I open my wardrobe door and survey the contents on the hangers. Most of the time I go for the standard garments, the comfortable and well-tried ones, the colours I like best.
Is that how I follow all my life choices? What about when I open the fridge, the pantry, or…let me be honest…the Bible?
This week I read a well-known verse in the Apostle Paul’s second letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. These two men had a long history together. Paul knew what Timothy’s mother was like and even his grandmother. Like the way my wardrobe and I have a long history together!
How many times have I heard someone quote 2 Timothy 1: 7? It’s usually the verse I go to when I’m afraid. I’m happy when Paul assures me, as well as Timothy, that I’ve been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind…not fear. So I grab those words like a garment, hoping they will do. They’re familiar, comfy and fit my unique ‘shape!’ They make me feel better. Yes, that’s it, I have the exact ‘clothes’ to suit whatever I’m going to do that day.
Why was Paul giving this advice to Timothy? Was he going through a hard time, under severe persecution, or terrified? Paul was getting in early before this young pastor grabbed the wrong garment out of his ‘wardrobe’. He wanted him to be ready; clothed with the right covering for the particular task he was facing.
He was specifically reminding Timothy of the encouraging words he’d received from the Holy Spirit when he was younger, when God said he’d use him, and promised to give him a gift to do it. Was young Tim scared to take up that gift? Had he forgotten God’s promise – that it was his to use?
When I look into my wardrobe, I never think someone else’s clothes will be hanging in there! They’re all mine. I don’t need to be scared to go out in them. Nobody’s going to grab me and say, ‘Get out of that jacket, it’s not yours!’ And neither do I have to be afraid to take up the gift that God’s especially given to me…and use it! There’s more to those ‘don’t be fearful or timid’ words than what we hear so often. Let’s see what Paul was really meaning. He’d said to Timothy earlier on in this letter: Don’t be afraid to use your gift. The way we wear our scripture ‘clothes’ can be piecemeal, haphazard or tentative.
It’s still OK to grab that other piece of ‘clothing’ for encouragement when we’re afraid, but what about the original meaning? Paul was pointing to a specific application which seems to have been mislaid; by me, anyway! I’d never realised that Paul was actually referring to Timothy’s gift with regard to fear. I’d separated the encouraging words about fear from their primary usage. Now I see that they can be used in more ways than I thought. Paul made it plain, but I’ve taken it apart and used it for other things, missing the main point. How often have I fallen into that habit and lost out on God’s special message?
So now I want to get into the habit of looking into my ‘wardrobe’ and then waiting a moment for the Lord to point out some ‘different clothes’. Ones I seldom wear. Ones that fit, yes, but also ones God’s fitted me for. Those that will become my favourites. And those I need God’s help to wear regularly and freely. I’m so glad Paul wrote those words for Timothy…and for you and me.