Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Power of a Grateful Heart

Peninsula Community Church

The Power of a Grateful Heart

November 29, 2015

Psalms 92:1-4 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

In perusing the internet I came across a blog by James Ryle that spoke to my heart in this season of thanksgiving. This blog led me to meditate on the power that comes from having a grateful heart. To grasp this we must understand that a grateful heart is one filled with thanksgiving and gratitude. To fully grasp the concept we must look at the Scriptures to understand what this means to us as the Bible is replete with texts that encourage us toward having a grateful heart.

When we have a grateful heart there is an unmistakable power that begins to work on our behalf. When looking at the passage before us today we see that it begins with a grateful heart. The fact is if we do not have a grateful heart we will fall short and not want to sing praises, declare his love or his faithfulness. We will become blind to the works of God in our lives and we will miss seeing His hand at work in us, through us, and around us.

When considering this subject, Tony Dungy stated that a thankful heart and an attitude of contentment is only possible when you start with a grateful heart. This is not some token of gratitude, but it is the realization that the Lord has blessed us with everything we need. It is having a gratitude for all of the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Dungy went on to say that it is tough to be content when all we ever think of is what we imagine everyone else has and what we do not have. The Apostle Paul suggests that we approach everything in our lives with an attitude of gratitude. As you begin to live and experience gratefulness you will find that contentment and gratitude is contagious. (Tony Dungy from Maximizing Your Influence).

From a nonChristian viewpoint the benefits of gratefulness are many. According to Forbes magazine gratefulness opens the doors to more relationships. Gratitude improves physical health as those who live with a grateful heart experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling more healthy than less grateful people. Gratitude improves psychological health as it reduces toxic emotions which range from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people sleep better and their self-esteem is improved. And finally, gratitude increases mental strength. That is from a nonChristian magazine but lets see what God’s word tells us.

We will look at four things that happen when we live with a grateful heart. First, a thankful heart increases our awareness of God’s purposes. When we live in gratitude we are more open to the prospect that we can know with a calm assurance that God is working for our good. Paul understood this when he penned these words. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

This is one of the most misquoted and misinterpreted Scriptures of all of the Bible. There are many who would have you believe that because we love God and God loves us that no bad thing will happen to us, but that is not the truth of this passage at all. God’s love goes much deeper than that. God’s grace in our life is not a matter of never facing bad things but rather it is the sustaining grace of God through every circumstance. Therefore, it is not a matter of being immune to difficult times but it is how we navigate these times that matter most. That is why we are reminded that we are to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is of note that this not a matter of settling for the worse or denying or role but it means that everything in life is approached with a heart of being gratefulness.

Secondly, a thankful heart keeps us from the destructive influence of bitterness. To live with ingratitude causes one to become bitter and will cause one to be filled with anger, judgement, criticism, and blame. I am sure that we could all share a story of someone in our lives that has been impacted by a bitter heart. The destructive forces of bitterness have negatively impacted churches, businesses, and families. The writer of Hebrews was keenly aware of the power of  bitterness when he warns his readers not to allow any root of bitterness to spring forth. Listen to the words of Scripture. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:15).

The problem with bitter roots is that they begin to absorb nutrients and they take life away from what is good and right. You see bitterness destroys life rather than sustaining life. Listen to the voice of Job in this regard. “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11). Think about what he is communicating. He recognizes that if he does not get his anguish under control then he might respond with bitterness and anger which comes from the depths of his soul. He recognized the potential for bitterness to control him and to become a part of his psyche. If you remember, Job had lost it all. He lost his business. He lost his family. He lost respect. And yet this is the same Job who had a greater sense of who God was than what Job had lost. For this reason, Job could powerfully proclaimed that Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face (Job 13:15). If you remember the story, because of his faithfulness, he received a double portion of what he had lost.

A third thing that happens when we have a thankful heart is that it prevents us from falling into pride. Matthew Henry was a great theological Bible Scholar. He was once accosted by thieves and was robbed. In response to this act, he penned these words in his diary. “Let me be thankful that I was never robbed before; second that although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took it all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed another.” That is a heart of thanksgiving and gratefulness.

He could have become bitter. He could have closed his heart toward others. He could have complained to the Lord about his situation. He could have carried an offense that would have caused him to cast a suspicious eye on those who traveled into his town or he might have encountered on his journeys. Instead, he turned to God with a heart of humility and he gave thanks. Thus he was saved from the pit of pride and anger. Thanksgiving and humility go hand in hand and God is pleased with both.

Fourth, a thankful heart permeates our circle of influence with faith. Think about it for a moment. Thanksgiving is the highest expression of faith there is. This is especially true during the times we walk through desolate times and things are not going well for us. Our faith is based in what has been done for us and what He is doing on our behalf but it is also focused on what is yet to come on our behalf. Paul understood that this was an eternal perspective. We hear the tone of this perspective in the following passage. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). This does not mean that we deny the existence of problems but rather we recognize that the problems we face today are no way to be compared to the future that is ours in Christ.

In this regard, we will see that a grateful heart is focused on God while an ungrateful heart is focused on one’s problems. Thankfulness lifts our vision and builds our faith. It causes us to be an influential encouragement to others who are struggling with life’s difficulties. Once again Philippians speaks to this subject when Paul stated that we are to Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Philippians 2:14-16).

2 Corinthians 2:14-16  But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

As we consider this passage and others we have read, we understand that gratefulness changes us, effects our life, and it causes us to exude joy and promise. In Paul’s words, when we live in gratefulness we exude a odor of grace and love. So let me ask you? What do you smell like?

I came across an illustration that bears repeating this morning. In the Peanuts cartoon, Snoopy is getting his usual ration of dog food for Thanksgiving Day dinner. He stares at the bowl and begins to talk to himself. “How about that? Everyone is eating Turkey today, but just because I am a dog I get dog food.” He then trots away and positions himself on top of his doghouse and concludes, “Of course, it could have been worse, I could have been born a turkey.”

So let me ask you. How is your heart? Do you have a grateful heart? As a result do you live in expectation? It is your choice and it is not based on your circumstances or your problems. It is in spite of our circumstances that we can live with gratitude. That is God’s desire and that is our calling today. Let us pray!

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Joshua – Removing Reproach

Peninsula Community Church

Joshua – Removing Reproach

November 22, 2015

Joshua 4:19-24 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean? ’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground. ’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

As we begin today let me ask you a question. Do you have that place or places in your memory that you love to return to as way to be refreshed and renewed. Perhaps it is a place you go to remember the past and remember what transpired in your life. Perhaps it is place in your house or location in your town. Perhaps it is simply a memory that comes when you need to be encouraged.

When Michelle and I were dating, we loved to go to Northport Harbor on Long Island. It was a beautiful place. There were sail boats and cabin cruisers lining the docks. Next to the dock was a beautiful park. We would often walk the streets of the village and buy a slice of pizza or a sandwich and then go the park and enjoy a picnic lunch. To make this a more notable place, this was the place where I proposed to Michelle. Every time I think of Northport Harbor, I think of those days and a smile fills my heart. Joshua had such a location. It was called Gilgal. As we read the story of Joshua we find that he returned to Gilgal many times after the battles he faced. He returned there throughout his life, as it was a place that held special meaning in his heart.

Why was Gilgal so important? To begin with we must understand the meaning of the word Gilgal. The name Gilgal means “to roll off reproach.” In the days of Joshua the names of cities described how they were used and the purpose of the city. In the case of Gilgal, it was a place where the disappointments and disapprovals of the past had been removed. It is not by chance the first city that the children of Israel camped upon their arrival into the promise land was the city of Gilgal. As a result it held a special place in their hearts and in the heart of Joshua for several reasons.

First of all Gilgal was a place to remember all that God had done on their behalf. This was an important time for the Children of Israel as they had enough to feel disappointed and disproval over in their past. After all, they had been wandering through the desolate land of the wilderness for forty years. They had been faithless. They had been rebellious. They had rejected God and they certainly rejected Moses as their leader. And yet, God led them into the promised land and led them to camp at Gilgal. In remembering where they came from they also remembered that God’s grace and mercy was always so evident in their life. Instead of forbidding them to enter the land, He had promised them, He graciously gave them the land in spite of their past.

Secondly, Gilgal represented a place of change. If you will go back with me to the days before they entered the promised land. They were standing by the Jordan River. Their beloved leader, who they had a love/hate relationship with, was now dead. Now Joshua was their leader and all kinds of questions swirled around his appointment as the new leader. How would he serve them? What would he accomplish? Would he serve God faithfully? Would they follow this new leader? Would they be successful once they entered the land?

It was also a time of change for them in terms of the provision of God. If you remember in the wilderness, they had their food provided for them: both manna and quail. Water was provided and their clothes never wore out. They were guided by a fire by night and a cloud by day as they journeyed through the wilderness. Now, they would have to fend for themselves.

It is important for us to realize that life is full of changes. It has been said that the only thing that never changes is change itself. Most of us have a range of emotion when it comes to change. Our emotions can run from mild irritation to a full blown hatred toward anything that resembles change. The question for us is not whether or not change will come but what will we do with change. Joshua reminds us that while change will happen there are a couple of unchangeable dynamics.

First, the future blessing and inheritance of God was already theirs. Notice that they were called to take what was already given to them. All they had to do was fight for it. It is noteworthy that in Joshua 1 that God gave Joshua a specific description of the land they were to possess. While it was already their land, they had to appropriate the land for themselves. Secondly, because they were given specific instructions on the territory they were not to possess what was not theirs but only that which God had given them. The problem for us is that we try to possess what has not been given to us at times. When we do this we can become jealous or angry and we can blame God when we do not receive what we expected, when that is not God’s desire at all.

Secondly, Joshua had a promise that no enemy would stand against them. Here is a fact we must understand. The enemy wants us to be more afraid of them rather than us recognizing our power over the enemy. As we see the terror of ISIS unleashed we know that much of their goal is to instill fear and confusion and as long as we do not fight them that fear grows. Their goal is to intimidate us and as we have seen, too many in leadership around the world have been intimated into passivity. And yet they continue to gain strength and power.  Our spiritual enemy desires to take us out. The enemy does not always gain victory through complete defeat but through intimidation and fear. But we there is a promise we can hold onto. It is the promise that as Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (John 4:4).

Spiritually, we face the enemy of discouragement, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. But we must recognize that all of these enemies are defeated in Christ. You see we are more than conquerers. Paul understood this when he penned these words. If God is for us, who can be against us? …Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). Joshua had this promise and so do we today. We are more than conquerers because Christ lives in us.

Thirdly, God told Joshua to take courage and strength to accomplish what he was called to do. In this challenge there were two aspects to be considered. First, God promised Joshua that He would be with him. But He also warned him that they must follow the commands of God. By taking courage in the presence of God and by following the law of God, they would be assured of their success. In other words, God’s things done God’s way will result in God’s blessing and victory.

The third thing for Gilgal is that it was a reminder of the resurrection which is represented by baptism.  The children of Israel were to cross over the Jordan but in so doing they were to make a proclamation of truth. They were to take twelve stones from the one side of the Jordan and place them in the Jordan followed by taking twelve stones from the river and placing them near Gilgal. They were to take one stone for each tribe. This was to serve as a symbol of God’s deliverance. By placing the stones in the river they were in essence recognizing that their past was behind them and this was a day of new beginnings. In essence they were experiencing a resurrection of sort. They were dying to their past and were being raised to a new life and to a new day. Rather than being a symbol of death, I propose that it is in essence the Jordan River was a symbol of life. Why? Because in the very act of moving stones in and out of the river there was a sign of life which is best illustrated by water baptism in the New Testament. The stones were to be used as a symbol of that transaction so that when the people would ask what does this mean they could say it represents the victories won in their lives just as baptism represents our new life in Christ.

Paul understood this when he penned these words in Colossians 2:11-15. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

So let me ask you where is your Gilgal? Do you have a place of remembrance? Do you have that place you go to when you have won battles or for that matter you have lost a few? I suggest that one of the best places you can go is into the closet of prayer. For it is in the closet of prayer that we remember all that God has done for us. It is in the closet of prayer that we find that reproach is rolled away. Where we have been disappointed and have received disapproval, it is in our prayer closet that we can find peace and we can find hope. If you don’t have a Gilgal, I pray today that you will find one so that the memory of the work of Christ is alive in you.

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Joshua a Man of Fearless Faith

Peninsula Community Church

Joshua a Man of Fearless Faith

November 8, 2015

Joshua 24:14-18“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.

As we continue our series “Heroes of the Faith and What They Teach Us About Life” we will focus today on the life and story of Joshua. Last week, we focused on Timothy whose life reflected genuine faith and today, we will look at Joshua’s life which reflects a life of fearless faith. As we study Joshua’s life, we find that Joshua had an unmovable and unshakable faith no matter what he faced or what battles he confronted. We see this in the words of the passage before us today. As we have noted in our previous studies, Joshua was not perfect but he was faithful and his heart was pure.

Because of his faith I have entitled this message “Joshua a Man of Fearless Faith.” To be fearless does not mean that there is an absence of fear but rather that one has mastered their fear. As passionate followers of Christ we know that He has not given us a spirit of fear (1 Timothy 1:7) and we understand that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). In Joshua’s case he had a fearless faith. How could this be? It was because he had a faith stronger than death and a courage to stand no matter what he faced.

In terms of the early history of Joshua, we do not have much to go on by way of scripture. But here is what we know. He was born during the Egyptian captivity and he was one of the 2 million plus to be a part of the Exodus from Egypt. At some point, Moses took Joshua under his wing and began to nurture and develop Joshua as a follower of God and as a future leader. Joshua became Moses’s assistant as a young man (Numbers 11:28) which positioned him to accomplish all that God was to do in and through him.

As a result of being at Moses’ side, Joshua had a vantage to point to see the hand of God move perhaps more than anyone else in the nation at that time. It is noteworthy as well that he saw the good and the bad as Moses was a strong leader but he also exhibited character flaws from time to time. For example, Joshua learned obedience from Moses actions. On three occasions God used Moses to provide the nation with good drinking water. On the first occasion, God commanded Moses to throw a log into the water so that it would be sweet to drink (Exodus 14:22) . He did so and fresh water came flowing forth. On the second occasion God commanded Moses to strike the rock with his rod and from the rock came fresh water (Exodus 17:1-7). On the third occasion God commanded Moses to speak to the rock rather than strike the rock. But Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock instead (Numbers 20:8-12). Because of his disobedience Moses was not allowed to enter into the Promise Land. He could see the land from a distance, but he was not allowed to go in. From this Joshua learned that God does not always do things the same way. He is a God of variety and creativity. In this, Joshua learned to listen for God’s commands and to follow them with his whole heart.

He developed patience. It is noteworthy that it was Joshua and Joshua alone who was invited to join Moses on the mountain as Moses met with God for forty days. It was here that Joshua learned patience as he was commanded to wait for Moses below the cloud line. Imagine this, Joshua waited for Moses all by himself for forty days. He had no food. He could not see Moses nor could he see what was happening to Moses. At the same time he could not see the Children of Israel. He was all alone. And yet, I can’t help but imagine that God was with Joshua as we do not see him being impatient or becoming angry (Exodus 24).

As Moses and Joshua were coming down the mountain, we find the spiritual leaders, who were left to guide the people, assisting the children of Israel to participate in Pagan worship. They were offering a golden calf as a sacrifice which was a common worship theme in Egypt as the Egyptians worshipped animals of all kinds. Can you imagine the scene? Moses had just spent 40 days with God. He had met with God, he heard from God directly, and he had been given the Ten Commandments and the instructions for the Children of Israel on worship. Look at the irony. Moses had received the instructions for worship, while Aaron was leading the nation in what was common and what was idolatrous. They turned their back on God. They were rejecting the very God that Moses had been with for all of those days. In his anger, Moses threw the original Ten Commandments down on the ground.

Joshua witnessed the power of God. Joshua saw much of the negative but he also had the opportunity to witness the miracles of God as well. He saw the Red Sea part and the children of Israel walk safely to the other side, He watched as the armies of Pharaoh were swept away by the tidal rush of the returning water.  He watched as God provided water for the thirsty souls led by Moses. He was there when the manna fell from heaven to satisfy the hunger of the people. He was there when God provided the quail for them to eat. He watched as the clothes they were wearing never got old or deteriorated. He witnessed the cloud by day and the fire by night that guided them through the wilderness. He was at Moses’ side as he would counsel the people and give them insight into their problems. He truly witnessed the power of God.

Joshua also grew to trust God. It was Joshua who was chosen as one of the twelve spies to go and spy out the land. It was Joshua and Caleb who gave a good report. They saw the same obstacles and the same problems but they also recognized the largeness of God’s grace and power. Because of their fearless faith, they could see the difficulties and yet they knew that with God they could overcome them. They knew they could trust God and that He would bring the victory they needed.

This trust came from his experience with fighting the Amalekites. To our knowledge Joshua had never been trained for battle. He had never led an army. He did not have the weapons or the arsenal the enemy had but he had God and he had Moses who would be an intercessor on his behalf. While Moses prayed, Joshua battled. When Moses began to falter, the battle began to be lost. But when he kept his hands raised, the battle was being won. Joshua’s faith and leadership skills were growing each day. What Joshua did not know was that God was preparing him for so much more. He was being prepared to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land.

As we look at Joshua’s life, we find that there were three major attributes that exemplified his life. First, he was obedient. He was willing to do God’s bidding without question. Joshua combined complete obedience to God’s will with a resolute faith that Jehovah would empower him to carry out His commands. Joshua’s name meant “Jehovah is salvation.” Joshua had an assurance that it was God Himself who saves. It is God who delivers. It is God who grants glorious victory over the enemy.

This is played out in Joshua’s life as we see him take the reigns of leadership and one of his first challenges is to take Jericho. It is interesting to note that God gives them a specific challenge. It is a challenge that was never given before. They were to walk around the walls of Jericho for seven days and then on the seventh day they were to walk around the city seven times. And then on the seventh trip around the city, they were to raise their voices and shout a loud shout. In their obedience, the walls fell.

Second, he knew what it meant to believe God. Notice that Joshua did not just believe in God but he believed God. We can believe in God but not trust God with our lives. Joshua’s faith led him to believe God’s word so that he could follow him with his whole heart and mind. Joshua’s faith led him to a place where he trusted God to do what God said God would do. To believe in God is simply an intellectual exercise that gives us knowledge. Believing God comes from experience and the understanding of truth about God. You see even demons believe in God but they do not trust God with their life or their ways.

Third, he put his faith into action. Joshua did not just trust God but he put his faith into action. Throughout the book of Joshua we see this fulfilled. He was filled with the spirit of God (Deuteronomy 34:9) and the Word of God filled his inner man (Joshua 1:8) and finally he practiced the presence of God in his daily life (Joshua 1:5 and 6:27).  In the final analysis we could say that Joshua put his faith into action by letting go of the past. Joshua put his faith into action by trusting God’s promises for the present and he studied God’s word for guidance in the future. He was a complete man and for that reason Joshua was a man of fearless faith.

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Timothy: A Model of Spiritual Success

Peninsula Community Church

Timothy: A Model of Spiritual Success

November 1, 2015

2 Timothy 1:3-7 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self.

This week I want to piggy back on what Ray spoke about last week. I want to speak on the value of living a life that can be emulated by others. In the passage, before us, one of the first things we see is that Paul recognizes Timothy’s sincere faith. Depending on the version or translation of the text you have, you may find a couple of different words used. You may find the word sincere, genuine, or the word unfeigned used. Regardless of the word, the word comes from the theater or play acting. You see in those days, as in the days of Shakespeare, actors would play roles by wearing masks. They would hide behind masks and become someone different as they would role play a character. No one would know the real person behind the mask.

Yesterday was Halloween and people dressed up in costumes and portrayed some of their favorite characters. For some people, this was more than an opportunity to dress up like their specific character, they also began to emulate that character and take on the life of that character. The whole idea of dressing up is to become your favorite character and take on that persona for the day.

I can remember that when I was in college we would do two to three major productions a year. In most of the productions I had bit parts. One thing I noticed was that as soon as I stepped into character I became that person. But once the acting was over I reverted to being me. In Paul’s observation of Timothy’s life, Paul witnessed that Timothy’s faith was genuine and sincere. Paul was saying that he did have to wear a mask to hide his true identity.

Paul is saying, Timothy you are the genuine deal. You do not have to play act or pretend to be someone or something you are not. In this specific case, Timothy did not have to pretend to be a Christian. He was a believer and there was no doubt about it based on Paul’s observations in regard to Timothy’s life. Timothy was a genuine follower of Christ. With that in mind, let me ask you “what story would be told of your life if someone were to write a book about you? Would they see you as the genuine deal.” Notice that Paul did not say perfect or sinless. He said genuine. Timothy’s faith was real and he had a genuine understanding of himself and his circumstances.

But where does this genuineness come from to live such a life? From the scripture, we find that Timothy was emulating the faith found in his grandmother and his mother. They instilled in him the faith he needed to live a genuine life. Last week Ray challenged us to leave a legacy and to reach out to others who need hope and faith. This is once again illustrated by the passage before us today. It is not real clear how Lois and Eunice did this, but we know they did it because it forever impacted Timothy’s life and would eventually effect many generations to come. I do believe they lived a life worth emulating and they pointed Timothy to the Scriptures.

Whatever the process used, we know that Paul charges Timothy to continue in what he had learned and to continue in what he had believed. Listen to Paul’s words But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom 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 (2 Timothy 3:15). There are three things in this passage that are striking to me. First, Paul challenges Timothy to continue in what he has already learned. This implies that he learned something and what he learned was good. The second point is that Paul challenges Timothy to continue in what he believes. In other words, don’t allow the societal sway of passivity and the itching ears of those to whom he was ministering to cause him to drift from the truth or from what he had learned. The third point here is that Paul reminds Timothy not to forget where he received his knowledge of Christ and faith. His mother and grandmother had influenced him and had effected his life in ways he could not have imagined.

That applies to us as well. First, we must have a knowledge of God and we must have an understanding of our faith. We must hold onto that faith and not be swayed by those around us who desire to compromise the truth or those who seek an easy way of life. The second thing is that we have to remember those who have impacted our lives. Who lead you to Christ and who helped to disciple you the most? It may be a Lois or a Eunice or it may be someone else.

For me, as a young boy growing up, I am reminded of my grandmother’s faith. It is my belief that I am what I am today in large part to my grandmother’s faith, love, and prayer. When I was about one years old my mom dropped me off at my grandmother’s house and left town to find herself. She had become pregnant again and gave that daughter up for adoption. I lived with my grandmother McIlwain for five years. While living with her, she could be found every morning with her Bible open on the kitchen table where she would be reading and studying the word of God. She did this not to check off of a list of things to do, but because she recognized the power of the gospel in her life.

Secondly, throughout the day she modeled the lifestyle of guinness and faithfulness to Christ. Everyone loved my grandmother. Everyone spoke of how she was genuine and how she exuded the power of Christ’s love through her life. Third, she was faithful to her church. Each Sunday she would make sure that we were in church even if we walked from our house down to the church which was three to four miles away. I still remember the church’s name. It was Progress Assembly of God in Buckatunna, Mississippi. I also remember my grandmother would kneel by her bedside at night where she would specifically pray for her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. I can remember being in the other room and I would hear her pray for me. She would lift my name to God and would pray for my protection and for God’s calling on my life.

My grandmother was faithful even when she faced difficulty in her life. My grandfather died in 1964 and left her to raise me by herself. We lived in a small four room house that had no heat or running water. We used a well outside. I remember going with my grandmother once a month to pick up the government food at the commissary. We would get a brown bag of rice, flour, sugar, some cheese, and some can goods. We did not have a lot but we had one another and she had her faith.

There is a third element in this passage that is important to this discussion. Paul exhorts Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God which had been given to him by the laying on of hands. Paul challenged Timothy to keep his faith ignited and not ever let it die out. To be clear, we do not know what the specific gift is that Paul is referring to. Because of the context of this passage and others in the wirings of Paul to Timothy I wonder if it was not a reference to the work of salvation in Timothy’s heart. Paul is exhorting Timothy not to forget what has been done in his life, who was responsible for that work, and what he is to do with what he has been given. In that, he was reminded to keep the flame of salvation burning in his heart. Let me ask you, have you ever felt that the flame of your salvation was not burning as brightly as it was at one time. Paul recognized the truth that we do ebb and flow in our walk before Christ. We must therefore keep the flame stoked or it will die out.

Why was this important? If we look at this scripture in the context of the rest of the book, we will see that Paul had a two-fold reason for writing this letter to Timothy. He was encouraging him to stand against the tests that would come. Paul encouraged him not to compromise the gospel message and to be planted on the unmovable and unshakeable truth of Christ. He was not to walk in fear no matter what was to come his way. Paul had prophesied that there would be a time when people would turn from the truth of the Gospel and want to have their ears tickled. Paul was saying be real, be genuine, don’t forget where you came from, and do not forget that what you have been called to do. Keep the flame burning in your life and do not allow anything to extinguish that flame, especially fear.

The second aspect of this passage relates to Timothy’s reaction to those things going on around him. You see when we do not fan the flame, we have a greater tendency to walk in fear rather than in love, power, and in self-control. We begin to live from a position of worry and concern and not one of trust. When we do not fan the flame, we can easily compromise the truth of the Gospel. When we do not fan the flame of truth and salvation in our lives we can become hardened and therefore respond to the issues of life with anger, hatred, and fear rather than love. Remember that perfect love casts out all fear. It is God’s perfect love and not our own that will keep us from fear. When we fan the flame of what we have been given to us it will keep us stable because God has given us self-control.

So remember the influencers in your life. Remember that you have not been given a spirit of fear but you have been given a spirit of love, power and self-control. So what do you do with it? Are you living a life worth emulation? That is the question.

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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