Life That is Truly Life in 2018
Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
December 31, 2017
1 Timothy 6:6-19 (MSG)
6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.
9-10 But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.
11-12 But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.
13-16 I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.
17-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
With all that is happening in our world and in the news on the cusp of a New Year, I continue to ask myself some difficult questions. Some are “why?” - others I am unable to even vocalize or develop as the atrocities of our world continue to unfold. As I continue to try and ponder this, I ask myself, “What can I do? What can we do? What can Quakers do?” This may be the same for you as well – and I am beginning to realize that this is a global issue.
Leadership and Organizational expert, Margaret Wheatley in the beginning of her book, “Turning to One Another” says the following…
“As I listen to many people, in many countries, I’m convinced we are disturbed by similar things, I’ve listened carefully to many comments, and included some of them here. Taken as a whole, they paint a picture of people everywhere troubled by these times, questioning, what the future holds. Here are some of the comments and feelings I’ve heard expressed:”
See if what she has heard resonates with your own feelings deep down…
● Problems keep getting bigger; they’re never solved. We solve one and it only creates more.
● I never learn why something happened. Maybe nobody knows, maybe it’s a conspiracy to keep us from knowing.
● There’s more violence now, and it’s affecting people I love.
● Who can I believe? Who will tell me what’s really going on?
● Things are out of control and only getting worse.
● I have no time for my family anymore. I’m living a life I don’t like.
● I worry about my children. What will the world be like for them?
“Confronted with so much uncertainty and irrationality, how can we feel hopeful about the future? And this degree of uncertainty is affecting us personally. It’s changing how we act and feel. I notice in myself and others. We’re more cynical, impatient, fearful, angry, defensive, anxious; more likely to hurt those we love.”
If this is true and resonates with how the world is feeling, our text may get down to the fundamentals of how to begin making a shift. Something I want us to consider as we head into 2018.
In our text…we find Paul writing to Timothy to advise and counsel him on ministry. Most of Paul's epistles were written to churches (thus the names Corinthians Ephesians, Philippians, etc..), but 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were written to individuals.
In this first letter to Timothy, Paul focuses his attention on several main subjects.
● Bishops and Deacons
● Advice to young pastors
● And finally…Faithful Living.
Paul was often more radical than we allow him to be. And often his writing has been more studied and even followed than the actual life and ministry of Jesus. I think for this morning, we need to take a look at what Paul is presenting us from three different vantage points.
- What is Paul telling Timothy about how he should live?
- What is Paul telling Timothy about God/Jesus?
- What are we to glean from this last part of Paul’s letter for our questioning condition?
Before we break this down, I want to share something with you that may help put this in perspective. About a year ago, Sue and I had the opportunity to hear author and speaker, Brian McLaren at Trinity Cathedral in Portland where he was talking about his latest book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.” In one part of his talk he shared the following…
“Founders are typically generous, visionary, bold, and creative, but the religions that ostensibly carry on their work often become the opposite: constricted, change-averse, nostalgic, fearful, obsessed with boundary maintenance, turf battles, and money. Instead of greeting the world with open arms as their founders did, their successors stand guard with clenched fists. Instead of empowering others as their founder did, they hoard power. Instead of defying tradition and unleashing moral imagination as their founders did, they impose tradition and refuse to think outside the lines. A religion that cuts itself off from the example of its founder while still bearing the founder’s name often becomes little more than a chaplaincy for other ideologies, offering its services to the highest bidder. No wonder so many religious folks today wear down, burn out, and opt out.“
As Brian shared those words, I was immediately taken to our text for this morning. Much like Jesus and the disciples, Paul (also considered a founder of our faith) was bestowing on his apprentice, Timothy, the fundamentals of pastoral ministry, but even more a warning on how one is to live the faithful life with integrity and impact.
Paul told Timothy…
Remember to be yourself (who God created you to be!) – something we all have a problem with in our world. Too often we want to be anyone but ourselves. And when we are not living our life out of the Imago Dei or the image of God inside us – we live a life that creates anything but what Paul describes as a “Righteous life.”
Instead we become what Brian described, “constricted, change-averse, nostalgic, fearful, obsessed with boundary maintenance, turf battles, and [yes] money.” Paul warned Timothy of this and many pastors and followers of Christ in general need to head his warning…
“Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”
Money as well as its partners…power and control are far from the life that Jesus modeled…and Paul wants Timothy to know that going down that path leads to destruction.
Instead, Paul encourages Timothy to “Run for your life from all of this.”
This is coming from a man who was a living example of this very phrase. Paul himself had to turn from the money, power, control, manipulation and law-oriented nature of being a leader in the Sanhedrin. Paul understood the sacrificial nature of becoming a leader in the birthing church. And his example was Jesus Christ himself. And so he gives a charge to Timothy…
13-16 I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes. Only a man who has stood his ground on what he believes. A man who embraced the wonder, was faithful, who loved beyond explanation, who set a steady course and did it all with honor and courtesy – this was a Righteous and Holy Man – this was Jesus folks!
And what Paul is saying is that when we live like Jesus - what Paul calls the eternal life, it brings the eternal into the NOW.
Paul’s warning seems rather simple.
● Don’t be full of yourself.
● Don’t be obsessed with money or __________ (fill in the blank).
Rather be like Jesus…live with
And as Paul finishes his first letter to Timothy, he says…
“Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”
Margaret Wheatley realized that life comes from us making a change in how we act and feel and how we respond to those around us. After she asked “What can we do now to restore hope to the future?” she said this…
“I’ve found that I can only change how I act if I stay aware of my beliefs and assumptions. Thoughts always reveal themselves in behavior. As humans, we often contradict ourselves – we say one thing and do another. We state who we are, but then act contrary to that. We say we’re open minded, but then judge someone for their appearance. We say we’re a team, but then gossip about a colleague. If we want to change our behavior, we need to notice our actions, and see if we can uncover the belief that led to that response.”
I think as Quakers in our world today, we need to get honest and ask ourselves some tough queries:
● Are we contradicting ourselves? Do we act contrary to that in which we are called by God?
● Are we truly being ourselves?
● Are we trying to do good?
● Are we being rich in helping others?
● Are we extravagantly generous?
These are the queries I want us to ponder as we head into 2018.
Just maybe if we were doing those things well, we would not have so much worry in our lives. Maybe those problems wouldn’t seem so difficult. Maybe there would be less violence and more love and people would be valued above the color of their skin, their political power, or marketable influence in our world. Maybe there would be less conspiracy and more trust among us. And just maybe we would find more time for what really matters – like our family, friends, and community.
Or better yet, as Paul (through the eyes of Eugene Peterson) put it,
Just maybe we will gain a “life that is truly life.”