I finished reading 1 Timothy today. The city of Ephesus stood as one city which strongly resisted the gospel. Life for a Christ’s follower was difficult. Diana’s temple served as a central attraction. People from all over the world came to Ephesus for its “special services.” The city was also prosperous.
This spiritual father warns his son about the dangers of materialism and allure of pagan culture. Here he tells him to “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:12,19
How does one do this? I have been preaching from the Book of Daniel recently, and there the exiles faced a similar situation. How do they live out their faith and life? The false teachers told them separate yourselves from these pagans. Don’t bless the city. Fight against it. Pray for its downfall. That was Satan’s voice. God’s voice turned out to be the exact opposite. God told them, engage with the people. Participate in the life of the city, but live out your faith in their midst.
This tells us what the apostle was telling his son. Instruct the church to live out their new lives in the middle of the city. The church must not segregate or separate. Instead, the church willingly take the risk and cost of being its needed gospel frontlines. God was saying to the Ephesian church, they were the only hope of their city. They must fight for their faith in order to save their city.
Sadly, the church appears to have failed. Jesus gives them a horrifying rebuke in the final book of the Bible. They have lost their first love. In their engagement with the city, they ended up becoming more like the city, instead of the city having a sip and good meal of the gospel.
Keeping our hearts on the prize in the midst of a materialistic world and a pagan culture remain challenging today.
How can Christ’s followers do this? Verse 6 is God’s cure: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (NIV). Nothing overcomes a godly person with contentment! Godliness without contentment can be religious, but lacks power to live out God’s life in the world.
Paul knew this personally. While languishing in prison, he was dependent on provisions from outside. There were days of plenty but their were weeks of having nothing. Did this upset the apostle? It appears that it did not? He felt no entitlement. He was completely yielded to God. He depended on God for everything. He was contented when he had plenty, but nothing changed when he had nothing.
His secret was a contentment in Jesus. He knew God loved him. He knew God was with him. He knew his whole life was in him. He knew God is able to care for him no matter what. He took hold of eternal life inside prison. He lived it out everyday. He lived with joy everyday and everyone noticed it and many were drawn to God.
We can have the same thing. When we see the Son of God placed under infinite quarantine in his mission to save us, we can live with joy everyday. But we must fight for it.