Help Us to Develop the Virtues of Patience and Self PossessionDan Doyle
“Be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). Well, here is the reality of the faith life lived out in this world. Paul is writing to Timothy here as a loving and honest teacher, admonishing Timothy to “hang in there” even though preaching the gospel may be met with opposition, hostility, indifference, and even the defections of many from the community.
The younger Timothy needed this encouragement, just as we do today. And Paul is holding back nothing in his admonishments. He begins this chapter of his letter with the gravity of obligation that is incumbent on Timothy as the leader of the community. He says, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word, be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (verses 1-2). This admonition is as serious and true for us today as it was for Timothy. This is what we are charged to do, “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,” as professed Christians in the world today.
Let’s be honest. In the present cultural environment, do we not often try to escape this duty because it is “inconvenient” to our own comfort? Do we avoid our calling on many occasions, because we don’t want to appear to “offend” a friend, or “create a scene” that might be uncomfortable, even dangerous? Do we give up, or not even try, because we feel that we do not know how to “convince”? And reprimand! Who wants to be “guilty” of reprimanding someone for fear that you you might be accused of being “judgmental”, or “intolerant” today? These fears are real. They were not unknown to Timothy, or to his flock, or even to Paul. But Jesus tells us over and over again in the Gospels, “Do not be afraid for I am with you.” Do we trust in him? Can we say with the psalmist: “As for me, I trust in your unfailing love” (Psalm 13:5)?
The virtues needed for doing this are patience and self-possession, or self-discipline. Like all virtues, these must be practiced until they become habits. This is the development of moral character. We must choose to do the hard work of developing these virtues, but they require our turning to the grace of God and his mercy for his help as well. We will fail at times. But do we not believe that God is slow to anger and rich in mercy? (Psalm 145:8) These virtuous habits come with our maturity in faith and in character. We will need them, for we are certain to meet with opposition, hostility, and indifference when we preach the gospel in the world. And we are to preach it both with our words and with our deeds. This is why we need patience: to be able to endure the opposition, or hostility, or indifference that may come our way. Courage is required of us too, just as it was of Timothy. When we are able to achieve self-possession, that is, when we come to know and accept ourselves as one of God’s children, loved by God intimately and personally, and choose to love God in return for all of the good gifts and graces he has already given to us, then we also gain the courage to preach the gospel openly and cheerfully with our lives, even though we are sinners in need of God’s constant mercy.
Lord, We desire in the depths of our hearts to preach your good news to all we know and meet in our daily lives. Help us to develop the virtues of patience and self-possession, so that we may preach with grace, and courage. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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