In the past I have preached to youth on 1 Timothy and the call to full-time ministry. As I have been doing some study, I stumbled across some background information on 1 Timothy I didn't know before. It would seem that Paul was encouraging Timothy to guard against those who had an over-realized eschatology (that is just a big phrase meaning that they saw that the end of time was already taking place at that moment).
For instance, Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:18, "They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way they have turned some people away from the faith." It would seem that this thinking impacted their actions in God's world. Scholar Greg A. Couser states, "A central effect of this shift resulted in illegitimately putting God's saving work over against his present purposes in creation (cf. 1 Tim. 2:13-15; 4:3-5; 5: 3,14)." (From the book Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul's Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, p.108).
Stop and think about that for a moment--these people were focusing on what was going to happen and were neglecting what was happening at that moment. Worse still, it had the appearance of godliness because it was focused on salvation. Yet it ignored completely what God was doing in the community and in the church. God did not say, "Ignore everyone because my coming is soon." Rather, he says "Take care of the orphans and the widows. Make sure you keep procreating. Make sure you keep living holy and Godly lives."
The church forgot God's immediate desire because they were looking too much at God's future desire.
We do that too, don't we?
I am so guilty of looking ahead to my future. Where will I go to school again? Am I going to earn a Ph.D? What is the next book I am going to read? What is the next event I am going to plan? What if we end up with tons of people end up coming? Where will I end up living? What do the next ten years hold? What does the future of my business hold?
These aren't bad things to imagine. In fact, vision requires that we think ahead.
The danger is when we allow the future to impact our present. I have caught myself turning down good things now, because I expected something better in the future.
When that happens, we have begun to over-dream.
...and we become guilty of something very similar to the church Timothy served at.
So what to do?
First, we must be humble. We must realize that everything about our future is contingent on God's ultimate plan. James 4:13-17 reminds us of this. Our plans are subservient to God's plan. We are to be humble.
Second, we are to be aware. God is constantly doing things around us. He is on the move. Our calling is partner with God wherever he is working
Third, we are to live expectantly. We must be careful not to fall into the other side of the trap which pushes all future plans and eschatological hopes as irrelevant. We are called to live expectantly, waiting for Christ's return. We are to labor hard. The same goes with our dreams. We are to live expectantly, trusting that our future is held securely by God. This gives us freedom to serve now with total devotion.
Daniel Pandolph is co-founder of Ministry Assistant Services and founder of Theologian of the Boss. He holds a BA in Christian Studies from North Greenville University and an MA in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.