The Light of Christ Journey

Encouraging people on their journey with Christ

Paul wrote to Timothy about training for Godliness. 1 Timothy 4: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.[1] Athletic games were as popular then as they are now. We don’t know if Timothy was athletic, but he would have understood the analogy.

Paul and the Struggle

The word Paul uses for struggle in the verse above has a connotation of wrestling. He knows that prayer, pastoral care, and evangelism are work and encourages Timothy to work hard. Paul has referenced training before.

1 Corinthians 9: 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.[2]

Paul knows spiritual training is eternal, unlike prizes for winning a foot race. Living the new life Christ won for us is a battle in this life because of sin. Yet, God supplies us with spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do You Mean I Should Train Spiritually?!

While Paul spoke to Timothy as a leader, his advice is for all believers. Most people are stunned to learn that God wants us to work on our spirituality. It is not easy to train to run a marathon. One must be self-disciplined to work out a training schedule and eat correctly. Physical training takes focus and persistence. It is the same as we grow in our spiritual maturity; it requires effort, perseverance, focus, and commitment. It is work.

I have served several congregations over many years, and unfortunately, not many people desire to train spiritually. Many are satisfied with minimal faith. They will attend Sunday service if they have nothing better to do. Often, a softball league or camping has priority. They assume attending church eight or ten times a year is sufficient. Attending a Bible study or spending time with the Lord during the week may be too much work for them.

These people are missing out on the benefits of a strong faith in this life. Our hope is in Jesus, both now and forever. Physical training results in a strong body, and spiritual training results in a stronger faith and relationship with Jesus. Break into spiritual training gradually. Attend a Bible study, and you will learn and be encouraged. Set a goal of reading Scripture and a devotion three times a week to begin. As you grow spiritually, you will desire more of God and be blessed.

To learn more about training for Godliness, listen here:

[1,2] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

Church leaders need spiritual depth to withstand the spiritual battle that goes with such leadership. I grew up in an area where the lakes freeze in the wintertime. When it first begins to get cold, the ice is not very thick, and you could fall through if you tried walking on it. Leaders who don’t have a lot of spiritual depth are like that. You may think you are ready to lead but don’t have the depth you need when trouble comes.

We all start as people without a lot of depth. Just as a person matures physically, we also need to develop spiritually. As Paul writes to Timothy, he gives some guidelines for what makes a good leader and why. 1 Timothy 3:A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. [1]

Church Leaders Need to be Mature

Our grandson, who is four years old, asked his mother when his two-week-old brother could play with him. Our youngest grandson will mature and be able to play with his brother, but it will take time. For a person to move from a new believer to a mature believer takes time. As we go through trials in life, they mold and shape us, helping us mature. Scripture gives insight into the importance of trials shaping us.James 2:Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. [2]

An older lady in one of our congregations was a woman of great faith, but it wasn’t until I knew more about her that I understood how she became so mature. Years earlier, her husband suddenly died in his mid-fifties, and a short time later, her oldest son died in a car accident. Not long after that, her other son, who was in the military, was deployed to a combat zone. Through this challenging season, her dependence on the Lord grew. As a mature person of faith, she would assist others who experienced similar difficulties.

God’s School of Spiritual Depth

People attend school to prepare themselves, but God often uses life experiences to prepare and mature us. Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave as the Lord prepared him to be a significant leader in Egypt. Without those experiences, Joseph would not have had the depth to be a great Egyptian leader. As children of God, the Lord prepares us much the same way as people in the past through the trials of life. Be encouraged, for the Lord is with you on your journey of maturity.

To learn how church leaders need spiritual depth, listen here:

[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (1 Ti 3:6–7). Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Jas 1:2–4). Tyndale House Publishers.

The importance of character is seen throughout the Bible and in our society. Character is who we are, not what we pretend to be or what people may think we are. While we may desire others to see us in a certain way, we will never fool the Lord. 1 Samuel 16:7 The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.[1]

Why didn’t God create humankind with perfect character? God could have created humanity with perfect character by not allowing us to make independent decisions. In God’s infinite wisdom, the Lord created people with free will, not as programmed robots. With free will, the Lord allows us to know and love Him and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord desires all of us to be people of character, but some choose to drift away from Him. In God’s mercy, He never tires of calling people back to himself, no matter how far they have wandered away.

Church Leaders Must be People of Character 

Due to church leaders’ influence on other people, the Lord sets the bar higher for their character. Paul writes to Timothy the general guidelines for church leaders that still apply today. 1 Timothy 3:So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife and must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? [2]

The Lord Takes Leadership Seriously

A person may be a gifted teacher, but that does not mean they are mature spiritually and should be leading in the house of God. Those the Lord calls to be leaders in the church need to be spiritually mature and tested, which takes time. Paul shared with Timothy a picture of a leader walking with the Lord. Although Paul’s list may not be complete, it portrays a person called to a higher standard and led by the Holy Spirit.

Leaders are on a spiritual journey. They are molded by the master potter filling them with God’s grace, strength, wisdom, and fruits of the Spirit to lead God’s people. Paul says that although we are as fragile as eggshells, we have a great treasure to share with others. 2 Corinthians 4:We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. [3]

To learn more about the importance of character, listen here:

[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

Are women to be in leadership in the church? Many have used 1 Timothy 2:9-3:13 to say a resounding no. These verses have been interpreted to say that women should not teach men, should dress frumpily, and be saved through childbearing. Moreover, Eve was responsible for the fall into sin. Only men should be elders and deacons. But is this what this section really says? This is not consistent with other Scripture.

Women Leadership in Scripture

Jesus allowed Mary to sit as a disciple (Luke 10:38–42), which until that time was only for men. He also chose to have women be the first witnesses of the resurrection. In Romans 16, Paul spoke of women as apostles and deacons. 1 Corinthians 11 expects women to be praying and prophesying in the assembly. Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.[1] Why this seeming inconsistency?

The Context of Ephesus

Timothy was dealing with significant problems in the Ephesian church, and Paul sent this letter to encourage him. The largest pagan temple was to Artemis, also known as Diana. This was an all-female cult where the women ruled over the men. Many female new believers brought this mindset with them into the church. The women were not to rule over the men, which may be why, only in Ephesus did Paul prohibit women from teaching men.

Another heresy in Ephesus included abstaining from certain foods and sexual activity to be super spiritual. Paul told Timothy to correct this.1 Timothy 4: They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.[2] Family life would end if all sexual activity were prohibited. Paul encouraged the women to bear children because God had designed us to have families.

Let the Women Learn

I think Paul wanted Timothy to allow the women to learn, but they must be in full submission, perhaps to the men, but definitely to God. This way, the women can develop the leadership skills God gave them.

God made Adam first and commanded him not to eat from the tree. He stood by and allowed Eve to eat because she had not learned the commandment correctly and then deliberately sinned himself. Thus, women need to learn to avoid falling into sin.

N.T. Wright has a good comment. “Just as Paul was concerned to apply this in one particular situation, so we must think and pray carefully about where our own cultures, prejudices and angers are taking us. We must do our best to conform, not to any of the different stereotypes the world offers, but to the healing, liberating, humanizing message of the gospel of Jesus.”[3]

Are women to be in leadership in the church? To learn more, listen here:

[1,2] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

[3] Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: the Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (p. 27). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Who was Timothy in the Bible? He was born in the first century in Lystra, a small town in what is now central Turkey. His father was Greek, and his mother was Jewish. Eunice, his mother, and Lois, his grandmother, had taught the Jewish scriptures to him (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Paul probably taught him about Jesus on his first mission trip and considered Timothy a son in the faith. 1 Timothy 1: I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. [1]

On his second mission trip, the churches spoke well of Timothy (Acts 16:1-2), and Paul noticed his giftings and asked Timothy to join his mission trip. Timothy joined Paul as a mentee and co-worker on his missionary trips. Because the Jews would consider Timothy a “half-breed” because of his Greek father, Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). This allowed Timothy to enter the synagogues freely.

Timothy’s Hand’s On Training

Paul involved Timothy in all areas of ministry. Timothy helped plant the churches of Paul’s second and third mission trips. Paul also used Timothy as his representative. He was sent to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage the believers in their faith (1 Thess 3:2) and to Corinth to remind the church of what Paul had taught and modeled regarding the Christian life (1 Cor 4:16–17). He also went to Macedonia (along with Erastus) to prepare the way for Paul’s arrival (Acts 19:22) and to Philippi to gather news for Paul and to encourage the church there (Phil 2:19–24).[2]

Paul seems to have written the first letter to Timothy after the events of Acts. Paul had been released from the Roman prison and traveled to the churches to encourage them. The church in Ephesus was struggling with false teachings and residual beliefs from paganism. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while continuing. 1 Timothy 1: When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth[3]

This would be a difficult assignment as Timothy needed to make corrections. Paul knew Timothy well enough to know that he tended to be easily intimidated. Because of this, Paul wrote a letter to encourage Timothy in his duties. We still benefit from Paul’s advice today.

Mentoring Today

We are familiar with formal education in our culture today. Mentoring is when someone shares their knowledge, skills, and experience to help another person to progress.[4]  A mentee is a person who receives knowledge from a mentor. Mentoring is a way to teach, often in a less formal setting. I have benefitted from a formal mentoring situation. I gained skills I could not have learned any other way.

Ideally, no matter the age, everyone needs a mentor and, in turn, to mentor another, especially in faith matters. This doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. You may admire someone and try to emulate them. Peer groups also provide mentoring situations where you can learn.

You also have skills that you can share with less experienced ones. It can be as simple as having a child help you bake or asking a young adult to help organize Vacation Bible School. Like Paul, we must train and pull the younger generation forward, especially in the faith.

Who was Timothy? To learn more, listen here:

[1,3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

[2] Belleville, L. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews (Vol. 17, p. 11). Tyndale House Publishers.


Paul gives guiding words to the Thessalonians and us: stand firm in the faith. In the days Paul lived, the enemy would overcome a soldier who could not stand firm in battle. Ephesians 6:10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.[1] To stand firm in the faith is about relying on and looking to the Lord for strength and His power. We are in a spiritual battle in the unseen realm, including people satan uses against us.

Relying on the Lord to Stand Firm

Paul knew that the Thessalonians would be in a spiritual battle and face various difficulties, from persecution from false teachers, the world, and their apathy to leave their faith behind. To help them stay true to the Lord, Paul wrote to encourage them in their spiritual battle. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. [2]

When persecution comes upon us, only faith sustains us and enables us to continue to build God’s Kingdom. It is a temptation to become lazy once we have come to faith. We think God will shield us, and we play no part in the battle. This is far from the truth. The Lord does protect us, but that does not mean we are to be idle and lazy. We must nourish ourselves in God’s word and prayer to succeed in the spiritual battle. The enemy will easily overpower and defeat a starving soldier.

Standing Firm

How do we stand firm with a strong grip? As Christians, we must meditate on God’s Word and take it into our hearts like daily food. Only when we know God’s truth can we spot the hidden deception of the enemy. As we endure the trials of life, those who rely on the Lord and spend time with Him are quickly separated from those whose roots of faith are shallow. The Lord is urging us to build our house on Him to have stability in the storms of life.

Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise, and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. [3] Because Jesus lives in us, we can remain brave and hopeful throughout life and weather the storms that come on us. Without Jesus, storms will toss us like leaves blowing in the wind.  

To learn how to stand firm in the faith, listen here:

[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

Interceding for others in prayer is a privilege the Lord gives every believer. Sometimes, we may not have thought of someone for a long time, but then the Lord reminds us to pray for them. A few months ago, my wife and I were on a trip, and a friend called us after we returned because the Holy Spirit had prompted her to intercede for us in prayer. Only the Lord knows what we avoided because someone was interceding in prayer.

 Galatians 6:2Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.[1] When we pray for one another, it is a powerful way for us to help carry the burdens of others. When we take another person’s hand and pray for them, it is a blessing for both the one praying and the receiver.

Prayer Helps Us Achieve the Calling the Lord Gives Us

The Apostle Paul loved the Thessalonians and prayed for them often so they could fulfill God’s plans for their lives. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. [2]

Paul’s prayers for the Thessalonians addressed key areas that would help them make a difference in their society. The Lord is always at work around believers and engages others in the process. God had a great calling for the Thessalonians, and Paul was an instrument in the Lord’s hand to make a difference in the spiritual realm.

Prayer Brings Us Together

Many people feel isolated today, and when we pray over someone, something changes in our spiritual relationship. When we share our pain, and someone prays for us, it seems to lift our burden even if our circumstances remain the same. Praying for our spouse, child, or friend helps us to see them the way the Lord sees them. My wife and I have prayed together for many years, and it is a powerful gift that builds up a marriage.

When we pray for friends, it is a powerful way to share the burdens of life that discourage us and shows us we are not meant to carry such a load on our own. When we are hurting, there is nothing like someone praying with us that lifts our spirits and changes our perspective. As we pray for one another, our spiritual muscles build up to fulfill the Lord’s calling on our lives. The Lord hears our prayers, no matter how old or young we are, that make a difference in the lives of others.  

To learn more about interceding for others, listen here:

[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ga 6:2). Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Th 1:11–12). Tyndale House Publishers.

Paul speaks of the justice of God to persecuted people in his second letter to the Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians 1: And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord JesusThey will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.[1]

We may not be comfortable with these verses and may wish that Paul hadn’t written them. But Jesus also said the same thing (Matthew 24-25). Scripture is truth, and sometimes, the truth may not be to our liking. Would a loving God declare eternal torment for someone? Where are grace and love in this picture?

N.T. Wright says, “God is the living and loving creator, who must either judge the world or stand accused of injustice, of letting wickedness triumph.”[2]

2 Thessalonians 1: In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.[3]

Punishing Injustice

The Thessalonians were persecuted by those who rejected God and wanted the new believers to do the same. Paul spoke of these in v8, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. These people were harming the new believers. Paul had offered the message of Jesus to them, but they had rejected it. Eternal punishment is the result of disobedience and refusal to repent.

When Jesus returns, there will be two groups of people: those who believe and those who refuse to believe. Those who refused to have anything to do with Jesus in this life will get their wish to be separated from God for eternity. Our actions in this life have eternal consequences.

The Good News For Believers

In contrast to the wicked receiving punishment, the believers will receive mercy. We become God’s holy people as we obey and repent when we sin. God forgives our sins because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We have the hope to live with Jesus for eternity as we believe and trust Him.

2 Thessalonians 1: 10 When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.[4]

To learn more about the justice of God, listen here:

[1,3,4] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

[2] Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (p. 143). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Scripture tells us that God is just. This is a character of God, no matter what the circumstances look like in our world. There may have been a time in your life or at the present when you questioned God’s justice. As people, we don’t see what God sees or know what He knows as He works in this world. God’s infinite wisdom allows suffering in our world to refine us. When we are refined, our character is shaped and molded by the experiences of this world that sometimes have an evil root.

To be just implies that the Lord is fair and unbiased. The Lord hates when people lie, cheat, or do other things that hurt people. Paul wrote to the persecuted Thessalonians to remind them of God’s justice. 2 Thessalonians 1:And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In his justice, he will pay back those who persecute you. [1]

The Lord Will Bring Justice

Scripture describes God as a judge several times. Acts 17:31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” [2] Unlike the judges of this world, God’s judgment will be perfect in every way because He is all-knowing. Earthly judges may not know someone’s inner motivations, but the Lord does.

Persecution of believers like the Thessalonians experienced has been the experience of people of faith throughout history. One day, in the Lord’s timing, He will repay the trouble others caused God’s children. God will bring justice to unrepentant sinners, who will receive a greater punishment than they gave out.  

There is Time to Repent

Justice is getting what we deserve. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.[3] The wages we deserve are death and the justice of God. We don’t receive what we deserve when we turn to Jesus in faith and repent of our sins. As believers, we receive grace, God’s undeserved love, which we don’t deserve.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He received the punishment we deserved. What a fantastic gift from God. While we want justice for those who have wronged or hurt us, we should never forget that only Jesus stands between us and what we deserve. Jesus is the bridge that allows us to move from justice to grace.

To learn how God is just, listen here:

[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

Suffering helps me look upward and is not something that happens to people of the Bible but also to every believer in Jesus who cries out to Him. When you reflect on a difficult time, how did the Lord use that to draw you to Him in prayer? When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, they were going through a time of persecution and suffering, but the Lord would use this difficult time to draw them into a closer relationship with Him.

2 Thessalonians 1:Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you because your faith is flourishing, and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. [1] The enemy was using persecution in an attempt to break the faith of the Thessalonians, but instead, they grew in faith and love for one another. As they grew in faith, it was evident that the Thessalonians were looking to the Lord for strength during this trial.

Trials of Life Refine Us

We will experience difficulties in life as we live in a rebellious world against God. Troubles can be due to others, ourselves, or something we can’t control, such as nature. The Bible teaches us no matter where our problems come from, the Lord can use them to refine us.

Romans 5:We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. [2] Going through a time of suffering that helps us rely on God is a unique way the Lord uses to refine us and transform us into the person He desires us to be.

Suffering Enables Us to Comfort Others

One of my friends has been a counselor for many years and had a tough childhood filled with abuse. As a young person, he came to know the Lord, and He healed him of his childhood experiences. Through these unpleasant experiences, the Lord would give him a heart and insight into others who had experienced similar experiences that would help him as a counselor. Paul writes about how our suffering can help others.

2 Corinthians 1:All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.[3] Whatever trouble or persecution you have gone through in your life, the Lord can heal and use you to help others.

To learn how suffering helps me look upward, listen here:

[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

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