Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV)
I was listening to someone teaching, not too long ago, from 2 Timothy 2:15. The thrust of the lesson was that one should study to make sure they correctly teach and/or preach the word of God. Of course, I had heard this text taught and preached countless times before, but this time, because the presenter did, what I thought at the time, such an excellent job with the text, I was prompted to go and take a deeper look for myself.
When I took a closer look at 2 Timothy 2:15, I discovered, what could be called, a comical irony! The very text that is so often used to promote diligent study and caution against mishandling the word of God has itself traditionally been mishandled! Let me show you what I’m talking about: Usually, the main focus or the main point of the teaching of this passage is that we should “study” to make sure we are correctly interpreting, teaching, preaching, and applying the word of God. And when we think of the concept of studying, we think of intense reading and careful analysis of the scriptural text. But, is that the concept Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to Timothy? Is that what Paul actually meant and said in the text? Well, not really!
The word the KJV translates as “study” is the Greek verb; “spoudason” and it literally means, “make haste, hasten” also “to exert one’s self, to endeavor, to give diligence, to be zealous, to be eager.” So actually, the term “study” is too narrow! The actual meaning Paul wanted to convey was for Timothy to quickly and eagerly make every effort to be diligent so as to present himself approved unto God! The idea Paul was trying to convey to Timothy directly and to us by implication is that the preacher/teacher, disciple, believer should eagerly make every effort to present themselves for God’s approval in correctly handling and teaching the truth or the word of God.
We might also note at this point, that Paul told Timothy to be eager or zealous to make every effort to present “yourself.” Therefore, such effort encompasses more than just correctly preaching and teaching the word! It also involves disciplining oneself in all other areas of the Christian life as well! It was inclusive, not just of his handling of the word, but also of his personal piety and interaction with other people. Being eager and making every effort to present one’s self approved unto God also includes making every effort to get the proper amount of rest, nutrition, and exercise so as to keep the body as healthy as possible.
Do you know of people who are correct in their preaching and teaching, but don’t apply what they preach and teach to their own personal lives? Such people are not being zealous or making every effort to correctly divide the word of truth. The power of the word comes, not just from correct interpretation, but also from correct application and demonstration! A sermon lived gives tremendous plausibility to a sermon preached!
So, there really is more to this verse than what we have traditionally gathered! Yes! Studying is part of the message, but it is not all! But, even if we restrict the meaning to just study, as we have traditionally done, just a simple Bible quiz given to many church memberships in America today would reveal that most church members, not only do not study the Bible, they don’t even read it! No wonder so many people are so weak and anemic in their faith today! No wonder there are so many who believe the Epistles were the wives of the Apostles!
A few years ago, I preached a series of sermons on “Mastering the Emotions.” The gist of the series was to highlight just how much our emotions affect our lives and to highlight the fact that if we don’t master our emotions, our emotions will master us!
The following is the text of the introductory sermon of that series and I will post the rest of the sermons of that series in the next posts:
“Mastering the Emotions”
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
Proverbs 16:32 ESV
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”
Proverbs 25:28 KJV
In Genesis 1:26-28, the record states: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” This passage has been labeled as the Dominion Mandate because from it we learn God’s original intent was for humanity to have dominion over the earth! In addition to the broken fellowship and the lost relationship with the Creator, another consequence of man’s rebellion was the loss of dominion! For you see, Adam did not lose Heaven in Garden of Eden; he lost dominion! But thank God today! The Last Adam was sent restore everything the first Adam lost! We often preach and teach that Jesus came to restore man’s relationship with God and that is true, but he also came to restore man’s dominion. However, this relationship can’t be restored and the dominion cannot be realized except through faith in Jesus! One of the things that so distresses me about the modern church today, is that we really don’t know how blessed we are! We don’t know how great our salvation really is! We settle for a ticket to Heaven when we die, but our salvation is so much greater than that! Now, just like anybody else, I want to go to Heaven when I die! But I discovered that eternal life is a present possession of the believer and that eternal life provides power for victory in this life as well as an eternal dwelling in the next! Through Jesus, in addition to going to Heaven when we die, we also regain the dominion that Adam lost while we live!
Now this dominion, this power, this authority and ability to master and rule is needed in every aspect of our lives! But nowhere is it more needed than in our personal development. Of the many things that seek to hinder us from being all that God created us to be, the greatest threat to personal growth and maturity is the person in the mirror! We try to put the blame on other people, on things and even on the devil, but our main problem is our self! Most of the pain and misery we experienced in life is self-inflicted because we fail to exercise self-control.
Our text words say that the one who rules his spirit (that is his emotions) is better or greater than the one who captures a city! On the other hand, the one who has no rule over his spirit is like a city with broken walls! Taken together, these proverbs illustrate our need to master the emotions! We must master our emotions because if we don’t control our emotions, our emotions will control us!
Now before you take issue with that statement, permit me to show you just how much our lives are influenced by our emotions. First of all, we must understand that emotions are a natural part of our make-up! The LORD GOD did not create us as machines with no feelings or emotions. And our feelings or emotions work like a closed-circuit. Our emotions dictate our actions, while at the same time our actions influence our emotions. There are some people who like to think that their actions are dictated directly and only by their reasoning or their will. But that is not how the human psyche works! It is our emotions or feelings that directly dictate our actions! Let me show you what I’m talking about! Our nation, yes, even the world is facing an epidemic of alcohol and substance abuse. But why do people take drugs and drink alcohol? They do it to make themselves “feel” a certain way! Why does a person buy a luxury automobile or a sports car? They do it because owning and driving those vehicles make them feel a certain way! Some people get depressed about their bills. So, to make themselves feel better, they eat or go shopping! They don’t eat because they are hungry; they eat because eating makes them feel better! They go shopping, often buying clothes or items they really don’t need and in many cases, can’t afford, but they do it to make themselves feel better! Some people even come to church, not to find solutions for their issues, but merely for an emotional experience to make them feel better! These people come to church with what I call, “a night-club mentality!” They don’t come to gain strength or to find answers to their problems; they come just to have a “good time!” All of these actions are dictated, not directly by the reason or the will, but rather, by the emotions! Our emotions cannot and should not be denied, however they should be dealt with in the appropriate manner! The emotions will make you or they will break you! If you don’t master and control your emotions; your emotions will surely master and control you!
So how does one master and control the emotions? The first key is in learning how our emotions work in the dynamics of the human experience. As I said earlier, our actions are not directly dictated by our reason or our will, but rather by our emotions. In other words, we do what we do because of what and how we feel. Our actions are either in response to emotions or we act to stimulate or evoke emotions. In other words, we do what we do because we feel a certain way or we do what we do to feel a certain way! In either case, the direct dictating factor is the emotions! But the Bible says that we shouldn’t live at the mercy of our emotions! The Bible says we should rule our spirit! We should master our emotions! But the question remains: How? How do emotions work and how and where do they fit in the human equation? Well, if we are to believe the Bible, we were created as spiritual beings wrapped in human flesh. Therefore our essential core is spirit! It is through our spirit that we commune with God because God is Spirit. It is the spirit that governs our mind and it is our mind that governs our emotions. It is our emotions that govern our actions and it is our actions that produce the results or the circumstances in our lives. Therefore, if we want to change the circumstances or the results we get in our lives, we must start with our spirit and our mind. Now, without the help of the Holy Spirit, the human spirit does not have the capacity to access the power and wisdom needed to successfully master the emotions! The only way for man to successfully “rule over” or have dominion is to first submit to the authority and dominion of God. Once we are in right relationship with God, the human spirit is energized by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit empowers and teaches Divine Wisdom. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Word of God that our spirits are made alive and our minds are renewed. Now, our minds need to be renewed because it is the mind that governs our emotions and it is our emotions that govern our actions and it is our actions that create the circumstances of our lives. The Bible has always said it, but now psychologists, physicians and clinicians of many disciplines, all testify that how and what we think has a direct bearing on how and what we feel. Thinking “happy thoughts” produces happy feelings. Thinking sad or depressing thoughts produce feelings of sadness and depression. The key to the equation is that we have absolute control over our thoughts. However, most people don’t exercise this control and thereby allow their minds to be easily influence to think counter-productive thoughts, which in turn produce counter-productive emotions, which in turn produce counter-productive actions, which in turn produces counter-productive circumstances in their lives! Now remember, it is our thoughts that govern our emotions! Therefore if we are feeling a certain way, we can change the way we feel by simply changing our thoughts! That’s why the Bible says we should only think on certain things! Paul said: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Yes! When our spirit is correctly aligned with the Spirit of God, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we can master our emotions! We can exercise the dominion that God created us to have! We can master the emotions! It can be done! That’s why it’s repeated over and over again in the Bible: “Fear not!” We can master the emotion of fear! Jesus said: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid!” By implications he was saying: You are in control! Jesus also said: “Don’t be anxious! Don’t be angry at your brother without a cause! We can master anger, anxiety, depression and fear! God wouldn’t command us to do something if it was not possible for us to do it! We can master our emotions! And master them we must, because if we don’t, we will be mastered by them! And if we live, mastered by our emotions, then we are living under the dominion of the flesh! And the Bible says that those who are living in the flesh cannot please God! It is within the dominion of the flesh that the devil operates and exercises dominion over our lives! Therefore, we must master our emotions by living in the Spirit! Yes! We can master the emotions and master them we must if we are to achieve the victory and dominion our salvation provides!