me of the Truth in that chapter.
If we remain faithful to God and our brethren, we will live out the Truth in 2 Timothy 4. We will not be perfect and He will allow that fact to be made public at times, and we will need His mercy and His grace daily to live it. Not just in our intellect or with our words, but in a spiritual and revealed sense of our own insufficiency are we fueled to meet the challenge of another day.
The woman at Jacob’s well (a reviled and rejected Samaritan, the kind of person to whom we are sent in the highways and the hedges this very day) said to Jesus, “You have nothing to draw with (in other words, “You are insufficient to give me living water”), and the well is deep (my sin is too great for You to repair).” Because of these two facts; that she thought Him to be nothing, and that she was overwhelmed with her own sin, she was able to hear and receive the Truth for which Jesus died.
Jesus made Himself of no reputation. He chose to disappear, even as God was doing greater and greater works through Him. The longer it went, the more He went to the mountain and the desert to be alone with God. Attention bothered Him more and more as time went on. It will begin to bother us, too, as we begin to realize that the place of attention is a place of danger where we, as God’s insufficient little children, are out from under His protecting hand.
This season ahead will be one of public wonders and public blunders. If we will accept our short-comings being broadcast and if we will accept the humiliation that sometimes comes with that, then at times He will put us in a safe place beneath His mighty hand to do mighty works for Him. When both we, and those who are lost, are vividly aware that we are nothing, wondrous things will be birthed by God.
If we remain faithful to God and to our brethren, we will bear great fruit in our lives because of the Vine. Toward the end of the time that He has given us, only Luke will be with us. And then we will return to the same state in which we first met Christ on our own road to Damascus; alone with Him in His glorious Light.
The mother of James and John asked Jesus that her sons might sit on either side of Him in His kingdom. He responded by asking the brothers “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said “Yes,” but they weren’t able at that moment. You see, the cup that He was going to drink of was to die for the Truth, and His baptism was the baptism of God’s Holy Spirit, which they would only receive in God’s due time at Pentecost.
Jesus went on to tell James and John that they would, in the future, receive both His cup and baptism. But, even though they didn’t know it at the time, they weren’t ready at that moment. By the time it came for them to receive that baptism and to later die for the Truth, they had been made ready for it by God.
If we remain faithful to God and to our brethren, we will eventually live in some way what is written in 2 Timothy 4, but the Truth is that we are not yet ready now for what lies farther ahead in the future.If we stay the course in our walk of faith, though, He will have made us ready to face it all when it is His time.
What divine paradoxes, yes?
As we choose to rightly consider ourselves to be nothing, we realize more and more how we are “the apple of His eye.” As we choose to distance ourselves from purposed, rationalized publicity, He uses us more and more to publicly display His loving power. As we humbly acknowledge that we are only ready today for that which He has already mercifully, graciously prepared us, He advances His preparation of us all the more.
“That I should not have whereof to boast,”and “that He might receive all the glory.”
May His grace and mercy preserve us all, that we might truly honor Him alone.
The writer is the bishop of The International Church Network worldwide, and co-director of Outside The Camp day camp in Shelby County.