“. . . pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” -- I Timothy 6:11 (NLT)
What are you running from? What are you chasing after in your life? Maybe lots of things come to mind or maybe nothing comes to mind. Chances are, you are doing one or the other, either running or chasing…or you are going nowhere.
Inactivity doesn’t appear to have been an option for young Timothy. In verse 11, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to both “flee” and to “pursue”. It is important to note that Timothy was urged to “flee” from pride, lust, greed, glory and power and yet in the same breath Paul told him to “pursue” things like righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. In many ways Paul’s exhortations seem obvious. Why would Timothy do otherwise? However, it seems we are all inclined to do just the opposite of what we should do.
Again, I have to ask, “What are you chasing?” We all love chase scenes in movies and on TV. With every stride the excitement builds as the chase scene winds its way into buildings, up staircases, out windows, over ledges, through doorways, under bridges and around corners. The pursuit ultimately culminates at the end of a dark alley in a crash of trash cans as the pursuer tackles and apprehends the pursued.
There are things in life from which we should flee and there are things in life that we should pursue. We must be careful not to confuse the two. As a leader in the church at Ephesus, Timothy was called to confront the all too tempting issues of riches, pride, lust, power, security and popularity. He was called upon to “flee” from these things, and so are we, yet these are the things that secular culture holds up as elements of the “good life.” We must be careful to pursue the right things.
Be brutally honest with yourself. What are you pursing? Make a list.
Compare your list of pursuits to the Apostle Paul’s list for Timothy. The contrast between what to “flee” and what to pursue is vivid. Paul’s list of pursuits deals with both the body and the soul. There are some things that a person of God should be going after.
The first is “righteousness.” Paul isn’t talking about a self-centered, pious righteousness but rather he is talking about the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness that finds its meaning, value and purpose in the love and grace of God. Nothing can be done to earn this righteousness. It comes from the Father and supersedes any position or popularity that the world esteems. It is about being “right” in the right way and for the right reasons. All security and stability for living is realized in the righteousness that is found in Christ. Pursue it, look for it, and focus upon it. It is life.
The second is a “godly life.” This is the place of a pure heart. Don’t let anything keep you from seeing God. Lust, greed, selfish ambition, and a host of other “inclinations” will serve to keep you from seeing God clearly. Run from that junk and go after God. If you seek him, you will find him.
The third is faith. Eugene Peterson says that faith is the result of combining imagination with participation. We become too fixated on the reality of earthly things. There is something more to this life and it is realized in God. Spend some time reading in the Bible about the God who created all things, who wants relationship with humankind and who in love offered up the life of Jesus on the cross that we might have eternal life. Faith comes from hearing and reading the Word of God. Use your imagination as you read about a God who is ever reaching out to you with love and grace, who dwells within your heart and empowers you to live through the Holy Spirit. Enter into that love. Participate in the grace of God in your life and pursue faith.
Finally, Paul tells Timothy to pursue love, perseverance and gentleness. In the church at Ephesus Timothy is dealing with people--people who are living and acting selfishly, ignorantly, rudely, irrationally, greedily and immorally. For the most part, the people are deceived by the enemy and by the false teachers among them who are wrong at every point. Does this sound anything like your life? How is Timothy supposed to respond to this? How are we to respond to the world around us? We are to:
Love--Remember God loved you and loves you, therefore we must respond in love towards others. It doesn't matter who they are or what they are doing. We must not hate nor despise. We must love.
Persevere--Hang in there. Keep loving them. Don't give up. Stand up for what is right but do it in the right way. Don't wash your hands of those that are deceived and that stubbornly continue in their ways. Don't throw in the towel. Keep on pressing in on them with love. Don't quit. God didn't give up on you--don't you give up on them.
Gentleness—When in doubt, be gentle. Even when seemingly justified, nothing hurts worse and is misunderstood more than harshness. Don't get sucked into foolish arguments--even when you are right. There is another way and it is the Jesus way. It is the way of gentleness.
Paul's directives to Timothy aren't easy. Our natural responses to people, situations and life aren't always the best responses. The things that we are to pursue don't come naturally. Instead, it seems as if they are ever trying to elude us. We must pursue them. Go after righteousness, godliness and faith and as you do, live a life of love. Even in the midst of frustration don’t quit, but rather deal with others gently and lovingly. Enjoy the chase. As you pursue the things of God you might be surprised to find in the end you have apprehended life.