The agreement was finally reached, after much debate. Our family had to come to an agreement on the care of our parents, aging slowly, but still aging. “I’ll take Daddy, if Mother goes first, and you take Mother if Daddy goes first,” my sister said. It was a big decision. I knew, with young children at that time, that my dad could not stand the mayhem. My sister’s children were grown, so it would work out. Theoretically. But in those next intervening years, my sister pulled away from all relationships, cut off the family, and never contacted us again, except during the death of our father. As soon as the funeral was over, she was gone again.
When Mother came to live with us, my world turned upside down. No matter how much you love them, the entire role reversal regurgitates against everything you’ve ever known about your parent. As the time goes on, depending on the illness, the tension, the stress, the responsibility, and the exhaustion seems to sap all strength out of you. I would start each day crying out to the Lord, “Lord! I can’t do this again today!” and He would carry me through. Every day. Every night.
I asked myself hundreds of times, is this worth all the stress? Is it worth all the worry, the fatigue, to care for someone who doesn’t know where she is, who she is, or who is taking care of her? An image would float in my mind: I was a tiny baby, not knowing who this woman was, where I was, who I was, but she uncomplainingly changed my diapers, fed me with her own milk, bathed me, and loved me. Now the time had come for me to do the same for her. “Twice a child, once an adult” is a phrase I heard over and over. I can look back, a few years later now, and know I may have wanted to give up many times, but didn’t. I finished what God brought into my life. It was worth it.
I have a dear friend going through the same scenario right now, only she is dealing with not only her father, but also her father in law! Her strength is a moment to moment thing, and she is getting through only by looking at the bigger picture: she is doing what she has to do, at a time when she is free to do it, because God has brought it to pass. He has “called” her, so to speak, to this responsibility at this time. Is it worth it? She knows it is. What are her options? To let the state take care of them both? There aren’t options when the responsibility is God-given.
Take out your Bible, get your notebook, and click on the following link to watch the Sunday morning worship service from Thomas Road Baptist Church from September 18, 2016: http://www.trbc.org/service-archive . If you have time to do it all in one sitting, watch the sermon and then do the sermon study below. Or, you can fast-forward through the music to the sermon itself, although the music will put you in a mood to worship. You can do it alone as you have time this week, or have a friend or the family join you. If you’re brave, you may want to invite others and do it in an evening session! Whatever you decide, let’s dive into God’s Word, and see what we can apply to our own lives.
An insightful question to ask yourself is, “If I could begin over, and choose any vocation I wanted, what would it be?” It may seem as though it is too late to start over, but it’s never too late to reshape your goals! Jot your thoughts down, or discuss them.
As an aside, years ago I ask a high school boy, who did not plan to go to college, what he would love to do if he could do anything he wanted for his life’s work. His eyes lit up immediately, and unhesitatingly he responded, “Archaeology!” You could tell from his answer that it was a subject he longed to pursue, but his mom’s small income was insufficient to warrant further education (from his view point). What a shame! He sacrificed what he only dreamed of, for a reality of getting married within a short time, starting a family, and living “hand to mouth” because he did not have the ambition to dive into his dreams with a whole heart! Confucius once said, “A man who finds a job he loves never works a day in his life!” It would have been worth the work.
We are in a series called “Unfinished,” looking at Paul’s final words to Timothy. Paul was soon to be executed but penned loving instructions for those who would continue the work of spreading the Gospel. He had faithfully carried out what he knew God had called him to do. Let’s apply these words to our own lives in today’s world.
Think About or Discuss:
Never be ashamed
- Read 2 Timothy 1:8-18. In verse 8a, why does Paul tell Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus, or of Paul? How does this parallel the night of the crucifixion, when Peter and the other apostles fled?*
- Can you think of a time or times when you were ashamed of standing up as a Christian, when you had the opportunity? How does that make you feel now?
Because you are called
- Read verse 9. What is the “holy calling” God called you to pursue? Do you sometimes feel that He has called you to do something special for Him, and if so, what was/is it?
- Why did He call you? When did He call you? Can you truly wrap your mind around that?
With the message of life
- Read verse 10. Why do we say that Jesus “abolished” death, and that it has been defeated? Do you actually fear death because of you are afraid of standing before a holy God, or just afraid of the uncertainty in the way by which it may come?
Though the journey might be tough
- Read verse 12a. We are seeing the times getting tough for Christians all over the world. What are some of the ways Christianity is being attacked? Ask yourself, will I be strong enough to face tough times for my Lord? What persecution have you encountered because of your stand as a Christian?
God is faithful
- Read verse 12b. How do you know He is faithful? Look back at your life; has He ever left you? Can you think of a time when you doubted Him because He answered a prayer with “No”?
You are not alone
- What “good thing” is Paul referring to in verse 14? When do you receive the Holy Spirit? Will He ever leave you?
Can you put yourself in Paul’s place, when he was perhaps only days away from being executed for his faith? He had undergone brutal persecution during most of the years after he became a believer, but had never turned away from the great work God had called him to do.** Now he was preparing to pass the torch to those he felt would continue making Christ-followers. As you discuss or think about your courage in the face of persecution, what are your concerns? It is pertinent that you realize some people who turn away and reject God do so because He has answered fervent prayer with “No” or let them go through testing of a huge magnitude–and they usually try to bargain with Him. Yet truly trusting Him means trusting that His way is always the right way, even when you do not understand (questions 6, 7 and 8). Pray diligently that you will never fall by the wayside, but rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to take every opportunity to stand for the name of Jesus, for it will be an “unfinished” work until the whole world has heard of His saving grace. If you need extra time to study, find a Life Group that will help you to witness, spreading the good news in your environment, in your job, or in your community. God simply asks that you be available for Him to use!
Memory Verse: 2 Timothy 1:12: “For this reason I also suffer these things, nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 1:8-18; John 1:12
Home Study: **Read 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 for Paul’s list of persecutions which he had suffered. *Read Mark 14:27-50, 66-72 for the account of the apostles turning their backs on the Savior, and Peter’s denials (question 2). Read James 1:2-6. James talks about your persevering when your faith is “tested.” A flat tire, a frig that doesn’t work one day, a broken arm–those things are frustrating, but usually do not test your faith. Losing a family member when you are young, after praying for God to heal them, that may test your faith as to whether He is a good God; that is what Paul wants us to learn. Read Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23 to learn how some people fall away from the Gospel!