I feel that God has been stretching me quite a bit while I've been at Liberty for the past few months. It's really a different situation for me studying out here. I can honestly say I haven't ever been surrounded by such a large group of Christians. Growing up in the Northwest, the churched population is drastically less significant than other parts of the United States. It is a very "well that's good for you" kind of place. It's not even that people are hostile to Christianity or the Gospel but are just apathetic to it. I'm not sure what it is about my culture in the Pacific Northwest, but we seem to have taken on a certain coldness in our personalities. It's as if we are in competition with all the rain to see who can make the coldest shoulders. While the rain has the ability to dampen even the thickest of North Face jackets, it still isn't quite as piercing as a sharp "No" at the invitation of a friend or family member to go to church on Sunday morning.
While I cannot blame my surroundings too much for my apprehension to evangelize, I know it has certainly played a critical role in my ability to share Christ with my friends and fellow Washingtonians. It has created a certain nervous spirit within, an almost timid and frightened subconscious. Constantly plagued by the internal struggle of "Should I talk to them about Jesus now or would it be too awkward? I mean we have been friends for so long...I don't what him/her to think I'm all weird now."
But isn't that just like the devil to deceive the followers of Christ into thinking they are not and should not have the opportunity to share the reason why their life is so miraculously different to their closest friends? Isn't that just like the father of all lies to convince a person obviously filled with the Spirit that it is the right time to share the truth to someone that hasn't heard it?
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 where the Apostle Paul is instructing Timothy to persevere in his ministry:
"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-control."
This verse encourages me on two different levels:
I take great comfort in the fact that Paul wouldn't be reminding Timothy of his spirit of power, love, and self-control if he didn't expect Timothy to falter in his faith. I had a very thought-provoking conversation with a good friend of mine today about doubt simply because it is something we are both experiencing in our Christian walks. I think doubt has gained a very bad reputation in recent years due to the branding of doubt as a purely atheistic ideal, not possibly connected to Christianity. The idea that atheism has taken ownership of doubt as the very foundation of its worldview has cast a very dark shadow over the ability to question things rationally.
Is it wrong to doubt what you believe? Was it wrong of Luther to question the theology and practices of the Catholic church? Was it wrong of Thomas to want to see the nail holes in Christ's wrists and the mark of the spear in His side?
Doubt cannot simply be labeled a "heretical" faithlessness or a distrust of "absolute certainty." Doubt is the desire to discover truth personally, of one's own accord and effort, in an attempt to answer sincere questions and perplexing thoughts. Doubt is not something to be feared or rejected, but should be embraced and welcomed as an opportunity to use the light of Christ that enlightens everyone (John 1:9) as a lantern towards truth.
I really do think Timothy had doubts when he was serving at the church in Ephesus. He probably wondered why he did what he did, served who he served, and taught what he taught. We do have two responses by the Apostle Paul to Timothy answering many different things about the church as well as correct doctrine. Why else would Paul be writing to Timothy apart from encouragement and exhortation? Paul wrote to answer the many questions a young pastor had, questions that did not deter him from the hope he professed or the faith he whole-heartedly believed in. Timothy was seeking truth and in that search he found his answers.
I also find great encouragement in the words Paul writes in verse 7 concerning the Spirit we have been given from God. Amidst all the pain and hardship we face, it is a great comfort to the believer that we are filled with a limitless source of power and strength in the Holy Spirit. One truth I remember hearing when I was going through a difficult time in my faith has really stuck with me throughout the years. I'm not sure where it was but I remember the pastor saying multiple times, "Do you understand that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, the same Spirit that defeated the grave, is living in you?"
What we take for granted as a simple biblical truth couldn't be more neglected or forgotten. The same Spirit that raised my Lord from the dead is living in me. How could I possibly feel incompetent or fearful to share Christ when I have the same power within me that resurrected Him? With this in mind, all fear soon beings to fade away as I know I am given the power to present Christ and myself as His servant without fear.
I'm sure Paul had many reasons for listing the three qualities he did in verse 7. Those three characteristics are essential to every messenger of the Gospel, as they embody the very traits Christ possessed. Christ has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18) and all power. He selflessly and sacrificially loved every person, humbling Himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8) Christ displayed complete and total self-control, making Him worthy of the sacrifice for our sins, making Him an acceptable offering for the sins of you and me.
Whether you claim to be a Christian or not, I encourage you to seek truth and continue to genuinely concern yourself with finding that truth. It is the most important search you will ever conduct. Those that turn a blind eye to the discovery of truth grieve not only the Holy Spirit but also grieve their own soul. Some people are searching for truth, others have already found it. Start with John.