This meditation is taken from Earl Palmer’s new book. To Run the Race: St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.
Paul concludes his personal witness to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah with an explanation of the importance of this confidence. He uses two words; he calls the affirmation a “pattern” ( “standard” in NRSV) of “sound teaching” (NIV, KJV, NRSV). The word “sound” is the word which can be translated “healthy.” The usual intention of this word in the New Testament is “healthy,” as in John 5:11 “The man who made me well.” Paul’s point is exactly this: The trust of a believer in the “whom” of our discovery, and in Christ’s ability to guard our lives, is the essence of a healthy faith. It would be unhealthy to trust in our own self-mastery through our own strength, or even in the strength of a group of like-minded people who propose to guard the truth and true doctrine. Health at the edges comes from a healthy center. Paul is advocating for a living, growing relationship in Christ as that healthy centeredness.
These are remarkable personal words from the Apostle, concerning his own free decision to trust in Jesus Christ as the trustworthy “whom” of New Testament discipleship. Paul’s words are therefore both realistic and healthy. He believed because he saw for himself that the Jesus of the New Testament was both good enough to deserve our trust and strong enough to fulfill our trust.
Imagine a solo rock climber, who—just as he is nearing the summit of a dangerous ascent—slips on the rock face, just out of the range of a fixed anchor bolt where he needs to snap in a safety carabiner. The climber nevertheless is able to grasp an exposed tree root, which offers at least a temporary rescue. At this point, another climber reaches down from the edge above and grasps both wrists of the climber in peril. “I’ll help you get your footing, just let go of the root.”
We must ask one question in this parable: “What will determine whether the imperiled climber lets go of the root in order to trust the one who offers help toward a better footing?” It all depends on what that climber thinks of the one who offers aid. Imagining myself as the climber in peril, I have to make two decisions. First, I need to assess the good will of my would-be helper. Added to that, I need to assess his strength. In other words, at such a terrifying moment, I have to trust the character of the promiser and his capability to keep the promise. I may not have all the evidence I want, but on the basis of the evidence I do have, I must decide. That deciding moment is what becomes belief in God’s character, revealed in the Savior Jesus Christ. <br>
Earl Palmer (M.Div.) is the author of many books, including A Faith That Works and Trusting God: Christian Faith in a World of Uncertainty. He directs Earl Palmer Ministries.(March, 2014)
Rev. Palmer spoke on The Sermon on the Mount: The Teacher Makes a Difference for New College Berkeley on March 29, 2014. CD's are available for purchase. Go to the home page and order and pay via PayPal.