Over the last couple of months, my Men’s LifeGroup and I have been reading through the letters of Paul. We all read the same chapter each day — at least, we’re supposed to! — and then I send an email with some thoughts and guidance on context, history, and genre. If it has been good for THEM, it has been great for ME: the combination of daily discipline and the fact that I process my thoughts best by writing them has been a real boon to my living relationship with Jesus Christ.
And this morning, it was 2 Timothy 1. As I was reading through that chapter of what was likely Paul’s final words collected into Scripture, I was overcome with gratitude. The words and phrases were so … familiar. I have read them, heard them read, been preached to about them, preached on them, and heard them sung over me. Phrases that are memorable, compelling, and life-shaping. Such as …
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (1:5)
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (1:6)
“For the Spirit of God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and self-control” (1:7)
“… our Savior, Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (1:10)
“And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and apostle and teacher” (1:11)
“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (1:12)
I realized today in my reading that these and similar sections of Scripture have become the background music of my life. Through years of exposure, they have seeped into my subconscious and the result is that these Scriptures are NOT there “when I need them”; they’re there BEFORE I need them. They shape my life and in so doing prevent crises before they arise.
Think of all the background music that COULD populate my brain! Negative self-talk. Obsession with disappointments. Bitterness at enemies. Lustful thoughts. Unhealthy nostalgia. All of those are temptations, to be sure.
But through the life-long process of Scripture exposure, all that is negative gets replaced by the word that gives life. Words and phrases define and shape you and you don’t even realize it is happening until it has happened.
This is what I want for my Men’s LifeGroup and even for the lives of the people who call Good Shepherd home.
And in an era of quick fixes and instant gratification, people assume it will happen NOW. Nope.
It happens gradually and then it happens suddenly. Meaning: a whole lot of gradual effort will lead to sudden growth.
And the voice that keeps running through your head will be the voice of your Father in heaven instead of the father of lies.