Over the last decade I have occasionally been called upon at the Antietam Battlefield to provide interpretive work for guests who come. I’ll meet up with various sorts of groups ranging from families to busloads of students or historical associations. The past two years have also involved a number of occasions of hosting groups of cyclists, since I’m the youngest (probably not quite true) and most athletically-fit (might well be true) of the 25 or so guys who do this at Antietam.
There are two primary outfitters who bring bike groups to the Battlefield, so I see the same sponsors each time and have gotten to know them now. They always have a guy who rides along, while another guy drives a van pulling a larger trailer with all the extra gear to the ending spot.
I have really high quality bicycles that very, very seldom cause me any problems. However, it seems that if I’m going to have a flat tire, have the chain fly off, or need a major gear adjustment, the problem always appears to happen when this one particular fellow is there with a group. It is very embarrassing for me. But this guy always has exactly the tools and gear he needs with him in a pocket or pouch to quickly fix anything that goes wrong. I find it amazing as to what he has right at hand, and am amazed also at how quickly he knows what to do and gets it done. It has become a joke that I bring my bicycles each time to get them fixed while he’s there.
The illustrative point I’m making today is to tell this story that pictures a person who is fully equipped for any circumstance. I always admire a person like this who, in whatever field of endeavor, is never caught off-guard, but rather has the knowledge and resources to handle any contingency. And Paul is essentially telling Timothy in today’s reading that his young disciple can be fully equipped for any situation of life, by knowing and using the resource of God’s Word …
3:10 – You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul can reference his life and resume without being arrogant. Writing from a prison, likely facing execution, his life story had a lot of chapters, and he had been faithful in the midst of all that had happened to him and through him (like getting stoned in Timothy’s hometown of Lystra, etc.) I’ll not include it here, but read Acts chapters 13 and 14 about Paul’s experiences in these listed cities of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. The opposition was relentless, going from town to town, but God’s power through Paul was greater than anything thrown at him.
Though Paul does not use the word “pattern” in this paragraph, it is used multiple times in these Pastoral Epistles to talk about how Paul’s life and teaching was a form / pattern / outline / paradigm that Timothy (and Titus) could use in ministry as younger leaders of the next generation. Paul lists seven positive patterns, BUT, he then comes to a pair of words you would not expect in a list like this: persecutions + sufferings. That would not seem to fit!! That’s bad stuff; the first seven things were good things.
But persecution and suffering is par for the Christian life. If you don’t have some of it, you’re either living in an unusual environment, or you are living in a way where your faith is not terribly obvious to others.
Paul again exhorts Timothy with his most common theme of continuance and endurance. Just keep moving. That is what I would tell runners when I was a distance coach and when things were falling apart for a runner. Keep moving. Soon the distance is covered, the race will be finished, and often the difficult moment will pass.
Difficult times will come, but the disciplined follower of Christ has the resource of God’s Word to get them through any contingency. Such a disciple needs to stay connected to the objective truth and be informed by its wisdom and by the bigger picture of life that the Scriptures teach.
Does not this passage especially motivate you to a very specific, intentional and active – even lifelong – pursuit of knowing and growing in the truth of God’s Word? Can you ever get to the bottom of it? Can you ever know it all? Of course not! So does that not mean you should always study it and be expanding your knowledge and wisdom? Yep. That’s how you get thoroughly equipped!