I continue to be amazed, as I carry out my weekly deacon tasks, how the Bible holds many, many nuggets of wisdom and delight found in some of the more out-of-the-way places in that very, very large (my ESV copy contains 1,291 pages) book. In thinking about my focus for any Thought and Prayer of the Day, I usually start by looking at McCausland’s Order of Divine Service for possible texts from the Old and New Testament chosen for each day of the week. For Thursday, September 21st, I noted that today is the feast day of St. Matthew, whom we have certainly heard much from in Sunday worship services during this Pentecost season. I decided to look at other Scripture passages for today and discovered a New Testament book that I am less familiar with – The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy, sometimes referred to as 2 Timothy.
Timothy played a major part of Paul’s ministry to others. He also dealt in his time, centuries ago, with many of the same struggles contemporary Christians face in sharing the gospel with people not interested in hearing it. The New Testament contains two separate letters (1 & 2) from Paul to Timothy that were meant to be read aloud to the congregations Timothy visited as part of sharing the Gospel.2 Timothy chronicles more of Paul’s parting thoughts and teachings, as he was in Rome awaiting execution. Paul encouraged Timothy about staying strong in grace, being faithful in spreading the gospel, and being aware of false teachers and doctrines. The particular passage for Sept. 21st is from 2 Timothy 3:14-17. However, I find it helpful to look at the beginning of this chapter as it sets a context for what follows. Paul writes,
But understand this, that in the last days there will be times of difficulty.For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
This list of human frailties struck me as being just as readily evident today simply by watching the evening news on TV! So, where might this passage lead us? Where might you and I find in 2 James a nugget of wisdom or hope for something better? Fortunately, we do not have to wait long for Paul tells James, starting in v. 14, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from who you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
So, despite the shortcomings of fellow human beings that sometimes – or with increasing frequency – catch our attention, we do continue to acquire knowledge and hope in what we have learned from Christ’s teachings and example. This is done through reading or listening to the many familiar stories in the Bible. And over time, the repetition of such stories makes us wise, resulting in a stronger faith in Jesus and his promise of salvation. It has been said that God wants us to have knowledge of Him and what He expects of us. But as equally important as having knowledge is having wisdom. Knowing facts about God and the Bible is not all there is to wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God. Let me now share another nugget with you found a little further on in the New Testament in James 1:5. This servant of God writes “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” In today’s world, God blesses us with wisdom in order for us to glorify Him and use the knowledge we have of Him. In Paul’s closing verses in the Scripture passage for September 21st, he writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Let us remember this, in times of great difficulty, whether on a global or more personal level, it helps to know that God wants us to have knowledge of Him and He adds to this the gift of wisdom. In closing, let us hear and learn the point of God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom to us, as found in at the closing verse of 2 Timothy 3:17 – “that the people of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Amen.
- by Edwin Hatch (1878). Breathe on Me Breath of God, verse 1.