Early one Saturday before sunrise, I awoke to the blaring beep of my alarm clock and remembered why I was getting up at such an hour. It was my long run today as I geared up for another half marathon. Every reason why I should go back to sleep went through my mind. I did not want to go. My finger hovered above the snooze button. Then my mind sharpened into focus. This was the last long run before race day. In order to have endurance on that day, I would have to prepare now. So I put on my gear and gathered provisions for the road. I took time to eat and stretched for a long while. By the time I walked outside, my mind was set to do the task and I was fueled to endure.
As I ran that morning, the words “continue on” kept coming to my mind. We all have moments we wish to relax or rest when there is more work required. Sometimes life even offers good reasons why we should take a pass and get around to our responsibilities at a later time. These feelings can affect our spiritual life as well. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy came to my mind, as he too was facing that decision to press on in the work of God.
II Timothy 3:14-16, 4:3-4, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them… All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
This warning in Paul’s last letter to Timothy is a pertinent message to us because of the end times in which we live. It strikes the heart with its urgency because we can look at our society and see how people have created their own narrative for how to live righteously. The effects of unchurched families and lazy Christianity have led souls from truth to false ways. Over time, men and women have compromised the message of the gospel, softening the teachings of Jesus and turning the cross into a mere symbol of morality. They have done away with sacrifice, fear of God and consequences for wrong-doing. Sadly, there are so few ministers today who preach the power to live free from sin. False teachings have lulled many into unbelief or self-deception.
But Paul’s warning also tells us that even the Church, us who sit under true preaching of God’s word, could end in the same sad way if we do not keep disciplined in our race. Weak people often start their race with great intentions, but along the way they make excuses not to continue. A true runner goes out and runs, in heat or cold, rain or sun. A half-hearted runner finds a reason to stop.
So setting your mind is half the battle, but what good is determination if you do not fuel yourself properly? As Paul said, the time will come when many will not endure sound doctrine. They don’t endure it because they don’t know how to digest it. Their diet consists of quick, sweet fixes of select scriptures. They consume the parts of the Bible they enjoy, verses that soothe and inspire them. We often refer to those things as the “milk” of the Word. While these scriptures are important and full of nutrients, they only support growth and stamina to a certain point. The “meat” of the Word consists of the passages and preaching that deepens our understanding, challenges us, corrects us, settles us and changes us. Eat all of it in order to grow. Our strength comes from what we feed on, so turn more to His Word and spiritual thought.
Mature saints learn to eat and digest all of the Word. Digesting is the process of breaking something down to pull all of the benefits from it. This takes time. Give yourself plenty of time to meditate on the scriptures and preaching to receive their full benefits. After years of studying the Bible and sitting under the gospel, we can still find it rich and full, nourishing to our souls! Once you are fueling yourself with truth, you will take judgment in stride without stumbling. Your legs will be steady and sure under you because of the strength you gain through Him. What an excellent race we can run when we are eating well!
Those who pick apart God’s Word or reason to themselves a more convenient way are walking toward unbelief. They are weakened spiritually. In Romans 3:3, Paul asked “What if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid.” The scoffer cannot change God’s eternal Word or the power of it. We who do believe and gain our strength from it must not lose sight of that truth. Let the Word settle and strengthen you. Setting your mind and fueling your body works hand in hand. We cannot declare ourselves determined and then go on empty, neither should we waste the nutrition of the Word by failing to apply it to strengthen our minds. In either instance, the runner will not finish the course.
In this last time when evil is called good and good evil, continue in the way. Seek after God’s principles and His wisdom. Live the standard as it is preached. Lean on sound counsel and not your own thoughts. Receive warning and be quick to respond to admonition. Let your love for God burn so brightly that it leaves no shadow of doubt where your allegiance lies. Set your mind and heart in defense of His gospel and fuel yourself by it.
By R Smith