Friday, October 19, 2012

Training for the Last Days

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Fri., Oct. 19, 2012)
I Timothy 4:1-16

... Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. I Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

Paul begins this chapter by referring to "the latter times" (vs. 1).  He speaks of intensified spiritual conflict associated with the end of time.  Paul wrote these words nearly 2000 years ago!  WHY WOULD PAUL WRITE ABOUT THE "END TIMES" WHEN IT WAS SO FAR AWAY?  Was Paul mistaken?  Did he think the end was near when it really wasn't?  Or, was he predicting something far in the future that no meaning in his own day?

I think Paul was not trying to give predictions concerning WHEN the end will come.  Instead, he was instructing us about the patterns of spiritual conflict that will characterize history.  Jesus, Paul, and many of the Old Testament prophets often spoke of history as being like the labor pains of a woman giving birth.  It comes in cycles that will grow more and more intense until the birth finally happens.

Paul is saying, "Listen, there is going to be an unending increase of spiritual conflict as history moves toward its culmination!  YOU NEED TO BE READY."  Paul is NOT telling us WHEN  the end will come.  He is telling us that we are in a battle that is not going to let up, so we need to be IN TRAINING (vss. 6-9).

If you knew that you faced a serious physical fight within the next three months, would you begin working out to get ready for that fight?  Of course, you would!  We are not facing a PHYSICAL challenge; it is a SPIRITUAL one.  So, how are you preparing?  How are you exercising?

When Paul says, "Exercise yourself toward godliness" (vs. 7), this is not a casual (optional), "koom-ba-ya" sweet little quiet time with the Lord.  This is battle preparation!  This is gearing up for a fight against "deceiving spirits and docrines of demons" (vs. 1).  There is an attack on your family, your church, your society.  We are IN TRAINING for end-time battles.

Any athlete who is serious about winning has a workout plan -- a workout schedule.  Do you have daily disciplines that you follow as a part of your spiritual health?  Some might react by calling this legalism or "being under the law."  We don't like to think about another REQUIREMENT.

But let me conclude by saying that your daily time in the Bible is more than just a religious nicety.  It is battlefield MRE's ("meals ready to eat").  Your prayer time is not an appendage to a busy life so you can enlist God's help.  It is your COMMUNICATION SYSTEM with headquarters.  Fasting, whole-hearted worship, acts of generosity -- all these things and more are part of God's plan to build you up so that you can prevail.  You are in TRAINING FOR THE LAST DAYS.

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