Daily Devotion: Living Sober-Minded

2 Timothy 4:5, As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

St. Paul wrote these words to the young pastor Timothy in his final instructions. Paul’s words to Timothy in this epistle are words all pastors should take seriously as devout men of God. Yet these words can also be taken seriously by all Christian educators, and not simply in the formal sense. All Christians are Christian educators in the sense that everything we say and do educates the world what we believe about Christ and who He is, even when we speak and act without intention.

If I speak coarsely toward someone out of anger or impatience, this does not mean I believe Christ to be coarse, but for those who know I am a Christian and see me act in such a way will quickly see my hypocrisy and question the goodness of Christ. My hypocrisy does not make me a poor Christian, per se; it is merely me living simultaneously as a sinner and saint. Thus, being a Christian is a weighty task. We are still sinners; we Christians know this. Thus, we Christians know that insofar as we continue to live on this side of the eschaton, we will always fall short of representing Christ honestly.

Yet the world does not know this. The world knows God calls us toward perfection, but they do not understand that (a) God the Father already considers us perfect (i.e. justified, declared innocent) because of Christ’s perfection, and (b) our perfection will not be attained until Christ returns. Such understanding comes only by faith.

Nevertheless, Paul exhorts Timothy to be sober-minded, to endure suffering, to proclaim the Good News, and to fulfil his ministry. We should all take Paul’s advice here. By sober-minded, Paul means self-controlled. Self-control is impossible under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Even if they are legal, improper use—and licentiousness—leads to lack of self-control. We can enjoy alcohol, but drunkenness is lack of self-control—we are not sober-minded—and thus we quench the Holy Spirit and fail to proclaim Christ. Marijuana might be legal in your state, but its consumption takes away control—whether partially or fully—and thus we quench the Holy Spirit and fail to proclaim Christ. And so on.

We endure suffering by trusting in Christ and running to God in refuge whenever we are troubled. In all we do, we ought to seek the proclamation of the Gospel. Whatever ministry we might be called to, we ought to live above reproach that Christ might be preached to all. Again, as sinners, we will fail when we do not mean to, but God the Father does not measure us according to our perfection but according to Christ’s perfection.

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