Is anyone up for a good old-fashioned treasure hunt? Do any of you remember scouring your backyard for buried treasure after seeing a pirate movie or reading Treasure Island? Armed with a map and a shovel, who knows what fine jewels and gold coins lie just within your reach a few feet from your back door? The possibilities and hours spent might have been endless…
It can be amusing to dream about finding buried treasure and the resulting changes it would immediately bring to your life. While most of us have given up hope that anything of value truly lies right beneath our feet, the allure of hitting it big and striking it rich can still remain for some. Why do Powerball tickets sell at record numbers? The idea of landing that big promotion and pay raise, investing in the next Apple or Amazon, or creating the next worldwide phenomenon is intriguing and enticing to many. Who wouldn’t raise their eyebrows and give those things a second glance?
This week, the Apostle Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy, with some words regarding the allure of money. He tells Timothy, and the Church, that chasing wealth will only lead to destructive behaviors, attitudes, and circumstances. Those wanting to get rich fall into a trap that can lead to some serious consequences. On the flip side, those who are wealthy can fall into a trap of arrogance and a false sense of security that can turn them away from the hope they have in Christ. Things are not that different today.
Paul encourages Timothy to flee – to run – from both of these extremes and to pursue contentment. Now, that’s a word that can be hard to swallow, accept, or rest in…contentment. What does it mean to be content? What does it mean to have enough? What does it mean to give out of our contentment? Paul addresses all of these things and more in this chapter (1 Timothy 6.)
What a gift it is to see the life and the true riches that are ours in God’s Word. He is so faithful to us to provide us with all that we need for this life and on top of that gives us the promise and hope for the life beyond. Out of this gift, we are invited to give what we have – our time, our gifts, our talents, our money – to serve others and influence His Kingdom. It is when we do this kind of stewarding that we get to experience something pretty special, as Paul wraps up our text to Timothy by saying: In this way [we] will lay up treasure for [ourselves] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [we] may take hold of the life that is truly life.
The Value of Training
Have you ever heard of the term, “practice player?” It’s a phrase used to describe an athlete who performs really well during practice but does not deliver the same result in the competition or contest. It is important to note that this designation or trend really might have nothing to do with that person’s drive, ability, or skill, as there can be many factors for this label to be placed on certain individuals in the world of sport or competition. In my own experience, I was the furthest thing from a practice player in the sense that I usually didn’t enjoy practices. I thought they were boring, a bit dull, and definitely not as cool or exciting as the real games. The thought of spending two hours running sprints, going through drills, and walking through plays, game plans, and scenarios didn’t really get me pumped up to give my all or perform my best. But when the lights came on and it was game time, my mind, heart, body, and soul were motivated in ways that did not exist during a practice. I would exert myself and be focused at a far greater level than if it was just going through the motions of a practice. Can any of you relate to this? Maybe it’s not on a court or a field, but how about in life? Many of us usually don’t glorify or get fired up about training. We know we need it, that we should do it, that it is essential and valuable, but many times we just don’t find it very enjoyable or engaging.
Consider two examples of how even films depict training. In most superhero movies, the person usually finds out they have these powers that need to be homed in and refined and so there is always this period of training where they are working on their particular gift and skill. Usually there is music playing in the background and they are doing some cool stuff like shooting spiderwebs at targets. It’s as if the movie makers are saying, “Yeah, we know this is boring. The hero is learning stuff. You need to know it’s happening because training is important, but we’re going to skip through it and shorten it to get to the good stuff.” Now compare this to the very iconic scenes in the Rocky movies where his training always occurs with some now-made-famous tunes like “Eye of the Tiger” blasting in the background during these elongated scenes. The principle is the same. Training is important and necessary, but not very exciting so it needs to get jazzed up a bit.
As we continue our walk through the Apostle Paul’s letters to young Timothy, we come to Chapter 4 where Paul is continuing to encourage Timothy to see the value of his training in a knowledge and love of God through His Word. He writes that training is essential to help us grow in the Lord, training equips us to handle various situations and circumstances that life may throw at us, and training gives us a continual reminder of the hope that we have as we grow in godliness. Training is not meant to be treated as a waste of time or an effortless ordeal.
Maybe each of us need this reminder too as we walk through this life in faith? How often do we fall into a pattern where we fail to see the benefit of spiritual training and encouragement in God’s Word? How often does that lead us into apathy when it comes to growing in our knowledge and love of God? How often does this rob us of the hope that is ours in Christ? We are invited to see God’s training as essential for who He is making us to be.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:8-10 NIV)
The Limits of God's Patience
Have you ever put your limits to the test? Have you ever maxed out your capacity on something? For many, the images that come to mind when we think of doing those things take place in a weight room, during a race, or some other form of physical or mental exertion. And these are easy pictures and examples to think of because of the untapped potential that is present in both our minds and bodies. Most scientists would agree that it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity, but depending on various circumstances and situations, the potential of brain function is something that many of us don’t actually tap into to experience optimal performance. The same goes with our muscular system. According to various reports, most of us are only able to access around 50-60% of our theoretical muscle potential at any given moment. With the proper practice and training, both of these limits can be raised, but there will still be limitations to them. I’m pretty sure I will never figure out how E=mc2 or be able to pull an 18-wheeler behind me and at the end of the day I am totally fine with that.
Pushing beyond your limits can be painful, challenging and exhausting, but it can also be fun, rewarding, and enjoyable. When it comes to limitations as human beings, we have plenty of them all over the board. However, many of these go beyond the physical and mental ones. An easy limitation that I have, and is common among many others, is one that we will take a look at in our text this week: patience. Do any of you have limitations with your amount of patience? It’s crazy how the littlest things can set me off or bug me or create perceived inconveniences that are just not that big of a deal. I’m a funny person. But it is within our limitations created by our sinful nature that God desires to show up to show us and remind us of His unlimited potential and His limitless characteristics that He delivers to us.
This week we are going to be taking a look at the Apostle Paul’s first letter to a young pastor named Timothy. Timothy needed some guidance and encouragement from his mentor because the situation he was in called for him to be bold and proactive in communicating the truth of God’s Word in a city that was full of lies, misconceptions, and deception when it came to a knowledge of God. In the first chapter, Paul reminds Timothy that no one is too far for the Gospel to reach. Paul uses the example of his own personal life to prove the point that if God can work to save Paul and bring him into His family, He can do the same for anyone else. The key to this mercy and grace of God is His patience.
Do you know that God’s patience knows no bounds? That it is unlimited? That it’s maximum potential is beyond our understanding much less our grasp? This is good news for us this morning because I need God’s patience in my life. I need to know, trust, and find peace that He is patient with me in all of my shortcomings and limitations brought on by my sin. He doesn’t get annoyed or fed up to the point that He just says, “Well, I tried but he/she is a hopeless case!” Rather, He continues to show us His patience, His love, and His grace even when we are far from deserving it. And He uses our lives as a living example to showcase that amazing quality of His so that others might know Him more. Aren’t you thankful that God is patient with you too?
Change is in the air! As I was walking to church yesterday (Wednesday) morning, I was greeted with a very pleasant reality. The air had a bit of a bite to it. The breeze had an edge to it. The crispness of the morning could only mean one thing…fall was on the way!
I love fall. I love all the seasonal changes that we get to enjoy and experience living here in Minnesota, but fall might be my favorite one. Not only do we get to kiss the hot and humid days of summer goodbye, but we also get to enjoy the fall colors of the changing trees; the return of football; bonfires, apple-picking, and hot cider; trading in the shorts for pants; and a new ministry year at Oak Hill.
As we enter this Kick-off Sunday at Oak Hill, we will be reminded again of just how wonderful it is to be a part of a church family. We get to walk through life together and experience it as One Body as we encourage one another. Whether it’s through Sunday School, KidZone, Little Lights, Confirmation, a small group, a Bible study, a gathering, or an event, we get to be around each other in ways that bring some much-needed enrichment to our lives.
It’s great to be in relationship with others. Each of us needs that bond of community that helps guide, strengthen, and shape our world in positive and uplifting ways. I get to experience that being in relationship with you all the time! We need each other because God did not intend for us to go through life on our own. He designed us to crave relationships. He created us to want to be with others. He instilled in us a need to be in community with Him.
This week, we will be looking at a book of the Bible that you may not have spent much time in, but it speaks powerfully of how God’s Word changes our view of relationships. The Apostle Paul’s letter to his friend, Philemon, is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible and it is quite personal. We can easily skip or gloss over this letter because we may wonder about its significance or relevancy to our situations and circumstances today. But God’s Word always speaks volumes into our everyday lives and the book of Philemon is no different.
In Philemon, Paul is encouraging his friend to see those around him through the lens of the Gospel. Just as God had radically accepted Philemon and given him grace, so too should Philemon, and us today, extend that same hand of friendship to our brothers and sisters of humanity.
The book of Philemon helps us see ourselves in our interactions with other people…in perhaps the broken relationships that we might have with friends or family. It helps shape our viewpoint of those outside of our close, tight-knit circles and see them as God sees us. It challenges how we relate to the people around us who have offended or hurt us, and it invites us to see the power of the Gospel all over again.
May each of us be reminded every day of the promises of God that claim us and call us to be His own. And may we each be given eyes to see others in ways that have been transformed by His Good News.
Pastor Ben Bigaouette