Rev. L. Althouse
February 5, 2006
Background Scripture: 2 Timothy 1. Devotional Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
A young man was to spend a summer between college terms working as a logger. The people of his home church were concerned that the rough and profane logging camp would have a bad effect on his character. When he came home before returning to college, he was asked whether his experience had been a trial to him. “Oh,” he replied, “you needn’t have worried; they never suspected a thing!”
He missed the whole point! The purpose of being a Christian is not to keep our discipleship a secret, but to live in such a way that others “suspect” or even know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. (When last did someone suspected that you are a Christian?)
In all my years in the church, I have never heard anyone deny being a Christian, but I have known many who kept it a well-guarded secret - and that includes me. Of course, I have testified for Christ from the pulpit, to Sunday school classes or in “The Bible Speaks.”
But, I must acknowledge that there have been too many times when, in other circumstances, I have failed to testify because the time was “not right,” the audience “not receptive,” I might be “misunderstood,” or it might prove “embarrassing.”
2 Timothy exhorts Timothy and us to live our testimony at all times, all places and under all circumstances: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner.” (1:8)
Witness is not something extra; it is the essence of following Jesus. Fred D.Gealy said: “Testifying is not only speaking; it is suffering, even dying.”
And I would add: it is also living. As a Christian I have suffered little for my faith. But neither have I lived my witness as completely and consistently as I might have.
Identified with Christ?
Sometimes we hesitate to be identified with Christ - not that we think someone will assault us, throw us in jail, or take our lives, but because there is some aspect of Christ’s teaching and example that does not seem respectable. For some, it is because he teaches a loving attitude toward our enemies, forgiveness of our trespassers, his overwhelming concern for the poor, imprisoned and victims of the rich and powerful, and because he calls for a righteousness that considerably exceeds respectability.
Some Christians do not shrink from conflict, but go to the other extreme of being combative. For them, testimony becomes argument, in some cases even verbally violent. This, too, like embarrassment and cowardice, is a denial of Christ because the Christ presented by us in verbal combat is rarely the Christ of the Gospels.
“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (1:12)
Guarding the faith is not our job, but his. Our job is witness. If I really “know whom I have believed,” I will not tarnish his image with cowardly or aggressive behavior. If we are primed to go to battle for Christ, we do not really know him.
I have always loved and been influenced by these verses of John Oxenham:
Now what, but WHOM, I do believe,
That in my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man may give; -
Not what, but WHOM.
This farm news was published in the February 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.