Thursday, October 2, 2014

Don’t Be a Spiritual Muggle –2 Tim 4:6-7

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (NIV)
Poured Out
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9 NASU)
Have you ever felt like you are being poured out? You have come to the end of your energy and there is nothing more to give. It could be in athletics, academics, health, ministry, relationships, or work. When we look at the life of Paul, he had already hit the wall in significant situations (2 Cor 11:23-33). Yet he persevered and continued on. He knew that through Jesus, he would be able to continue and have the strength needed in each of his trials.
The difference between Paul and many of us is that when we feel we are poured out, it isn’t usually for the reasons Paul had. We are stressed because we are trying to achieve some goal that is not on God’s to-do list or we are trying to do God’s will in our own strength. How many times have you heard someone quote Phil 4:13? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). This person has two jobs, six Bible studies, working on a doctorate degree, eight kids on drugs and failing in school, a jobless husband, ulcers, and a sleep disorder. She is frazzled and on the edge of mental and physical collapse, yet thinks that she can do all of this through Christ and will not say no whenever anyone asks her to do something more at church. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it points out that many of us are not prayerfully considering what God really wants us to do. We presume upon God when we take on tasks that we should not be doing then insist that God will give us the strength to accomplish them.
Accepting the Inevitable
But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. (Philem 22 NKJV)
Paul had been through it all. He had prayed for release from prison and asked for prayers from others. When writing to Timothy, it is most likely after his initial release and re-imprisonment. What is notable is that when writing to Philemon, Paul had hope of release. When writing to Timothy, he did not have this hope; he is convinced that this time he will be executed. The sentence may have already been given and he was simply waiting for it to be carried out. That is why he speaks of being poured out. A drink offering, once poured out, cannot be used for anything else.
Trying to understand God’s specific will in different situations is difficult. Since the beginning of recorded history, people have wanted to know exactly what God wanted of them. It is mentioned in the Bible as different people tried (Gen 30:27, Num 22:7, 2 Kings 17:17, Jer 14:14, Ezek 21:21, Mic 3:11, Acts 16:16). That’s why there is astrology, divination, casting lots, and other means of fortune telling that continue to exist in the world. But God condemns and forbids attempts to determine the future (Deut 18:10).
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Sam 15:23a ESV)
Presuming upon God is sin and the same as idolatry. Other versions use arrogance or stubbornness rather than presumption. How did Paul know the difference between God’s will in his previous release and the impending departure from this life? Did he presume upon God when felt sure he would be released? Paul had some direct communication from the Lord that most of us do not receive (Acts 9:6, 15; 26:16; 27:23). He may have very well been told that he would not be released this time. He may have prayed about it or used God’s gift of a reasoning brain to understand that even though God can do all things, his time had come.
I have seen saints who were diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their bodies were riddled with the stuff. I have seen some who would not accept the fact that they were going to die. They had faith that God would heal them and they died, possibly questioning God. Others accepted the fact and go peacefully to be with Jesus.
Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. (Job 2:10b NLT)
Job had it right when it comes to accepting the inevitable. He recognized God’s sovereignty, His divine right to do as He pleases. If God were not holy and good, then we would have reason to chaff against trials and even impending death. But He is good. He does care for us. We can accept these things. This is not fatalism but prayerful consideration of all things, including asking for deliverance, and accepting God’s answer.
Finished Well
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 RSV)
Paul had a very clear goal and ministry. Jesus told him exactly what he had to do (Acts 9:15). But, how does each of us determine and understand the ministry the Lord has for us. Some, like Paul have been given clear instructions. Some people feel called to ministry, others to secular work. However, most of us don’t feel or hear any particular call on our lives. We might be called the muggles of Christendom. “In the Harry Potter book series, a muggle is a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world.”[1]
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23 NIV)
While we may feel like muggles, we are not. No real Christian could be a spiritual muggle. We have been born again and we are now part of God’s spiritual family. We have been called out of the darkness of this world with all its evil and have been called into a world of light in order to proclaim to others the glory of God (1 Peter 2:9).
Not being aware of a particular calling on our lives is not an excuse for having purpose in our lives to serve our Lord. If we are muddling through life without consciously attempting to serve, then we are simply disobedient and lazy because we all have enough direction in Scripture to understand and know what we should do.
And He said to him, “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matt 22:37-40 NASB)
How is this for a start? What does it mean to love God in this way? This is total commitment. It means that who God is, whatever I may think of Him (and I should think correctly or I will not love Him properly), He is the one the I will love above all other people or things. My love will govern my actions in everything I say and do. However, loving God is no excuse for ignoring others. The love we have for God must extend to others so that there is nothing in the Ten Commandments that would ever present an overwhelming temptation. As my vertical relationship with God is what He wants, so would my horizontal relationships with others (as far as it depends on me [Romans 12:18]) be what God wants.
Don’t get psychologically sappy about how we need to love ourselves first. That is the wrong order and not the intent of the verse. Loving others is the command, as myself is a comparison because we already love ourselves too much. Don’t make loving yourself a command. As I provide food, shelter, and clothing for myself, I will see to it that my neighbor has the same. It also doesn’t mean that I will also provide him with a big flat screen TV. It means if I have that big TV and he doesn’t have food, I’m not showing love. It also doesn’t mean that I will enable him to live a self-destructive life style. Loving neighbors sometimes gets real messy, especially when it comes to getting to know them well enough to share the Gospel with them.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20 ESV)
Loving God and then loving others must then result in a love for the lost. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:21). His final commandment to His disciples was to go and make more and better disciples. If a disciple of the first disciples does not obey this command, then they are not disciples. Thus, through the ages, down to us, we have no excuse when we disobey this command. While few people argue with teaching other Christians or attending Bible studies to grow, arguments abound for excuses not to evangelize.
There you have it, the “E” word; the word that strikes fear into the hearts of believers. The Greek word euaggelizo is used fifty-four times in the New Testament. It means “to announce good news (‘evangelize’) especially the gospel.”[2] While there is a gift or position of evangelism in the church (Acts 21:8, Eph 4:11), evangelizing is not restricted to those with this specific gift. Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). There is no indication that Timothy was an evangelist. He was a pastor and a teacher who had to be reminded that he had to evangelize also.
So, if you feel like a spiritual muggle, then follow these commands. Love God, love others, tell people the good news, and teach others. Don’t hole up in a church or your home but go.
Good Fight
We are human, but we don't wage war as humans do (NLT). The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (NIV). We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (ESV). (2 Cor 10:3-5)
The good fight is both internal and external. The New Living Translation of these verses clearly establishes that the battle is for the souls of people. Other translations do not limit the wording to the thoughts and opinions of others but allow that we may need to take our own thoughts captive. While I can appeal to another person’s reasoning, I can’t take his thoughts captive. I can trust that the power of God’s Word will demolish the logic of his arguments, but that doesn’t mean that he changes his mind. However, I have to keep God’s Word in my mind to protect myself during the battle or I may be swayed by his argument.
Paul faced many struggles that were much more severe that we can even imagine. We will see shortly that people even abandoned him in his deepest need (2 Tim 4:10-11). How did he handle the temptation to despair and self-pity? He probably followed his own advice to the Philippians to think about positive things (Phil 4:8-9). This isn’t positive thinking in order to get what you want. It is remembering what God has done and praising Him. It is building trust in God so that we rise above the circumstances and set our mind on things above (Col 3:2). Our situation may not change, but our attitude will and good can come out of it that would not occur if we wage war as the world does.
How do you face life’s trials? Are you a spiritual muggle because you haven’t been born again? Is it possible that you act like a spiritual muggle because you have no concept of the power that God has for you? If you haven’t been born again, the solution is to admit you are sinner, surrender your life to Jesus who has paid the penalty for your sins, and ask Him to forgive you as you repent and obey Him. If you have already done that but have no power, then study God’s Word and look for examples of the Holy Spirit’s work. Practice God’s principles for godly living. It worked for Paul and it can work for you.


[1] “Muggle - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,” September 2, 2014, accessed September 18, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muggle.
[2] Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, (2006), NT:2097.
 

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