By Grant Vissers
Read: 1 Timothy 1:18-20
Paul wastes little time getting to the meat of the matter. His letter is a reminder to Timothy to continue the work that he has been called to do. “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience…”
Just prior to this charge, Paul has challenged Timothy to confront false teachers regarding teaching that drew people into confusion, speculation, and ultimately away from the gospel message of faith and love. Here it seems like Paul is challenging Timothy to not become distracted or influenced by the teaching or teachers themselves. Instead, Timothy’s effort should be directed to fighting the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.
I wonder what runs the risk of distracting the church today? I wonder what has the potential to pull us away from holding on to the faith and fighting our good fight?
When I think about things that have the capacity to distract us today, I think of modern day idols. Idols were physical representations of gods, that were worshipped in the place of the one, true God. In other words, idols distract from what is true. Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “There are more idols in the world than there are realities.” I think that is true, we live in a culture filled with idols. Our idols might not be physical representations of gods, but they might be idols of the heart. In Ezekiel 14:3 God says about the Israelite elders, “These men have set up their gods in their hearts.” Timothy Keller writes of this passage, “Like us, the elders must have responded to this charge, ‘Idols? What Idols? I don’t see any idols.’ God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.”
Money, success, jobs, appearance, reputation, can all be modern day idols. At the end of the day they are things that distract us from God. Sure, many of them are necessary to survive, however, none of them should be turned into “ultimate things.”
If the reality is that anything has the potential to be turned into an idol, then the obvious question is, “How can I avoid worshipping an idol?” Paul’s answer seems to me to be a little too simple, “hold on to the faith.” Hebrews 10:23 puts a little more meat on the bones, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The hope that we profess, the hope of the resurrection and faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, is hope because God is faithful. The one who promises, and the one who calls, He is faithful. Holding on to the faith becomes possible because God Himself promises to be faithful.
- What idols run the risk of distracting you?
- What does “hold on to the faith,” look like for you?
- What do you think Paul means by, “fight the battle well?”
- Do you think that even the church could have idols?