This image of Paul above comes from  Paul may or may not have written both books of Timothy. Timothy was a son of a Jewish mother (Afro-Asiatic) and a Greek father.  Paul profoundly took interest in the development of young Timothy.  He provides instructions for his Christian development into a strong leader. He reminds Timothy of his personal testimony regarding his early history; he implores Timothy to behave in a righteous and moral way worthy of his calling.

I Timothy 1:12-14  “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

I Timothy 2:1-2  “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.”

I Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”

Quick reflections:  … first “without anger or disputing”.  The enemy’s domain is anger, dispute and disunity.  Think of examples where this is true in personal/home life and also in the larger community and society.  Note the word “unity” is a root within the word community.   The other root is “comm” as in “come together”.   There can be a society without community or communities, but such a society … if there is not community is a society that is filled with chaos and dissension and disruption which leads to destruction.  

Take note in personal life as well as in the broader society what forces and/or influences promote unity and community vs. those that cause and or create disruption and disunity.  There can be a spiritual dimension to this as in the elements of spiritual warfare.   Take note of subtle or unintended actions or influences that push toward disunity and disruption as opposed to unity and community.  We have to choose carefully our friends, associates, environments and what we feed our minds.  Ask the question if those things promote community and unity in a way that promotes Godly and Christ-centered values or if those influences work against that.  Sometimes the unintentional or unintended influences can, over time, do as much damage as the ones that are very clear and intentional.   That is why the unintentional influences fall under the heading of “deception” which is one of the enemy’s most used tricks and tools.

We must accept that we are in a constant arena where to a greater or lesser degree there is some level of spiritual warfare taking place.  The level of intensity may vary from time to time.  The enemy has limited resources….unlike our God….who has unlimited resources.   There are times the enemy will deploy a specific line of attack against us and times when it will not be as direct.  However, we are always, quite literally “on the battlefield”.   As such we must establish habits of consistency, caution and vigilance to ensure that we do not get caught “off guard” by the enemy and harmed when the serious attacks come.

This challenges us to be diligent in seeking and communing with God at all times, not just in times of crisis.  God is our friend.  God is always available.  God loves us.  God will always help us and is always a constant force for our good.  We can trust God’s constancy and presence at ALL times.  It does not depend on us.  That is the message of the Cross.  There is nothing any of us did to merit God’s favor to die for our sins.  Not a single thing at all.  He did it as a complete gift of unrequited love for fallen humanity. There is nothing any of us could do or could have done to merit God’s favor in this.  THAT SAID…God gives us free will to commune with Him or not.  WHEN we choose to stay in communion..or direct community with Him…He can give us access to His vision, His power, and His plan for our lives and that can be an amazing plan.  It is better and more fantastic than anything we can conceive of for ourselves.  BUT,  we have to seek God and intentionally find Him (He is not hard to find, but we have to put some effort into it.)  When we do this it does not mean everything in life will become immediately clear or easy or direct or painless, BUT it does mean we will have better (spiritual) vision of how to meet life’s challenges and what actions to take and what to avoid.  In doing this we can better enable God’s love to extend into the world and bring joy not only to ourselves but to others. 

When we do not intentionally do this, there is a likelihood that we may fall into traps…sometimes the same traps if we have not matured or progressed out of certain habits, shortcomings and failings (this also can be a gentle/or not so gentle message from God).    If we fall into a trap, or traps, God is still there and God still loves us BUT God may not remove the consequences of us falling into traps.  God is a loving God, BUT also God is a JUST God.  Love and Justice go hand in hand.  Without justice there can be no true love.  Without love, God’s justice loses its meaning and foremost of all “God is Love”…BUT…God is a God of order as He created an orderly universe that is governed by laws of order (some physical, some spiritual).  So with order, there comes justice.  And in a universe governed by order and justice (and love) actions (or inactions) have consequences.  As this is in nature and the natural/physical world that we it is in the spiritual world.  

So this is an admonishment to “sow good seeds” in our lives so that we may reap a God harvest overtime.

 Theme to consider in closing:

How are my current habits (good or bad) influencing my walk with God and my daily walk in life?

What steps can I or do I need to take to change or improve in areas of habits and disciplines that will create better outcomes for me?

Are there any influences in my life or my personal space that may be impacting my walk with God (for good or bad)?  Are they “intentional” influences…i.e. choices I am making consciously and what are the consequences of those choices?   Are there subtle or “unintentional” influences that are impacting my walk…are they disruptive?   If they are present, how can I address them and make changes?

Footnote on being in community with other believers and seeking God in organized settings.

God does want us to be in community with other believers.  He designed us to be in community.

He established community for His earthly ministry, primarily through the close bonds He formed with the original 12 disciples and other very important people, like Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene, whom He drew close to Him in his ministry.

In saying this, we must be discerning and wise, however.  Too many people are not discerning and wise on this.   The Bible warns us in the “last days” of many “false prophets” and so-called religious leaders who claim Godliness but “deny His true power”.   In today’s so-called contemporary Christian scene in America many of these “false prophets” are easy to identify.   They preach or teach people what “their itching ears” want to here.   They do not preach, or teach, a full gospel.  They only preach, or teach, a partial gospel that by omission distorts the truth of God.

People need to be uplifted by God’s Word and loved an attracted to God.  

At a certain stage, they also need to understand God’s justice and that side.

All love and no justice is an incomplete picture of the true God.

All justice without love is also a distortion…and a very unattractive one the drives people away.

Also, actions have consequences.  And people must understand that.

Part of God’s love is that God can meet anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance and bring peace and calmness.  Even in the midst of consequences of sin or things gone astray, God can still come in there and do His work.  BUT that does not mean the consequences (i.e. of sin) are necessarily changed or eliminated.   God can do redemptive work and restorative work, but God will do this work in His timing for His purposes.

Faithful ministers of the gospel need to present a balanced view of God.  One that emphasizes all aspects of who God is.   This allows people to really “get real” about God and with God and actually have true community.

Undergirding all of this is God’s undeniable and deep, deep love for all of us.  He loved us first “while we were yet sinner”, so people (all of us) need never fear drawing close to God.  Even when we have failed or done wrong.  God forgives us.  There may be consequences.  But God loves us and can bring us through those consequences  BECAUSE he loves us and wants us to be in community and unity with Him.

It can also be said that God may perform “miracles” and “transformations” which may totally alter the present reality.  And this applies to anything that has been written above.  Sometimes we yearn for “miracles” in our lives.   But God uses all miracles and transformations for His glory and to point people toward Him.  We may benefit from the miracles and they can bless us..BUT…if our yearning for miracles and transformations is a self-centered attempt to “end run” or avoid consequences of decisions we make in our daily lives then it is not likely God will perform such miracles because those would serve our selfish human desires and not God’s higher purpose.  So when, sometimes in periods of struggle or pain, we pray or wish for “miracles” to remove our struggle, we must remember that God is sovereign and looks to our good in all circumstances, but that does not mean He is going to immediately “snap us out” of whatever pain or struggle we are experiencing.

A final note on evil, pain and/or injustice we do not understand OR on what seems to be unjust suffering of innocent people.  This is a real situation and the answer is not easy.  To try to answer, in any form, may fall short.  What we can observe and know that is true is that in the natural world we inhabit we know for a fact that ALL PAIN is temporary.  All suffering in this world has an end.  It is not an eternal state.  We see birth, life and death before us in this limited natural world.  For now it is the only world we know or have experienced, so to us it “seems” permanent because we do not know anything else.

Because we observe that this world is corrupted by sin, there is suffering and injustice that impacts people undeservedly out of no fault of their own.  What we do know is that God observes all of this and in God’s eternal evaluation, all of this is accounted for.   From an eternal perspective, when all of us reach the eternal world that God tells us about and look back on this temporary world, there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more injustice, BUT whatever God’s purpose in allowing it in this temporary world, we will be able to more completely comprehend it from the eternal perspective looking retrospectively back into this “temporary” space we now inhabit.

If we are in the midst of a challenge or suffering, or struggle, perhaps because of our actions BUT also in some cases not because of our actions…this is difficult, admittedly very difficult, to process.  If we are in great pain it can be very difficult.   So this is an acknowledgement of that difficulty and an acknowledgement that any human answers to this, no matter how intelligently worded or reasoned, are incomplete.  We are incomplete creatures and limited as humans.  God is not.  So we have to pray and try and hope as best we can and trust implicitly that God’s infiniteness has the answers that we cannot yet comprehend.   When and if we have felt God’s very real presence and love in our lives (I have), just that experience alone, even if temporary, can give us the trust and hope to accept and hold on beyond and through what we may not immediately understand.