"20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge." 1 Timothy 6:20-21 NLT
Greetings! After a brief break, I'm thrilled to share some exciting news with you. It's been some time since I last wrote in my blog. I have devoted the past few years to pursuing my doctorate, focusing on conducting extensive research, giving it my all, and ensuring that my dissertation was of the highest quality. I am overjoyed to report that I have successfully defended my dissertation. By the grace of God, I finished!
Honestly, it wasn't easy, and my focus often faltered. I found it challenging to make time for reading and writing amidst the chaos of daily life.
There were times when I felt extremely overwhelmed. But nothing was more difficult during that time than losing my younger brother, Michael. He was my parents' second child and my companion in our early years. He looked up to me, calling me often to express how proud he was of me and how much he loved me.
Losing Michael during this process significantly affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I had little desire to do anything productive, and academics were not my priority then. However, amidst my grief, I found solace in God's word, reminding me of my purpose to keep going and focus. I had to guard and avoid chaos and distractions at all costs.
These past few years have been challenging for everyone. As a nation, we have seen the presidency of the United States turn into a spectacle and source of embarrassment. We have also experienced heart-wrenching violence that has affected us deeply as human beings. Furthermore, our country's financial and economic status is currently at an all-time low with minimal progress.
The stability of our community has been significantly impacted due to the substantial number of individuals who have left and surrendered essential roles. This has caused a significant disruption in the functioning and operation of our community.
The current state of our schools and community is negatively impacting our children's mental, emotional, and social well-being. The increase in drug use and decline in social structure is alarming.
Furthermore, historical facts are distorted to align with a self-centered society prioritizing personal piety over communal values. Social media has replaced traditional education, promoting self-awareness, self-glorification, self-proclamation, and self-centeredness.
How can anyone focus amid confusion and chaos?
Fortunately for us, this is not the first time in history that chaos and confusion prevailed in the land. The Apostle Paul addressed some of these issues in a letter to Timothy, a young preacher who oversaw the church at Ephesus. Paul reminded Timothy to remain focused on what he's been taught. I preached a sermon on this topic a few months ago, Rev. Dr. Stephone A. Berry's "Staying Focused." In this sermon, I stressed two actions the text exhorts in 1 Timothy 6:20 that we must utilize amid a chaotic world to remain focused: guard and avoid.
1. We Must Guard to Focus
The Greek word Φύλαξον (phylaxon) Paul uses in verse 20 is an imperative or command to Timothy. In this sense, Guard is not to be used as a sentinel function of being observant but to protect something by taking careful measures to avoid losing or damaging it. Guard [protect] what has been entrusted or deposited in you. What has been deposited in you? As believers, we must exert every effort to stand firm on what has been established in the word of God. God's word is the treasured deposit.
In a society that embraces subjectivity over "absolute truth," safeguarding our senses is crucial. Today, we are free to be whoever we want, live as we please, and achieve our goals whenever we desire. However, this contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ and the example he set for his followers.
We must guard or protect what we, as believers, know to be true. How do we do that? Well, for one, truth stands the test of time. First, God does not change Malachi 3:6. We've talked about Him for over 2,000 years. Secondly, His word endures forever Isaiah 40:8. Lastly, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more Hebrews 13:8.
We, as believers, know that God is not the author of confusion. 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us this but also communicates that God is a God of peace. However, Satan is the Father of Lies, John 8:44, and lies often disrupt peace, causing chaos and confusion. To counter Satan's attack and remain steadfast in a chaotic world, we must:
Guard our eyes and ears - What we see and hear directly correlates to how we respond. Proverbs 4:20-22 tells us, 20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. 22 For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. In a devotional by Joseph Prince, "Guard What Comes Through Your Eye-And Ear-Gates," he states, "God tells us to guard what we hear, what we see, and what is in our hearts. He wants us to have our ears full of the gracious words of Jesus, our eyes full of the presence of Jesus, and our hearts meditating on what we have heard and seen in Jesus." For this to happen, sometimes we have to shut off the TV, the phone, and "Facebook" or social media and put our face in "The Book" of life, full of beauty, wisdom, and encouragement that helps us remain focused.
Guard our peace - Jesus says in John 16:33, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” Our eyes and ears are the gateway to our soul. When we focus more on what the word of God says rather than the world, peace is attainable in any circumstances. Peace allows us to focus more intently on achieving all God has for us.
Guard our time - Time waits for no one. Nowadays, it seems there is no time to accomplish anything, particularly when that time is obligated and occupied by someone or something else. Business dominates the land. Jesus says in Mark 6:31, "Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat." Jesus modeled that to stay focused on the task, we must make time for ourselves and protect it from the world's chaos. Time alone to reflect, pray, and rest refreshes and refocuses our efforts.
2. Avoid Distractions to Focus
We are a distracted world! People are not paying attention to their surroundings everywhere they look, primarily due to the influx and overuse of smartphones and digital technology. There is always something popping up, pinging, or to peruse while we are waiting or just bored. Technology can consume much time and severely deplete most of our effort. Additionally, we have access to too much information that often takes us down a rabbit trail and prevents us from focusing on what we should be doing.
Additionally, everyone has a voice nowadays, including myself. However, our concern is not solely about who is speaking but what is being said. There is a lot of false information floating around in our society. Most will have you pursuing a direction or going down a path never intended for us. Or worse, put us in a physically, emotionally, and spiritually damaged position. This is what the Apostle Paul wanted young Timothy to be aware of. He told Timothy to "avoid godless and foolish discussions..."
The Greek word ἐκτρεπόμενος (ektrepomenos) Paul uses in this context is a participle with imperative force. It gives the sense of shunning or turning away. To shun or deliberately avoid something is to turn away from it and go in the opposite direction. Achieving focus requires discipline and intentionality. Although we are surrounded by chaos, confusion, and corruption daily, we mustn't give attention to pointless and valueless chatter.
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians 4:8-9, "8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
So, we must turn away from the world's noise and walk towards God's peace and promises.
Peace and focus are obtainable in seasons of chaos. We have to guard and avoid to remain "...steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58)."
Dr. Stephone A. Berry is an Adjunct Professor/Doctoral Mentor at Columbia International University. He is an Associate Minister at Christian Faith Fellowship in Columbia, South Carolina. He graduated with a Master of Divinity in Ministry Studies and an earned Doctorate of Ministerial Leadership from Columbia International University.
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