“The Hardworking Lazy Person”

“The Hardworking Lazy Person”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

It sounds contradictory to refer to someone as hardworking and lazy, so clarification is necessary. There is a word found eleven times in the New Testament (in the NASB), translated “eager” (once),  “be diligent” (four times), and “make every effort” (six times). It conveys the idea of being conscientious in discharging an obligation (BDAG) and to do something with intense effort and motivation (L-N).  That is a great description of “hardworking.” Its opposite, in biblical terms, is a word translated “careless,” “idle,” “useless,” and “lazy” (cf. Mat. 12:36; 1 Tim. 5:13; Jas. 2:20; etc.). 

There are a great many people who are diligent and industrious when it comes to their occupation, care of their home, physical exercise routine, organizational routines, and various rituals. But can their Bible study habits be described as “diligent” or “lazy”? When we honestly evaluate our relationship to Scripture, do we:

  • Try to rely on things we may have learned or been told in the past?
  • Limit our serious consideration of Scripture to times in the assembly (Bible classes and sermons)?
  • Take a spouse’s, parent’s, friend’s, or preacher’s word on what a Bible verse or teaching means?
  • Approach Bible reading as an obligation, hurried through and skimmed over without digging deeper to understand meaning or how it connects to the rest of the chapter or book? 
  • Fail to meditate, internalize, and make application?
  • Make the sacrifice of time and mental energy to really get to the bottom of what the text is saying?
  • Lack an appetite and interest for reading and studying the Bible?

Why is this such a serious matter? First, it is commanded. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (my emphasis). Do the descriptions above sound like a “diligent workman accurately handling”?

Second, it is divine communication. This is the way God communicates to us, telling us how to live. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God (literally, “God-breathed,” NP) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Adequate here doesn’t mean just enough to get by, but instead means complete, capable, and proficient. Through Scripture, God is telling me how my life will be complete. I don’t want to be incomplete, incapable, and incompetent. 

Finally, it is tied to our eternal destiny. Paul connects the word to the Day of Judgment. In 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Paul solemnly charges Timothy in the presence the Father and Son (1), who will judge everyone, to preach the word (2) to offset those who lack endurance for sound doctrine (3), to oppose those who teach only what people want to hear (3) and who substitute truth with myths (4). While the preacher has this most sobering responsibility to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction,” the individual can only be protected by being the kind of student called for in 2 Timothy 2:15.

No matter how old we are, how long we’ve been a Christian, or how poorly we’ve done at this in the past, we can change that starting today! There is time and opportunity! Begin the routine now. Get a notebook or open a document on your computer, and get to work on it! It will help you in this life and prepare you for the life to come. Resolve to be a hard-working student of the Bible!

“No One Supported Me, But All Deserted Me”

“No One Supported Me, But All Deserted Me”

Neal Pollard

These are some of the last words written by one of the greatest men who ever lived. He wrote them while in prison, waiting to die for his faith. He has just spoken of people he trusted who had deserted him. He is lacking even the bare essentials. A man, knowing how difficult his life was, had done additional great harm to him. No wonder he would open this window into his suffering soul and let us all look inside. Despite all this, he was not bitter.

Have you ever felt mistreated, even felt like people were actively against you? Or perhaps felt like people you count on abandoned or neglected you when you needed them? Maybe you have suffered for your faith. It is tempting to become bitter, even to lash out against the church and God.  Paul is a great example of how to think when you feel unsupported and deserted by those you count on. After making that statement in 2 Timothy 4:16, he says some other things that can help us when we feel, at least in a small way, the way Paul felt. 

  • Focus On The Lord. He could see how the Lord had helped through his darkest hours in the past (17). But, as importantly, he had confidence that the Lord would help him through future trials (18). Despite his unfair treatment, he could still say, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” When people hurt and disappoint you, look higher!
  • Find Your Higher Purpose. Incredibly, Paul could sift through these sorrows and see God at work to accomplish His will. He’s suffering, but he can see a greater good. He says that he endured these hurts “…so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear.” Can you look for what God, who doesn’t cause suffering, can do to bring good even out of those times? We’re prone to feel sorry for ourselves when God may be showing us and others His power through these situations to save souls and help lives. 
  • Forgive.  Paul doesn’t hold a grudge. Concerning those who let him down and even hurt him, he could say, “May it not be counted against them” (16). Doesn’t that sound like a Savior who asked God to forgive His tormentors? What a mindset! We can nurse perceived offenses, but how much better to be magnanimous toward those who we feel failed us in our hour of trial?

If you’ve never felt unsupported and deserted, you probably will at some future time. The temptation will be great to let it become a spiritual problem for you. Why not remember Paul’s response when he was in his deepest valley? It’s the way up to the spiritual mountaintop. 

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Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Neal Pollard

Only two verses call his name, but he is as infamous a Bible character as you will fin. A school teacher once told us, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all!” The Spirit led Paul to no such congenial approach to Hymanaeus. The figurative cup on the man’s life was so filled with wickedness that it toppled over and spilled its insidiousness all over Ephesus. He apparently was viewed by God as a godless sinner. Why would God choose to include so stained a soul, if not to teach us key lessons about forsaking Him and the price of ungodliness?

This was a man who ran with wicked companions. He was a co-worker with Alexander (2 Tim. 4:14), with whom he blasphemed god (1 Tim. 1:20). He left the faith with his cohort, Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Maybe the downfall of Hymenaeus began with his poor choice of associates. Undoubtedly, these choices impact our own morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

This was a man who had a blatant disregard for the name of God. The Bible treats this offense most seriously (2 Tim. 3:2; Mk. 3:28-29). How spiritually degenerate must one be to ridicule and slander the name for God? Paul says that this man should be handled in the same way as the infamous Corinthian Christian who had his father’s wife (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5). What would have happened to the Ephesus church if a couple of men were allowed to spread disrespect for God and falsehood without rebuke and discipline? The same devastation happens in any church that allows the rebellious to operate unchecked.

This was a man whose teaching was compared to gangrene. Consider the graphic imagery Paul uses in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. The word of Hymenaeus and Philetus, with others like them, would “spread like gangrene.” A gangrenous infection makes amputation, in the threat of death to the entire body, a necessity. Likewise, the poisonous teaching of Hymenaeus and his partner would cause great harm to the body of Christ. Their false teaching was that the resurrection had already occurred (18). The result of their doctrine was that it threatened to upset the faith of some!

In context, the only way to guard against false teaching like Hymenaeus was doing is by diligent study of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Hymenaeus, many have and will both personally err from the truth and overthrow the faith of others. Our task is to fight, like Paul did, the cancerous spread of “profane and worthless talk” (16). The result of disrespect for Bible truth is increasing ungodliness (16). How tragic! We must oppose the Hymenaeus’ of our day.

Hymenaeuses live and die, and they drag others down with them. Their influence wanes, but the damage they do has an eternal impact on those duped by their doctrines. As we keep our focus on the cross and our zeal to convert the lost, may we keep up our fight against the cankered! Let us pray that modern Hymenaeuses will turn from error and come back home to a God who waits with His mighty arms outstretched!

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