The Reinforcement of Spirituality (continued)
And then, look at the change in the nature of things indicated by these letters. They are just full of a lowering level of spiritual life, in every way, a loss of spirituality, a decline. It is a crisis. Without going into details, all I will say at this point is this: that, where God has given richly, where God has given in any fullness, where God has called to anything more than the nominal and shown His mind to be spiritual fullness, the peril is always present of losing, letting go, declining, dropping away to some lower level, perhaps because of the cost of going on, or for some other reason. This peril is always present.
Now I come back for a moment to where we started: reinforcement. The Lord is always seeking to strengthen our spirituality in order to guard against these threats and perils which are ever imminent, never far away. And is it not impressive that, when there is a time of danger, of peril, of a threat, of a crisis in the spiritual life, the Lord puts us into such a state of agony and suffering and distress that we have got to get a new position with Him altogether, or we shall not get through? How faithful He is! Because of a threat, because of a danger, He may plunge us right into a sea of difficulty and trial, in order to strengthen our swimming powers, to get us into some fuller measure, so that we shall not so easily be caught there again. When anything like that reappears, we shall recognize it for what it is, and know that we have got to keep our feet, keep our balance, keep steady.
So these letters are just full of exhortations to Timothy - "Be strong", in other words "Be steady"; "Take your share of hardship"; "Lay hold on eternal life" - all because of what Timothy signifies in the whole dispensation.
The Divine Reaction
Let us consider a little further some of the indications of the existence of a real crisis at the time when Paul wrote these letters to Timothy. We have noted the first feature of that crisis in the imminent departure and withdrawal of Paul himself from the scene. Undoubtedly the Apostle was writing largely for that very reason. The things he was saying to Timothy were said largely because he was going. These things needed saying, because the responsibility was going to be left to others, and to Timothy in a particular way. It constituted a very big change that Timothy and the faithful men mentioned by the Apostle (2 Timothy 2:2) were to take up the work and the responsibility, to stand in the place that Paul had occupied. And so the Apostle was laying the burden very heavily upon Timothy and these others, because of his near-at-hand departure.
Then we took note of that secession from himself, to which he refers. All those who were in Asia had turned from him; they were no longer prepared to follow Paul, no longer standing with him in the truth and purpose for which he had given his life, no longer faithful to the great revelation which God had given him. Perhaps they did not have an adequate apprehension of how great a thing it was that had come through Paul. For it is difficult to believe that anyone who had a real apprehension of the greatness of those things could turn away like this. However, be that as it may, they were leaving Paul, which meant that they were leaving what Paul had sought to realize.
(continued with # 42 - (Peril of Moral Laxity)