The following is Part 6 of a series prepared for an ordination service in the life of the church based on selected texts from 2 Timothy. You can access the other parts here:
VI. Flee and PursueVII. Conclusion
Flee and Pursue
2Tim 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
So how does our fanning, guarding, entrusting, and preaching play out in real life? In one practice of ministry that has two commands: flee and pursue. We see in 2 Tim 2:22 one of the other commands that Paul has given to Timothy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” This is a brilliant statement because we are always doing one or the other. We are always fleeing something while we pursue something else. In your education, you are fleeing from Kindergarten as you move close to the next goal. In a race, the runner is fleeing from the starting line as he pursues the finish. And for the Christian, he is to flee from the world and pursue Christ Jesus. Yet you cannot flee the world and pursue the world at the same time. You cannot flee Christ and pursue Christ at the same time. As I stand in this room I am about half-way in between these two side walls. If I take two steps to the left I have decided to pursue the left and flee from the right. On the other hand, if I decide to turn around and go the other way, I am now fleeing from the left and pursuing to the right. The same thing is true between the cross and the world. As I take one step towards the cross I am fleeing the world. But if I choose to flee the cross I am then pursuing the world. Let us flee the world! Let us flee the wisdom that it attempts to offer! Instead, let us pursue Christ! Let us pursue all that he has for us! Let us pursue not the gifts but the Gifter himself! This is how Paul can say in Philippians 3 that he has forgotten what lies behind and is pressing forward toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is fleeing what lies behind and pursuing what lies ahead – Christ Jesus himself. Let us pursue him.
But notice one tiny but important clause that Paul tacks on to this. He does so, I think, because he knows how Lone Ranger prone we are, how individualistic we can become, how “my ministry” we can get. He says that we are to flee and pursue “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The Christian’s ministry is not one that is to be conducted in isolation. We need people. We need each other. We need each other to help us flee these youthful passions and to flee the things of the world. We need others to hold us accountable so that we are continually pursuing our Lord Jesus. We are to encourage each other as we collectively pursue the Lord Jesus Christ. “Two are better than one,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, “for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who falls and has not another to lift him up! (Eccl 4:9-10).
There are many of you here today who may not necessarily be called to a full-time vocational ministry. You may have other gifts that God has chosen to employ for his kingdom in the business world or in the health sector. Praise God for those who have been obedient to do precisely what God has called you to do. However, be warned that these verses that address the Christian minister specifically also apply to the Christian generally. You are a part of the “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” It takes the entire body of Christ functioning together to cultivate a healthy Christian community. The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you (1 Cor 12:21). Instead, we all need one another: preachers, deacons, accountants, stay-at-home moms, elementary school teachers, doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, contractors, elected officials, police officers, and the list goes on and on. Wherever you find yourself employed (or unemployed) today, know that you are a vital part of the Christian ministry. Christian ministry is not just for those who get to bear the title “minister” it is for all of those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. And if you are in Christ today, then he has given you a pure heart by which you may call upon him.