"Watch your life and doctrine closely.
Persevere in them, because if you do,
you will save both yourself and your hearers."
This Scripture comes from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to his "son in the faith", Timothy. At this time in their relationship, Paul was encouraging Timothy after years of the younger man sitting at the knee of his mentor, learning all that Paul had to teach him. Timothy had accompanied Paul on many of his missionary endeavors, and had not only learned the essentials of the Christian faith from Paul, but had seen Christian leadership modeled through Paul's actions and words. It was time for Timothy to become a leader himself, and model the faith for others.
At first glance, this passage seemed significant to me in a past tense, as I contemplated two "teachers" that have influenced me in my faith; women who taught me the principles and character of God, and what it meant to be "a follower of Jesus Christ". They admonished me to adhere to the truth that is proclaimed in the Bible, and neither "to add nor subtract" from what is written there.
Through their gentle encouragement, I began to possess a love for the Word, and a curiosity about how God wanted me to live my life. I longed to fulfill the purpose which He had in mind for me from the minute I was "knitted in my mother's womb". These teachers set me on a path of seeking .... seeking more understanding of my God; seeking a deeper, more personal relationship, and searching for ways I might serve Him. I counted on their guidance and wanted to learn all I could from them. And then God took them both from me; suddenly and without warning. Each died unexpectedly and long before I felt they were through with me. But God knew what He was doing. Now I had to know Him on my own and grow in my faith beyond their influence. He had so much more to teach me, and He needed my attention focused on Him.
So now the words of this Scripture take on a meaning for the future. Like my mentors before me, I have spent a considerable length of time studying the Word with a heartfelt yearning to not only understand what God is telling me, but a deep desire to share what I know He wants everyone to hear! I have learned the Truth of the Bible, and it is up to me to give testimony about how it has affected my life; in the here and now and for all eternity. I am profoundly aware of the deceit and false teaching that is leading some of my fellow Believers astray. I must safeguard the doctrine of God's plan of reconciliation, and tell all who will listen to seek Him and save their souls. My life must illustrate, even in all my weaknesses, that Jesus is the answer. I must persevere in this course of action; which means to continue even when there are difficulties and struggles and no signs of success. Because I KNOW those struggles are coming --- the Word tells us it will happen. But because I understand both my God's mercies to those who love Him and His judgments to those who deny Him, I will continue to share my story of salvation. Through the coming difficulties I will be reminded of my own deliverance from the consequences of sin; and hopefully, encourage others to seek their own redemption.
Like Timothy, my time came to step out on my own faith, and we will soon need to help others find their footing and rely on God. By speaking the truth of God's Word and continuing to protect our lives (and the Gospel) from being distorted by Satan's lies, we can hope to influence others to stay on that narrow path that promises salvation.