Dying to Yourself as a Servant of the Lord

Flee also youth­ful lusts; but pur­sue right­eous­ness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Tim­o­thy 2:22, NKJV

I have great dif­fi­cul­ty with this verse. Don’t take that to mean I have dif­fi­cul­ty fig­ur­ing out what the pas­sage means; it is, after all, quite plain­ly written.

No, rather, I have dif­fi­cul­ty with the appli­ca­tion of this pas­sage. Tru­ly, it demands a great deal from he who would be known as “a ser­vant of the Lord” (vs. 24).

Flee­ing youth­ful lusts. How often have I heard the tra­di­tion­al­ist preach­er grab that verse and use it to con­demn all man­ner of things! As John Gill, my favorite bib­li­cal com­men­ta­tor, states, these lusts are not “lusts of unclean­ness, las­civ­i­ous­ness, and filth­i­ness; nor any of those fol­lies and van­i­ties which the youth­ful age usu­al­ly lusts and desires after.”

Rather, it seems much more like­ly that Paul is giv­ing a much more min­istry-ori­ent­ed admo­ni­tion. Flee from those things which so often are found with young min­is­ters. Gill lists some of them: “vain glo­ry, pop­u­lar applause, seek­ing to have the pre-emi­nence, con­tentions with, and con­tempt of oth­ers, and the like.”

That list is hum­bling. Seek­ing to have pre­em­i­nence? Flee from it, a les­son the dis­ci­ples learned when they ques­tioned the Lord regard­ing which of them would be great­est in the king­dom. Seek­ing after the praise of oth­ers — or per­haps even their con­tempt, as if that made you feel supe­ri­or when your work irks oth­ers? Flee from it!

No, here Paul leaves no room for the proud min­is­ter. Check your­self at the door, Paul seems to say. When you min­is­ter to oth­ers, exalt them above your­self. You become their servant.

Pride demands we have to win our argu­ments. Humil­i­ty beck­ons us to speak the truth with love & patience.
Pride requires the approval of oth­ers. Humil­i­ty pleads with us to work for oth­ers, not for their approval.
Pride asserts that the best place is at the top. Humil­i­ty calls us to bend our knees to oth­ers, serv­ing as a foun­da­tion for them.

Every­thing that these youth­ful lusts may bring, it is all con­trary to that which Paul calls us to: “right­eous­ness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Else­where in the Scrip­tures, we are called to main­tain peace with all men, so here in Paul’s instruc­tions to the ser­vant of the Lord, we are to under­stand that we are to espe­cial­ly pur­sue peace with all those who call upon the Lord with a pure heart.

The impor­tance of Chris­t­ian uni­ty can­not be under­stat­ed, and those who would be ser­vants of the Lord are here charged to pur­sue peace with all the brethren.

That word “pur­sue” is an inter­est­ing one. It comes from the Greek word dioÌ„koÌ„ (διώκω), and the word seems to have two pri­ma­ry mean­ings used through­out the New Tes­ta­ment. The first, as seen in this verse, is “to pur­sue” or “to fol­low after.” But quite a bit more often, the word is trans­lat­ed as a form of “to per­se­cute.” For instance, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and per­se­cute (διώκω) you, and shall say all man­ner of evil against you false­ly, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11).

If any­thing, that gives us an idea of what kind of pur­su­ing Paul is talk­ing about when he tells us to pur­sue right­eous­ness, faith, char­i­ty, and peace with the brethren. This is no mere casu­al inter­est in these things. We are to press toward them. We are to strive for them, to chase them with the hopes of over­tak­ing them into our lives that they may pour forth from us as we minister.

I men­tioned ear­li­er that this verse was chal­leng­ing to me. You’ve seen that it is actu­al­ly a fair­ly easy verse to under­stand, but is it so easy in practice?

I want to be a ser­vant of the Lord. It does­n’t have to be a full time voca­tion, but it cer­tain­ly is a full time thing. And here Paul impos­es one of the great­est require­ments for the Lord’s ser­vants: dying to yourself.

I can’t come first. I can’t even come in sec­ond, third, or forth. No. I must come in last. I fail often at that. Many of us do.

It is encour­ag­ing that Paul gave us those things which we should be pur­su­ing, as we cast off the youth­ful lusts of our pride. If it is in the Scrip­tures, it is empowering.

No mat­ter where you go, if you’re desir­ing to be a ser­vant of the Lord, may the admo­ni­tion of 2 Tim­o­thy 2:22 stay with you.

Die to your­self and your lusts, and embrace the right­eous­ness, faith, love, and peace which comes from the Lord. I’ll be endeav­or­ing to do the same.

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Rick Beckman