“Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit” – 1 Timothy 4:7
I like this translation (Philips) for this verse, in particular over the matter of how it identifies that you’re going to need to “take trouble”. It is interesting because as far as I’ve read this verse in other translations, the ‘trouble’ part is completely lost… (although I did like the Message translation)
When I initially read this it seemed odd that you’d need to involve trouble, but certainly it made sense that you’d have to dedicate time. Of course it would seem to me that in matters of spiritual fitness and discipline, one must set aside time to read the Bible, prayer and (which is where I noticed this verse – the g-group) joining with other believers and sharing struggles, praises, encouragement and more. But what’s this about trouble?
Like all things, highs don’t stay highs and ‘trouble’ enters the picture. I think back on my time a little over five years ago when I actually and tangibly took a step to not only know God and his Son, but to move forward and accept this path being the only correct path and, more importantly my path in life. That time and for a few months after, was certainly a high point. In discussing with other Christians, it seems this is by far usually the case – as we ‘bask’ in the joys of knowing a God that truly is capable of anything but as well cares about me and shows it in beautiful and totally unexpected ways. But sometime afterward, His hand was withdrawn and like a young child, I (and we) are left to stand up on our own feet. Trouble entered the picture, as old (or new) temptations come back.
For me, these were unexpected. I found now that time has elapsed a little bit more that this shouldn’t be the case. As Christians, I’m fairly sure that no where in the Bible does it say we are to have a enjoyable and ‘nice’ life. Story after story about hardships … especially in that a lot of these were used by God to strengthen character in the men and women involved. Jesus of course didn’t come to live an easy life in this world – he came, suffered and died (how’s that for trouble?).
This morning I was reading John 17, where Jesus is praying for his disciples:
Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to you. Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given me – so that they will be united just was we are. During my time here, I have kept them safe. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”