Where Hope and Joy Mix
August 27, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Perhaps like you, I'm a headline reader. A few times a day I check the news' headlines, but rarely read in depth any of the stories. Even this brief perusal of current events can be overwhelming. Murders. Protests. Scandals. Foreign Upheavals. Political Bantering. Abortion Debate. Celebrity News. Far too much celebrity news. With so much pain and despair in the world, it almost seems superfluous for Christians to speak about hope and joy.
The apostle Paul lived in a culture not too dissimilar to ours. Murder, racism, power grabs, abortion, and sexual immorality were all rampant in the Roman Empire. In 2 Timothy 3 he flatly outlines the nature of a godless culture: "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" (v. 2-5). How does Paul cling to hope and command joy in the midst of such a culture?
1. Paul is not surprised by sin and its devastations. He says, "Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty" (2 Tim. 3:1). Paul understood and taught the cosmic struggle that has afflicted this world since the Fall (see Rom. 8:18-25, Eph. 2:1-3, Eph. 6:10-20). There is a "domain of darkness" and the "kingdom of his beloved Son" coexisting in this world (Col. 1:13). All people are born into the domain of darkness. Only by the hope and power of the gospel is anyone rescued out. The difficulties of this world result from the ongoing influence of sin and darkness, even if they have already been conquered in Christ.
2. Paul calls Christians to separate from the influence of such darkness. Paul says, "Avoid such people" (2 Tim. 3:5). Paul is concerned for the purity of devotion of the followers of Christ (see Rom. 12:2). Returning to the patterns of the "domain of darkness" only severs the Christian from the source of hope and joy and light and peace in Christ. Paul is not seeking to undermine the Christian's witness in a dark world (as in "avoid all non-Christians, etc."). He is guarding the hearts of Christians.
3. Hope and joy in the face of such a dark world is rooted in the Scriptures. Paul's command in response to the darkness of the "last days" is "continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed" (2 Tim. 3:14). He follows that command quickly with a theological description of Scripture. Hope in Christ grows, even when darkness surrounds, as we remain in Scripture. It is "through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
These certainly are dark days. Let us let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, though, that we may sing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts. May our hope and joy in Christ draw others to trust and delight in Christ.