There is an event in track cycling known as the pursuit. In this event, two individual cyclists or teams start on opposite sides of the track. The goal of the pursuit is to ride as hard as you can for 4 kilometers to catch your opponent. During the pursuit, all of the focus and the energy of the cyclists are dedicated to one goal: chasing your opponent to catch them and win the race.
When Paul was writing to Timothy, he encouraged him to give all of his focus and energy in his pursuit as well. However, instead of pursuing an opposing cyclist on a track, Paul was urging Timothy to pursue key characteristics of the Christian life: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (v11). Each of these are some pretty big theological terms that carry a lot of meaning, so to help us understand what Paul was urging Timothy to pursue, I’m thinking of what Paul wrote in this way:
Chase after a life which:
- Makes right all that is wrong
- Reflects the goodness of God
- Trusts Jesus in & for everything
- Gives ourselves to others
- Keeps going no matter what
- Treats others gently
Paul contrasts this kind of life with a life in which a person is pursuing financial wealth. We need to hear these words in our society which dedicates so much time and energy pursuing wealth and financial affluence. Paul teaches Timothy that pursuing money will not bring us happiness and will probably cause us a lot of grief. He tells Timothy to run away from a life focused on making money, and instead chase after or pursue a life full of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
The main reason for pursuing these characteristics is that it leads us to a better life for ourselves and for the people around us. In John 10:10 Jesus says that he came to give us life to the full. Here we have one example of what a ‘life to the full’ looks like. It is a life that is dedicated to making the wrongs that we experience in this world right again. It reflects the goodness of God in all we say and do. It trusts Jesus for everything we need and in every circumstance of life so we can remain hopeful, peaceful and joyful. It is a life of self-giving love as we serve the people around us and do what is in their best interests, no matter what it might cost us. It is a life that hangs in there, no matter what difficulties, frustrations or challenges we might face. It is a life that treats other people gently, remembering that we all fail and struggle at times, and we all need the grace that comes from other people treating us in this same way. Ultimately, when we pursue this kind of life, it makes life better for ourselves as well as for the people around us, and God’s salvation enters the world through us.
The way in which we find and grow in this life is through the grace of God. We can understand grace as God giving to us what he wants from us for the sake of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When we look at this text, then, we can find God’s grace as he provides us with righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness by the power of the Holy Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Pursuing righteousness, then, is trusting that God makes right what is wrong in us. Godliness is something that God gives to us as he unites us with himself and pours his goodness into our lives. He gives us the faith we need, even when believing God’s promises is difficult. God fills us with his love as he gives himself for us and to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. God hangs in there with us no matter how many times we might get things wrong or stray along the way. God is gentle with us, not treating us as we deserve, but with grace, compassion, kindness and mercy. All of these are given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of Jesus.
When Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, he is telling us to purse these in our own lives, but also to pursue them in our relationship with Jesus. It’s not about trying harder to do these things in our own. The Christian life begins with God promising to provide what we need for us. In this faith, we can pursue these qualities like cyclists on a track as we experience God’s grace and mercy to us in Jesus.
It is worthwhile for all of us to ask ourselves what we are pursuing in life. A good way to work that out is to ask ourselves what our focus is and where do we spend our time and energy? Are these pursuits bringing us into a better quality of life? Do they make the lives of the people around us better? When we pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, not only will we find a better quality of life for ourselves and for the people around us. As we pursue them, God’s kingdom enters the world and people encounter the God of love and grace in us.
More to think about:
- If you think about where you focus your time and energy, what are you pursuing in life? Is it leading you into the life you hope for?
- What do you think a life full of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness would be like? Is this the kind of life you would like to grow into? Why / why not?
- The promise of the gospel is that God gives us righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. How might his promise help you in the spiritual disciplines of reading God’s Word and praying?
- In cycling, the pursuit is a team event as well as an individual event. How can pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness with others in Christian community help us in our pursuit?
- What are you going to do this week to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness in your life? In your relationship with Jesus?