Editor’s Note: While we’re on the subject of hurricanes, we know that many of you have been affected by Hurricane Sally and other tropical storms, or perhaps you know someone who has, or perhaps you know someone who has. We want to let you know we are praying for you—for those who are dealing with destruction and loss, for those whose hearts are weary from the devastation, and those who are feeling scattered among the chaos. We ask for His provision, presence, and comfort to sustain you in this time.
It’s hurricane season. On the morning news, I’ve started hearing about tropical storms and hurricanes that threaten the United States. I’ve never lived in a part of the country affected by hurricanes—my only experience is from the news, hearing stories from friends and family members, and getting an occasional deluge when a storm’s remnants come my way.
But there is one thing I know—when you hear that a hurricane is coming, you prepare. You know that if authorities say to evacuate, you should listen. You might use sandbags to shore up foundations and brace against flooding. Windows will be barred or boarded up to protect from wind and debris. You’ll make sure you have enough food and supplies to hole up if you can’t get out or you lose power. The generator will have gas and be in working order.
2 Timothy 3 talks about a spiritual hurricane, and it seems like we are in the middle of one right now. Deception floods in and threatens to erode our foundations. Normalcy is swept away in the winds of fear. Confusion and division rain down. We are cut off from so many things we normally use to energize ourselves. But are we prepared for the storm?
After describing the spiritual hurricane that is coming in Timothy’s future, Paul gives him some of the most well-known advice in the Bible:
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:14–17 NASB)
This passage comes right after Paul notes that “evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13 NIV84). In the middle of this kind of downward spiral, Timothy has a resource that will equip him to endure—the Word of God. Paul lists four ways that the Word equips “the man of God”: it teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains in righteousness.
The greatest danger Christians face is deception; that’s why our greatest tool is truth. Deception can come through the voices of others, including those we look up to as authority figures and Satan. It can also come through our own voice. This is why the Word of God must be the most powerful voice in our lives. This passage outlines three key places deception attacks:
We must cling to teaching that aligns accurately with Scripture—and nothing else. It’s easy to assume that pastors, teachers, and other spiritual leaders always teach what is in accord with Scripture, but accepting any teaching at face value is dangerous. What we hear may sound good, but we must compare it to God’s Word. False teaching can be anything from doctrinal “marshmallow fluff” to blatant deception, causing us to believe lies about God and ourselves. My mom uses the example of counterfeit money to explain this. She describes how sales clerks are trained to recognize counterfeit bills by studying the originals. Similarly, the only way we can know for sure if a teaching is biblical is if we are constantly studying the Bible for ourselves.
In the book of Acts, the people of Berea are described as more noble than the people of Thessalonica because after hearing Paul preach, they went straight to the Scriptures to see if what he said was true: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).
If they fact-checked even the apostle Paul, we ought to follow their example and examine any teaching that comes our way.
The Tendencies of Our Hearts
Paul tells Timothy that the Scriptures are good for reproof and correction. When we follow our own paths that seem right at first, the danger lies when we veer farther and farther away from Christ. As fallen humans, though we are redeemed and forgiven, we will still tend to turn away from God. It’s our natural bent. I’m reminded of a disease in animals called listeriosis, or circling disease. When an animal is affected by this disease, it will first turn in a certain direction, then keep circling in that direction until it is incapable of anything else. In some cases, vets can offer treatment that will eventually restore the animal almost to normal, but in some cases it is fatal. Sin does the same thing to us when left unchecked. We will continually veer in the direction of sin until it becomes a downward spiral that leads to death. The world is always telling us, “Believe in yourself,” “Live your best life,” “You be you,” and “Follow your dreams.” But the Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
We need the plumb line of truth to reprove and correct us. Without it, our best life and our dreams will lead to the grave because the disease of sin has so affected our hearts.
Temptation to Sin
Lastly, the Scriptures train us for righteousness. Satan’s whispers will always appeal to our sinful hearts. We become so accustomed to this voice that we barely notice when we are tempted. When we follow the temptations for so long, the battle against sin seems impossible. The Bible speaks against such things as complaining, jealousy, lust, fear, and anxiety, and yet, day after day that’s where we find our emotions, thoughts, and words. We must train ourselves to be righteous. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:22 to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” We will never find the motivation in ourselves to turn away from these sinful patterns. Scripture tells us that we might become the righteousness of God, not in our own strength, but because Jesus took on our sin, becoming sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
The Bible warns against deception, and it also provides training for righteousness. Stay tuned for Part 2 to discover the ways we can stand strong in the hurricanes that threaten to shake us.