There used to be a sign on a bridge in Florida: “It’s against the law to run out of gas on this bridge.” As odd as that sign seems, it makes an interesting point. The purpose of the bridge is that cars move across it, and moving cars depend on each other for good order. But we sometimes run out of gas. We sometimes inconvenience others, even ourselves by our mistakes and oversights.
The older apostle Paul was mentor to the younger pastor, Timothy. Since being a church leader was difficult, even discouraging, Paul offered encouragement. Timothy was dealing with Phygelus and Hermogenes who had abandoned the faith. Hymneneus and Philetus were teaching that there really wasn’t a resurrection after death. Demus turned away to worldly attractions.
Paul reminded Timothy about some faithful members: especially Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and his mother, Eunice. With these pillars of the faith, and “the help of the Holy Spirit living¨ in us,” we can be faithful followers of Jesus!
Being a Christian 24/7 can be hard work. There’s danger of “running out of gas” or getting stalled, or lost on detours, or wandering off to dangerous places for the soul’s well-being. There are sometimes wrecks on the bridge of life, the bridge that God built, so to speak.
The bridge, truth be told, is Jesus Christ himself! This is the one bridge that can never be destroyed again. It was destroyed once, at the crucifixion, but God rebuilt the bridge into an everlasting structure that cannot and will never be destroyed. Hell has no power over the rebuilding of the bridge (the resurrection). The real losers are the devil, satan, evil, lucifer, whatever designation you give the destructive forces on our journey. God’s rebuilding of the crucified bridge is an eternal victory! As believers, we get to say with full confidence and truth: “GOD WINS!”
Oh yes, people will still drop away. It’s no secret that church attendance around the country is in decline. My name isn’t Timothy, but I’m going to take Paul’s advice! When some drop out, I’ll be inviting and say “welcome back.” When new ones arrive, I’ll say, “join the community of faith.” When someone says, “I believe in Jesus Christ, and I’m attending another church,” I want to say, “Praise God you’re in worship! May it go well for you! May your closeness to Jesus Christ become stronger.”
Paul gave the best advice to Timothy: we have this Good News, this gospel: preach it! Preach the Good News “in season and out of season.” Never give up. Be confident in the truth of the gospel. Don’t be timid or cowardly! In your dealings with the likes of Phygelus, Hermogenes, Hymneneus, Philetus, and Demus, even family connections with Lois and Eunice, even in your relationship with your mentor, Paul -- remember FIRST OF ALL to whom you belong! Remember ALWAYS who is at the center of our story: Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead.
Preach it! Live it! Join the journey! Cross the bridge of faith! Keep moving along! The Holy Spirit will give you all the energy you need! When you run out of gas, God will fill you with the Holy Spirit!
Off you go now, tell someone the Good News! Tell them that God really loves them. Tell them that God offers forgiveness. Invite them to worship.
Please don’t leave all the preaching up to the preachers! God gives wonderful spiritual gifts to Moms and Grandmas, Fathers and Grandfathers, Aunts and Uncles. When you’re empty, God shows up in these people (and MANY others) to rescue you. When offers forgiveness, peace, grace, joy, and love, come, say with conviction, “Fill ‘er up, Lord, fill ‘er up!”