This is the time of year when many of us consider or make resolutions which we aim to pursue in 2017. Hopefully we stay at these new objectives long after the ink dries on our list. Zeal is one thing, perseverance is quite another virtue.
If Timothy is going to grow into a godly leader, he must make some significant changes. Growth doesn’t just happen. Sin doesn’t magically disappear without a biblical strategy. As Paul continues this counsel as a spiritual father to his son, he urges action, specific obedience to specific commands.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Flee the evil desires of youth – How old was Timothy? The text isn’t explicit, but he has journeyed with Paul and the rest of the missionary team for some years. With the weight of leadership resting on his ‘young shoulders,’ Paul may well fear that Timothy will revert back to old patterns. Although (2 Timothy 3:15) he had known the holy Scriptures from infancy, the age of his conversion is never cited. With Paul no longer available, Timothy must ‘step up his game,’ demonstrate a solid maturity in his role with the leadership team at Ephesus.
What are the evil desires of youth? Pride? Selfishness? Fits of Rage? Immorality? Paul assumes Timothy knows well the natural propensity of evil in the human heart. Look through the letters to churches in the New Testament and you’ll discover sin ‘lists’ in almost piece of correspondence. Sin, though culturally expressed in different ways, is an endemic problem throughout the world. The best thing Timothy can do is to flee, to run away, by God’s grace to make better choices than he had every made before, to keep short accounts with God, asking for grace to be kept from sin (Lead us not into temptation) and for mercy when he has sinned.
Pursue… Chase after virtue. Go hard after godliness and seek to build into your life the very character of Christ. Timothy, you’re not the only one running this race. Others call on the Lord with you out of a pure heart. Join them. Perhaps find in their company an accountability partner, a godly friend who will ask you the hard questions and track your growth or lack of it for the balance of your life.
Run away from some things. Run towards other things. Spiritual growth will be in proportion to our obedience to this instruction. May God strengthen our will, as we like Daniel of old, ‘purpose in our hearts,’ and plan a race strategy to run towards the goal, the goal of becoming more like Jesus Christ!
Well might we sing today, “May the mind of Christ my Saviour, dwell in me from day to day. By His love and power controlling all I do and say…..”