Worth Doing Poorly

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 10.25-31
25 As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: “Go in and kill them; let no one escape.” So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. 26 They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. 27 They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day. 
28 So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. 29 However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. 
30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” 31 Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. 

Reflection: Worth Doing Poorly
By John Tillman

There’s an aphorism that says anything worth doing is worth doing right. There is also a counterargument which says that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. The traditional aphorism discourages shoddiness and sloth and the non-traditional mirror-version discourages despair and apathy.

People may feel they don’t have the resources to “do something right” and so do nothing. Whether one feels a lack of emotional strength, or physical strength, or other resources, the idea that one cannot complete something can be paralyzing.

It is easy to apply this to tangible things. If you are too tired to brush and floss, just brushing makes a difference. If you can’t afford healthy food for every meal, changing one meal a day is an improvement. If you can’t run a 5K, walking around your block is still worthwhile.

But when it comes to serving the Lord, is partial obedience worth anything? How does God view our futile attempts at perfection? 

God seemed pleased with Jehu’s partial obedience. Jehu eliminated the worship of Baal and carried out God’s prophecy against Ahab. Based on this, God made a promise to Jehu that his line of kings would last four generations.

Partial or incomplete obedience matters when it comes to earthly consequences and outcomes but it is not salvific. All the repeated failures of kings and saviors in the Old Testament point to our need for the true savior and true king to come. 

The Christian faith acknowledges, with more honesty than most faith systems, that humans are incapable of complete righteousness and justice. This harsh realism is not a fatalistic surrender to human nature. We cannot gain salvation by legalism but this does not mean abandoning self-control. On the contrary, Paul (the Bible’s most strident anti-legalist) encourages us to make our bodies slaves to God’s will and to press onward to a higher calling.

Christians do not believe in capitulating to sin, but in following the one who has defeated it. It is Christ’s complete righteousness that we cling to and claim, not our own. 

No matter how “good” we are, we can’t save ourselves. But no matter how far short we fall, anyone can turn in repentance and take steps with Jesus that make a difference. Pressing onward to follow Jesus is more important than how many times we fall or fail.

Following Jesus is worth it, even if you fail frequently.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
For you Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 109.25

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30)
2Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 11-12 (Listen – 7:38),  2 Timothy 2 (Listen – 3:17)
2 Kings 13 (Listen – 4:33), 2 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about Praising Christ’s Righteousness
God specifically tells Ezekiel that not even the greatest, most righteous men he might trust in would be able to save the nation.

Read more about Kiss of Righteousness and Peace—Guided Prayer
May we bring righteousness and peace together in our lives and communities.


Calloused Hands and Softened Hearts

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 1.12
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

Reflection: Calloused Hands and Softened Hearts
By John Tillman

In suffering for the gospel, Paul carried with him a joy and purpose that he worked to pass on to Timothy and to us.

Paul, when writing this second letter to Timothy, knew that his life was coming to an end. Reading between the lines, one can hear the certainty with which Paul feels his death approaching. 

Paul does not encourage Timothy with any false hope of things improving for Christians or for Timothy. In fact, by his prayers and what he writes, he seems certain of problems and crises for Timothy rather than ease and comfort. He invites Timothy to, “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

Some interpretations of the Christian faith have, from time to time, trended toward pie-in-the-sky, escapist fantasy—as if the great purpose of the gospel was only to leave this world behind. 

Gospel Christianity, fully embraced, realistically addresses the now and spiritually embraces the future. Few religions do both. The Bible shows us a Christ—with dirty, workman’s hands—fixing, healing, and working in the muddy, bloody now of the New Testament. His heart is soft for those far from God and for those hurt and damaged by this world. Following Christ, our hands will grow calloused and our hearts will be softened as we work to meet needs and change the world now.

The Bible also shows us a Christ wielding axe, fire, and wrath. This Christ will end the diseased and broken version of creation we live in and bring about a restoration. This Christ also comes individually to us to end our inner world that is equally diseased and broken, restoring us to our potential.

There is suffering coming to our lives.
There is death coming to our lives.
There is destruction on its way.
We may still be encouraged. This is true not because our suffering will be ended by Christ, but because Christ suffers with us.

There is coming a day on which the world will be no more. But this does not mean that our earthly efforts are wasted. We, like Paul and Timothy, are working alongside Christ. 

We, too, may know in whom we have placed our faith and trust. 

Walking with Christ, we will be:
Shameless in suffering
Personally assured in belief
Convinced of Christ’s ability, not our own
Guarded by Christ Jesus

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” — 2 Timothy 1:12

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30)
2 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:37)

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Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
To burn out of our souls our preoccupation with ourselves we require a different kind of axe and a different kind of fire. Thankfully, Jesus stands ready to supply both.

Read more about Resurrecting Goodness :: Readers’ Choice
It is a uniquely Christian claim that God is invested in our present, not just our future.