How to avoid the sin cycle
Do you know which plant grows best in West Virginia?
Weeds. The weeds grow best in West Virginia.
We get a lot of snow and rain here, and the ground is rather fertile. However, if a piece of land is cleared, the grass and flowers in the area do not take it over. The weeds do, and quickly.
There’s a spiritual lesson in there, if we’re open to seeing it. It’s not enough for Christians to just clear out the “bad” portions of our lives. Clearing out sinful actions, bad habits, and distractions does take monumental effort. Taking steps to avoid going back to those old ways will be a significant challenge. But if we forget to take the next step, we’ll wear ourselves out, only to be caught in a sick cycle of clearing out the weeds and then letting them creep back in and take over…only to have to clear out the weeds (again) to then let them creep back in (again) and take over (again)…and again…and again…
Paul knew this, too. He wanted Timothy to instruct the believers in Ephesus on how to avoid being stuck in this perpetual cycle. Take a look at what “next step” Paul says they should take after avoiding the things that will distract us from God and His purpose:
1 Timothy 4:7
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness,
When we clear out the ungodly distractions in our lives, we MUST refill the time and use the effort we would previously spend on those distractions. If we want grass and flowers to grow in our cleared-out land, then we must plant them immediately after doing the work of clearing out the garbage weeds. It is at that moment that the ground (and our lives) are most willing to accept the change in direction. If we wait to fill the void – the world will gladly fill it for us…
Paul knows it’s not enough to just avoid the irreverent and silly myths out there. So, he tells Timothy to replace any time previously spent on those things with a specific plan that has a Godly focus. His focus is to be on the things that have a “God-like-ness”, the things that point himself and others toward the God of the Universe.
Paul’s use of the phrase train yourself is no accident, either. The Greek phrase means to exercise vigorously. Given the city’s prominence in Greek culture, this is clearly a reference to the effort and dedication a Greek athlete would put toward his training to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games.
Lastly, notice how Timothy had to choose to do the training. No one else could do the work for him. No one else is going to develop his relationship with God. No one else can focus Timothy’s thoughts on God’s words and direction for his life. As he chooses to plant the seeds of godliness, the growth that comes will fill up the area that was previously overrun with any irreverent and silly ideas. Timothy’s training will become the long term investment that will keep him out of the sin cycle.
There’s a life lesson in there, if we are open to seeing it.