A Bible study through 2 Timothy
Approved workmen. Clean vessels of honor. These are positions and descriptions that we ought to strive for. However, what practical steps can we take to attain them? In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives us some answers to this question. He writes:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”
~2 Timothy 2:22-25a
This is one of those often quoted verses from 2 Timothy. You might have heard it many times or even read it for yourself often. However, let’s take a moment to really break down what God wants to teach us through this exhortation.
“Flee youthful passions and pursue…”
This is a powerful reminder for all believers, young and old. While you might read the word youthful and think that it only applies to young people, the truth of the matter is that this word is referring to immature desires that have nothing to do with numerical age. Furthermore, the Greek word for passions literally means “a longing, especially for the forbidden.” Therefore, while youthful passions are more common among younger people, we can all succumb to youthful passions at any age or season of life. Therefore, may we always keep in mind this important reminder to flee from them and pursue God.
The word flee denotes aggressive action. It is not a passive verb but conveys a sense of urgency and immediacy. When you flee from danger, you run as hard and as fast as you can. When the slaves fled from slavery in the South, they did so with intentionality, single-minded focus, and one goal: freedom. They didn’t look back nor did they linger, waiting to see if freedom was really something they wanted. They ran and tried to get to the North as fast as they could.
Likewise, we are called to flee, run away, intentionally turn away from, and single-mindedly choose to abstain from youthful passions. We must not linger and play with the idea of these temptations, but must flee. Run hard and fast away from the things we know will weigh us down and hinder us in our Christian walk.
But we are not called to just run away from bad things. God exhorts us to also run towards Him. “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” These are attributes of God and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in our flight from the sin that can enslave us, we are to run towards the nature of God. We must pursue Him and the things He value.
But what does this look like practically? What real life situations can we apply this exhortation to?
I believe Paul gives an extremely timely example. One of the longings and passions of youth is to always be right in an argument. We see this in the two-year-old arguing with his mom in the grocery store or we witness it in the teenager who gives a sassy, attitude laden reply to his dad. However, remember that youthful passions and desires are not restricted to individuals young in age. Men and women of all ages and seasons of life display this unattractive desire to always be right in an argument. This is especially true in the times we are living in.
In our polarized culture, are we going to be known for our opinions and stance on controversies or by our love? Paul exhorted Timothy that God’s people must not be quarrelsome. That’s a strong word. It’s not “should not be,” rather he says “must not be.” I am reminded of the truth in James 1:20 which says “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” And foolish controversies definitely stir up anger and arguing! Therefore, we must avoid them.
The world will try to suck us into their squabbles and petty arguments, but we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are called to be kind, patient in the face of evil, and gentle in correcting the false accusations of others. Unity and peace is our goal—not division and strife—and in these times, it is an important reminder for us. So remember, the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome or argumentative and causing strife!
So what steps are you going to take to flee the passions of youth and pursue God? How can you strive to become the approved workman and clean vessel God desires?
It can be challenging to walk uprightly and live the life God calls us to in our morally decaying culture. However, we are reminded in 2 Peter 1:3 that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Therefore, it is not impossible to become the men and women of God who live holy, set apart lives in the midst of a culture that is entangled in meaningless pursuits. So remember the many exhortations found in 2 Timothy 2, and stay on mission for our King, becoming approved workmen and vessels of honor by fleeing youthful passions and pursuing the nature of God. For God’s glory and His renown!