By Michael J. Breznau (audio sermon player below)
Staying on the path can be tricky business, especially when you are alone in surroundings that are dark, difficult, and potentially dangerous.
One late afternoon, I headed off to have time alone with just me, the mountains, and God… in the middle of Glacier National Park, MT. In my backpack I brought along just a few rations of food, a journal, my Bible, a headlamp, and a small survival kit. I hiked out from Logan’s Pass ranger station and out over the snowfields to the west, down a small valley, then up a ridge, then up another ridge where I could look down in the bright sunshine and see the surrounding peaks, and the way back to the Ranger Station. I had a great time reflecting on the summer of ministry, praying, and worshiping God.
As the sun began to quickly set below the ridges, the valleys soon flooded with darkness. I remember thinking, “hmmm… I should probably head back now before it’s really dark…. You know there are grizzly bears and hungry wolverines out here.”
But instead of realizing how dark it would become, I decided to stay up there on my picturesque ridge and enjoy the beautiful view of the stars…. Mmmm, not good. To make a long story a bit shorter, I nearly fell off two different cliffs trying to get back to the trail and I’m pretty sure I scared a bear of some kind along the way. Crazy…
We live in dark times. And God’s Word makes it clear that our surroundings and culture will only get worse and increasingly act out in depravity – in every form – in the days ahead. Yes, we are hopeful and prayerful for a spiritual awakening in the world.
Yet there is no mistaking it. When you and I walked out these doors, we are entering a world that is largely opposed to Christ and/or intentionally ignorant of God and His Good News. They don’t want to hear that sin deserves punishment. They don’t want to really be bothered by the notion of an eternity in either heaven or hell. They want to live their way and would be extremely irritated by anyone telling them what they are doing is wrong.
The path of following the way of Jesus is dark, difficult, discouraging, oftentimes lonely, and sometimes dangerous. Let’s face it. If we’re all honest with ourselves before God, we’ve all been tempted (many times over), to give in to the temptation to veer off the path. The advertisements to dive into “what everybody else is doing” are all around us. And they seem so enticing… so fun… so satisfying…so right now.
So how will we stay on the path… when the way is dark, lonely, and dangerous? This is the question we must face, just like the young follower and pastor, Timothy.
In Timothy’s day, wide-spread persecution against Christ-followers was rapidly mounting. The social climate across the Roman Empire had turned against Christianity – even the word “Christian” was used as a derogatory term for those who followed “the Way” of Jesus. The church in Ephesus was undoubtedly embroiled in the assaults and persecutions now sweeping across the region. In this extremely difficult climate, many people were probably being tempted to return to the old way of life or adopt a syncretistic blend of the “approved” Roman religions along with the way of Jesus. Can you imagine trying to pastor a young congregation with these sorts of issues?
For the young pastor, Timothy, it seems fear had begun to set in (2 Timothy 1:5-9). Life on the path of Jesus had become increasingly difficult. The spiritually weak, confused, and immature may have been exiting the faith and reneging on their commitment to Christ. Other leaders in the church at Ephesus may have started to pressure Timothy to veer off the path of the radical Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it was too risky, too dangerous, and Paul (the man who founded the church in Ephesus)… well, he was locked up in a tiny, dank prison cell in Rome. You can almost hear the fear and anxiety rattling around in Timothy’s head. The whole church may collapse. Total loss may come…
Therefore, Paul wrote to passionately exhort Timothy to remain firm in the faith, bold in the Truth, and confident in the power of the Gospel of Christ…. So that he would stay on the path.
The Bigger Idea…
It is interesting though, in Chapter 3 of Second Timothy that the main concern is not the social climate, but how Timothy will stay on the path of faith in Truth in the midst of a chaotic and difficult society….
The parallels are striking. Today, the social climate has turned against orthodox Christianity. To stand for the clear basics of God’s will on issues like sexuality, marriage, family, the sanctity of life, and the Gospel, is considered bad publicity and contrary to political-correctness. We currently have numerous elected government officials who have essentially laughed in the face of God’s Word when it comes to the parameters God has set for His gifts of marriage and sexuality. And many – even in the wider Church – have applauded them for doing so! The social climate has largely turned against God and His people.
Yet the real issue is not with what everyone else is doing, but with us. How will we stay on the path… when the way is dark, lonely, and dangerous? This is the question we must face, just like Timothy. So please turn with me to 2 Timothy 3….
Listen to the full audio message entitled “Stay on the Path” (2 Timothy 3:1-17) by simply clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at Evangel Baptist Church on Sunday evening, May 20th, 2012, for our annual High School Grad Night service.