Draw on ancestors' strength in hard times


By Charles Westbrook

Editor’s Note: The “International Bible Lesson Commentary” was used as a primary source for these lessons.

Feb. 5
Be True To Your Christian Heritage
Purpose: To exhort us to thank God for our legacy of faith by embracing his holy call on our lives.
Bible Lesson:  2 Timothy 1
Key Verse:  “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, live in you.”  — 2 Timothy 1:5

Paul wrote his second letter to Paul four to seven years after his first letter. Challenges that faced Timothy had worsened over the years, and he trusted God to get him through. The church had been founded on solid ground but had been tainted with deception.

The threats to the church at Ephesus came from the inside. Some of the leaders of the churches downgraded the truth instead of building it up. This was what Paul feared.

Even though there were changing circumstances at the churches, Paul had his own concerns, such as being imprisoned. Unlike before when he was in prison, Paul’s experience this time was like a house arrest. .

Although imprisoned, Paul never failed to praise the Lord and offer up a period of being thankful for what he had. He expressed feelings toward his spiritual heritage, what it meant to him and how it carried him through his time of depression and grief. He taught that we must look to God for purpose and to guide us past things that blind us to God’s teaching and our spiritual heritage. Each day, Paul prayed for God to be with Timothy and supply his needs.

Paul hoped to improve Timothy’s ministry by encouraging him to continue a forward path. He wanted to “fan the faith in God” by getting His word out to Christians throughout the area.

Timothy had been called and commissioned by God. Each day, Paul prayed that God would lead Timothy and send a message through him. Timothy wasn’t satisfied with a good start, but he knew that he needed God to lead him and put a message on his heart to carry to God’s people.

Paul wrote to tell Timothy about God’s grace and how he can receive it. He reminded Timothy that righteousness can not save anyone. We need God’s grace for salvation. Our salvation begins with growth in Jesus Christ and our love for him.

Our salvation was planned by God before the creation of the earth, and He knew He was going to send Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. By destroying death, He made life available to all who believe and give their lives to Jesus. We are saved by grace. As God taught Timothy and Paul how to live a holy life, He will teach us.

Paul considered himself a teacher of the gospel and an apostle. He also considered himself a herald. He carried the word to God’s people. This was an honor and a big responsibility for him.

Timothy’s unwavering commitment to the Gospel is found in verses 13-14. Let’s look at three areas of his teaching.

First, Paul was not referring to some creed or dogma. He said memorizing scripture was a good habit. Paul said that many cult members learn scripture in order to lead their followers away from the truth. They also take the opportunity to lead followers into false teaching.

Second, Paul wasn’t referring to traditions or rituals that we have. Sometimes they can get used so much we stop paying attention to what we are saying or doing.

Third, Paul was not talking about Jewish laws. So many times we use traditions so much that the true meaning becomes like empty shells.

Paul encouraged Timothy to grow and nurture a life with Jesus Christ. It was faith and love in Jesus Christ that saw Paul through the hard times. Timothy learned to take a sound grip on what he had been taught. Faith is what we have through Jesus, and as we keep our belief in Him, our faith in Him will grow.

We can take Paul’s teachings and  Jesus Christ with us as we go through our lives. We must understand that we need a strong relationship with Him to get through each day. It is up to us to tell others about the never-ending love and of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

What is your Christian heritage and how you will live it? Live for Jesus Christ and have Him as your Lord and Savior.

Feb. 12
Develop Christian Character
Purpose: To show that holy living requires a righteous, faithful, loving and peaceful devotion to God’s truth.
Bible Lesson:  2 Timothy 2
Key Verse:  “Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”   — 2 Timothy 2:22

God wants all His people to be strong in faith and courage. He wants his children to have good character as we labor for Christ. The Lord hasn’t only called us to endure hardships for Him but to witness for Him. We must go out into the world and tell others of His love and saving grace.

Some of the believers in Ephesus couldn’t agree on terms, and this caused conflict among their people. They failed to follow God’s word and His teachings. Paul urged Timothy not to get involved. He also reminded Timothy to remind the church at Ephesus about what he had written. Without keeping their spiritual foundation, they stood in danger of spiritual ruin. They had to maintain their faith in Jesus Christ to help them in their lives. As time went on, they were again told by Jesus Christ to return to their faith in Him.

 Timothy needed to have a solid foundation in God’s Word to persuade his followers. Paul used the illustration as being a master craftsman. A craftsman knew how to use his tools and produce things. With Timothy it was the Word of God. Timothy was proud of this and proud to serve a living God. The tool he used was the scriptures which changed lives.

Paul wanted Timothy to preach about Jesus and bring the people back to Him. If they continued to get into godless discussions, they would become more ungodly. The teaching of such chatter and discussion would become like gangrene.

Paul assured Timothy that the Word of God was unshakable and a solid foundation. Paul used the illustration of a solid foundation to describe the solidarity of God’s truth. God knows those who are true and sincere in His teachings and follow His word. He understands our heart and mind as well as our feelings. A true follower will examine his own heart and repent when necessary. This way, followers give witness through the way they live.

Paul offered Timothy another illustration to reinforce his points. He said that a church was like a house with many kinds of utensils that have different uses. Those made of silver and gold are used for special occasions while others were made of wood and clay.

Timothy would have to learn how to distinguish those at Ephesus who belong to the Lord from those who have not repented of their sins. It’s the same today. We need not be taken in by minor issues that start quarrels or lead to hard feelings. We should look at ourselves and see what kind of walk we have. If we want to be used, we must go beyond being a member of our local church. Each person must decide whom they will serve:  the Lord or a world of false teaching.

When facing evil desires, we should run to the Lord and take refuge in Him. Our main goal should be to serve Him. If a person’s evil ways are not changed, they are like garbage in an empty can. But if they follow the Lord’s way and do His will, they are a changed person. So, we can be as an empty can and serve the world and its false teaching or we can follow the Lord and have life. When facing evil desires we must turn to the Lord and run to Him. Paul told Timothy to look for characteristics such as righteousness, faith, love and peace.

The church had been founded on solid doctrine and God’s grace had been tainted with deception. When we give ourselves to the Lord, we should have good character and follow his guidance. As when give ourselves to God we are to dedicate ourselves to Him and tell others about His love for us.

Feb. 19
Follow A Good
Purpose:  To explain why mentoring is valuable in the cultivation of the Christian life.
Bible Lesson:  2 Timothy 3-4
Key Verse: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from who you learned it.” — 2 Timothy 3:14

Paul alerted his co-worker at Ephesus about danger on the horizon. He indicated that times would be distressing, and the faithful needed to be prepared. The apostle gave firm instructions on how to survive. He also told them how to be in good spiritual condition in the midst of uncontrolled times and despicable attitudes and actions.

Paul told Timothy about some of the things he had gone through for the cause of Jesus Christ. Timothy followed the apostle’s teachings about the way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love and endurance. These characteristics are part of the fruits of the spirit. Part of the way of life is endurance, which is a product of self control. Timothy also knew about persecution Paul had to endure in Antioch, lconium and Lystra. Despite his hardships, God rescued his faithful servant.

People thought a godly life would be easier. Paul, as righteous as he was, could not avoid trials. In fact, he thought some of his problems stemmed from the godly life he was living. Christianity is not a religion of escape. It’s not a way to avoid hardships and difficulty. Those who follow Christ will face opposition. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus also said, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

The apostle revealed that as the second advent of Christ drew near, the downward moral spiral of humankind would intensify. Evil people and charlatans would go from bad to worse. They would continue to deceive others and, in turn, would deceive themselves.

Timothy was to be different from the frauds. Paul said Timothy was to become more Christ-like by staying true to what he had learned from Paul and to build on that knowledge. God’s Word contained the resources Timothy needed to carry on and stand against those who opposed God’ Word. From Timothy’s childhood he had been taught the scriptures. There he found divine wisdom to receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Bible is a learning tool as well as a guide for our lives. Paul declared that all scripture was God’s word. The scripture can be used for teaching, correction and training in the faith. Those who submit to scripture will be dedicated to God. Paul said that the people who are dedicated to the Bible also would be followers of God. There is no substitute for the scriptures when it comes to learning the ways of the Lord. We insult God when we don’t study the scripture. If each of us gets filled with His word, our lives will be better. God’s Word will spill out of us as we tell others about Him. Our witness will let His Word go out into the word and others will come to know Jesus Christ. There is no one that can carry us to that safe harbor. Reading the Bible helps our growth in Jesus Christ.

Some people listened to Timothy and seemed to be more earnest in his teaching of the Word. Paul gave Timothy a solemn responsibility. Paul issued Timothy a charge with five keys:

  • Teach the word. God wanted Timothy to go out spread the Word.
  • Be ready to go where God wants him to go.
  • Correct
  • Rebuke
  • Encourage those who would listen and act.

Some would be shown their sin before they repented, that’s correcting. Still others needed to be reprimanded, that’s rebuking.

Others who obeyed God received encouragement. In accepting all five charges, Timothy had to clean up his life before he went out to preach. He was to minister with great patience.

Paul explained to his followers that Jesus’ return draws near and they must repent and be ready. They turned their ears away and only wanted to hear false teachers. Some searched for teachers who taught the truth. Others rejected the truth. They rejected the truth for legends.

Meanwhile, Timothy was to stand firm and tell people about false teachers. Timothy was to keep his head and remain steady and balanced. He also had to endure hardships. Paul was preparing to send Timothy into battle.

Timothy was to do the work of an evangelist. Others who aren’t called can still tell other people about Jesus Christ. God doesn’t call to us to do a task without His help. God calls us for a reason.

Paul must have expected that his life on earth was coming to an end. He hoped that Timothy was ready to carry on. The apostle wondered if Timothy would come see him while in prison. Paul felt that he was writing his last words to Timothy. The last words were those of a content man. He knew the Lord and didn’t fear death.

Paul knew that his final reward would be waiting for him. Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” and he kept it until he died. It was as if that Paul was set free from a world of troubles and a life of sin. He wanted to get everything in order before he died.

Feb. 26
Live the Truth, Teach the Truth
To show how our good works are “an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.”
Bible Lesson:  Titus 2
Key Verse:  “Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured.” — Titus 2:7-8a

Titus was a Gentile believer who served as Paul’s emissary to the church at Corinth. Titus was very active in the follow-up with the Corinthians for the relief fund for the believers at Jerusalem.

At times during Paul’s ministry, he and Titus would go to Crete and find unfinished business. At that time, Paul’s letter was to appoint new leaders for Crete. The religious leaders were frauds who rejected God’s authority. They were against the truth of the gospel, and they encouraged the believers go their way.

Paul wanted Titus to bring the truth of God’s Word. Titus was working with the ungodly to bring the message of hope and life to them. Doctrine was Paul’s only interest in his teachings and witness to God. He understood that belief and behavior were tied closely together.

Paul turned his teaching to the family. First, he went into the responsibilities of the parents. They were to work together to make a stable home and lead the children to God. The children must obey their parents. Paul also reminded the parents to respect the children. This was an Old Testament teaching, but Paul wanted to remind everyone of this.

Verses 7-8 tell us that we should be examples by doing what is right for everyone. Titus wanted to be a good example to those he met. His ministry was to be free from tainted motives and the desire to become materially rich. As he reached out to others, he was to be earnest and sincere. Titus would reinforce the truths of the gospel and give them a greater impact. Despite some peoples efforts to discredit the gospel they couldn’t because of Titus’ belief and actions.

While the Good News was being taught, it drew people who found it to very attractive, especially the slaves. Christian salves had to do what their masters demanded. Instead of fussing with their masters, Christian slaves were to show their fidelity. Their faith was genuine, and they lived like Christians and tried to live a life like Jesus Christ. They lived trustworthy, productive and wholesome lives. Christian slaves were living proof that God was a stronger power. The fact that the slaves could receive the power of God’s grace and be forgiven of their sins showed that anyone could receive it regardless of their class.

Paul emphasized that God offers his plan of salvation to all mankind. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ was not limited to one group.

When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we also receive transformation. When people are worldly they reflect rebellion world. It is also in direct odds with the Creator. When we experience God’s grace, we live a life that is consistent with the way the Lord intended.

The goal is to live a life that springs from the expectation that Christ will return. Christians are to look forward to Christ’s glorious and joyful return. Waiting for this day can seem unbearable. After all, the world is full of wickedness that seems to advance unhindered. But when Christ returns, he will put an end to all forms of evil. Because they are purified by the blood of Christ, believers are to be special people eager to do what is right for Jesus Christ. By their loving kindness and actions, Christians provide a brilliant contrast to the powers of darkness in the world.

Paul reminded Titus that he was not to let anyone intimidate him because of the authority he was given. Instead he was to use the scriptures to gently correct those who claim to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Westbrook is a member of Pearl United Methodist Church and a regular contributor to the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate.