2 Tim 2
Our kids are in their twenties now, but several years back our daughters told me how frustrated they were with me for not making their brother behave the way he should have. We tried…believe me we tried everything we could think of to steer him, but the truth was, he made his own decisions. As parents, we could alter his environment but we could not alter his heart. We could use consequences to get a certain result, but we could not force him to think differently about a given situation. I started with this example, but the truth is that we all face this issue with the people in our lives. Do you ever wish you could change the way someone thinks about a certain issue? Have you ever tried to reason with someone to get them to see truth instead of oppose it? How about trying to move someone to be more passionate about something they already believe in but don’t show much action in? It happens with people at work, at church, in our families, in friendships, and sometimes even in chance meetings with others.
Second Timothy is a letter written by Paul at the end of his ministry to encourage Timothy in living out the Good News and sharing that Good News with others. In vs 22-25 Paul says to Timothy, ”Pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn truth.” These few verses are beautiful Godly guidelines to live by. As I am in relationship with anyone, I should first “pursue righteous living” aiming my heart at God and working to be “faithful” so I can love others and be at “peace” with them consistently. I must “be kind to everyone”. So simple, but so much more difficult to execute…I must be kind to EVERYONE. (Including the ones who annoy me, the ones who hurt me, and the ones who are indifferent to me.) I need to be prepared, willing and “able to teach” God’s truth to everyone in my life. I am also instructed to “be patient with difficult people”. I have work to do in my own heart before getting to the “gently instructing those who oppose truth” part. Lets be clear here about the fact that these verses are talking about people who oppose God’s truth, not people in my life who oppose my opinions. There is a difference.
Verse 25 is powerful when considering conversations or relationships with people who oppose God’s truth. I think we sometimes get sucked into conversations or arguments that get heated because we want so desperately for people to understand God’s truth. Did you catch the second sentence in vs 25? “Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” It’s not our job to change people’s hearts. We are not capable no matter how good our intensions or how strong our theological argument is. God is the only one powerful enough, yet gentle enough, to know how a person actually thinks, and reveal truth to that person which changes their heart. This is why Paul tells us to “gently instruct” and then turn the person over to God and pray that He might change their heart. This may seem to be simple…just pray for the person… but faithful prayer is not a onetime thing. Have you prayed faithfully for anyone in your life? Do you know the time and energy it takes to be faithful? Can you count the number of years you have prayed for a specific person to see truth? In my experience, and listening to others who pray faithfully, asking God to reveal truth to another person is usually a long-term proposition. If you are currently praying for someone to know God’s truth, I want to encourage you today to stay faithful. Asking God to change their hearts is our only hope. It is the only thing besides loving that person that we can do to affect real change. In my early years of praying, I used to think that God got sick of hearing the same ask for truth in someone’s life day after day after day. Now after more experience, I have come to realize that my prayer for myself day after day after day is for God’s truth, only as much as I can handle today, to change me. As I have experienced the freshness and renewal of that prayer and His work in my own life, I can pray the same way for others with deep passion and strong hope. It doesn’t feel rote or repetitive. It is strengthens my relationship with God because I know His desire is the same for that person.
This morning can we take a few minutes to ask God what truth He wants to instill in each of us today? Can we consider committing to praying faithfully for someone we love to be open to God’s truth in their lives?