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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