“You are a man of God. Your quest is for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith! Cling to the eternal life you were called to when you confessed the good confession before witnesses. Before God—the life-giving Creator of all things—and Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, who made the good confession to Pontius Pilate, I urge you: keep His commandment. Have a spotless, indisputable record until our Lord Jesus the Anointed appears to set this world straight. In His own perfect time, He will come…” (1 Timothy 6:11-15a)
I’ll be honest: sometimes, when I read the Bible, I get tired.
Why? Because I know what a good quest looks like. I am familiar with Lord of the Rings. I’ve seen Indiana Jones,The Princess Bride and Guardians of the Galaxy; I’ve read about King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail and Ulysses’ odyssey to get back home. I know about the pursuit of Superbowl rings and even that little bird in the kid’s stories who just wants to find his mother.
That’s why I get tired. I know what a quest is, and I know what it costs. When we find a cause we believe is worthy of their time, energy and emotion, we will give our life. Sometimes it’s subconscious – we just end up giving our time, energy and emotion to something we have by default decided is important. It could be people, or relationships, or family, or a job, or food or entertainment. It could be a conscious choice: the environment, healthy living, injustice, poverty, a particular person.
When the cause is noble, just, and good, we applaud those who fight no matter the cost. We admire William Wilberforce and Mother Theresa as well as our friends who fight to do life better. It’s the addict who celebrates their first year clean, or the married couple that has gone to counseling faithfully, or the person who has determined to pursue godliness even when those around them do not. It might cost them time, money, comfort and even friends, but we encourage them because the cost is nothing compared with the quest.
When the cause is lousy, we cringe at what great cost is being spent on such an unworthy goal. Just watch an episode of the Bachelor or Jersey Shore or Honey Boo Boo and tell me if you don’t just want to weep for the lives that are being wasted. I see interviews occasionally with sports stars on Hollywood celebrities where they are so desperate to gain the world they lose their soul – and often their health, reputation, and friends. If we are not careful, our quest can destroy us.
But there are good quests too, such as “justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” These are not cheap, and they don’t come easily. If you want a pearl of great price you may have to sell everything. You have to fight for it. If you want to find your life you will have to lose it. If you want to follow Christ, you will have to take up a cross. Jesus bids us to come and die before we can truly live.
So I know what a quest is, and I know what the good ones look like. We’ve been talking in the past two months about how compelling life in Christ and with each other looks like when we live in godliness. But I also know what it costs, and so sometimes, when I read the Bible, it makes me tired. No wonder Paul wrote in Galatians 6, “Don’t grow weary in doing well.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Paul said to Timothy that in the process of the quest he was going to have to fight the good fight. The pursuit of godliness is a challenge: he was going to have to protect doctrine, work out relationships, and align his priorities with Christ’s. He was going to need to learn how to fight for and cling to the right things.
So I know what a quest is, and I know what the good ones look like, and I LOVE what awaits me at the end of the Quest called Godliness…. But I also know what it costs, and so sometimes, when I read the Bible, it makes me tired. That’s why I like that, after all the advice in this letter to Timothy, and after telling him that he is going to need to fight for and cling to his faith, Paul reminds him why that quest is so good, so important, and why it is the only one that matters in the end. Why should Timothy do all these things over and over again? Why should Timothy never give, never grow weary in pursuing godliness? Because the God He is pursuing is awesome.
We certainly give ourselves on God’s behalf in all kinds of smaller ways. We give ourselves to justice because God is just. We give ourselves to causes that highlight mercy because God is merciful. We should be passionate about truth, grace, love, beauty – there are all kinds of ways we can give ourselves to those things. But those things are just small quests compared to the ultimate one. At this point in the letter, it’s almost as if Paul just can’t help himself. In the middle of instructions, he suddenly branches off into extravagant praise:
“Blessed is the only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He alone possesses immortality; He makes His home in matchless, blinding, brilliant light that no one can approach—no mortal has ever even seen Him, and no human can. So let it be that all honor and eternal power are His. Amen…” (1 Timothy 6: 15b-16)
There is no cause other that Christ that deserves our worship. Only Christ gets that ultimate allegiance from us. Only Christ deserves the fullness of our heart, soul, mind and strength.