Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2.1)
We may have this grace and not be strong in it. The reality is one thing, the degree is another. We read of weak faith as well as strong faith. There are lambs in our Shepherd’s fold as well as sheep and, in our Father’s house, there are little children as well as young men. But, while there is, in religion, an infancy which is natural and lovely, there is, also, another which is unlooked-for and offensive. It is the effect of relapse. It is not of the beginning of the divine life, but of an after-period the apostle speaks when, reproving the Hebrews, He says, “You have become those who need milk and not strong drink.” We must not despise the day of small things. The Savior himself does not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, but He is concerned to bring forth judgment unto victory. And, while the feeble-minded are to be comforted, the slothful are to be stimulated, and all are to be kept from “settling upon their lees.”
Everything shows how necessary it is to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Your dangers require it. These are to be found in all the relations, offices, conditions, and circumstances of life. Your passions are not wholly mortified. There is the sin that yet dwells in you. The world lies in wickedness and you are passing through it. Your adversary, the devil, goes about seeking whom he may devour. How much depends upon one lapse! And did not Abraham equivocate, and Moses speak unadvisedly, and Peter deny his Lord? And, what says all this but be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Your duties require it. You have a family, and with your house you are to serve the Lord. You have a calling, and in this you are to abide with God. You have the exercises of devotion, in which you are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. You have to walk by faith and not by sight. You are to have your conversation in heaven, while everything conspires to keep you down to earth.
Your usefulness requires it. You are not to live to yourselves, but to Him who died for you and rose again. You are to look not only on your own things but also on the things of others. You are to walk in wisdom toward those who are without and endeavor to win souls. You are to do good, as you have opportunity, to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Your trials require it. Who but must reckon upon these in a vale of tears? And, if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. To glorify God in the fires and to recommend religion by its supports and comforts when everything else fails, demands no small share of grace.
Your consolations require it. Consolations are not only delightful, but they are even of practical importance in religion. They enlarge the heart, enliven zeal, embolden courage, and wean from the world. And you read of a peace which passes all understanding and a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory! Yet, what do some of you know of these? More grace would bring more evidence and raise you more above your fears and depressions. If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.
Death requires it. Other events may, but this must occur. It is a melancholy day for those who have no God and a very serious one for those who have. To think of it, to meet it with triumph or even with confidence, will not this call for more grace than you now possess? And what is the language of all these demands? Despondence? No, but be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Without Him, you can do nothing but, through His strengthening of you, you can do all things.
Rest not, therefore, in any present attainment. Like Paul, forget the things that are behind and reach forth to those that are before you. It is to be lamented that we are easily dissatisfied where we ought to be content, and content where we ought to be dissatisfied. In temporal matters, we should have our conversation without covetousness and be content with such things as we have But, here, alas, we are avariciously anxious. And, though three feet are enough for us in the cradle, and seven in the grave, nothing will hardly satisfy us in between. But, in spiritual things, with what trifling acquisitions are we contented! Yet, here, it is even our duty to be covetous, to be ambitious! And, as before us lies an infinite fullness, and we are not straitened in our resources, let us not be straitened in our desires and expectations, but ask and receive, that our joy may be full. – William Jay (1769-1853), a meditation on 2 Timothy 2.1.