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Spiritual Health

October 7, 2001

II Timothy 1:3-14


Tony Grant



Wearable Technology

You wake up in the morning feeling lousy. You check your temperature. That is about all you can do at home. To explore your medical condition further, you head for the doctor's office. And wait. But in the not too distant future, using wearable technology, you will always know all your vital signs.

A medical "fanny pack" was tested in 1997 when a runner in the Boston Marathon wore a one-pound belt, loaded with an array of bundled health sensors. Researchers documented the heart rate, footsteps, GPS position, and body temperature of the athlete every second of the marathon, transmitting results to the Internet for the whole world to read.

The whole concept of smart clothes is traceable to the ancient art of fencing. No fencer assumes the en garde position without wearing a lamé ["la-may"]--the protective metallic vest used to detect valid touches in a fencing contest. Since competitive fencers are too quick for judges to see every move, electronic scoring systems have long analyzed the moves for them.

Formerly, the standard lamé was wired with reels and pulleys, making graceful moves somewhat less graceful due to the awkward wires. But today, wireless scoring systems dominate the sport. When the fencer's foil touches one's opponent, lights blink both inside the helmet and on the scoring box, alerting both the "wounded" fencer and the judge evaluating the performance.

Researchers continue to experiment with shoes that offer a mini-medical analysis when you slip them on. Imagine bathroom scales able to transmit your weight into a medical file on the Internet. Think about the advantages to wearing a watch not only capable of measuring how far you have run, but also able to provide a pre-heart attack alert. Or. to accessorize your outfit du jour, you can put on a diamond and ruby brooch, designed by Harry Winston Jewelers in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called the HeartThrob. This little bauble monitors your heart, pulsing and glowing with every heartbeat. Right now the cost is a mere $500,000.

Loyalty To Heritage

It makes sense to guard one's physical health, but what about our spiritual health? IITM1:14 "That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us." "That good thing" is the rich spiritual heritage that Timothy has received.

Loyalty to heritage is a recurring theme in II Timothy.

In verse 5, Paul reminds Timothy that by abiding in his faith, remaining loyal to it, he not only honors God, but he also upholds the gift of faith that was passed down to him by his mother and his grandmother. Timothy's faith is not just his own. It is part inheritance as well, and he must be careful to safeguard such a precious gift.

Three times in verses 3-5, Paul "reminds" Timothy about his faith. What Paul wants Timothy to do is "rekindle" or literally "fan into flame" his own faithfulness. The Greek verb used here is a metaphor for building up a dying fire. We wonder if Timothy might not have been having some doubts and uncertainties. Paul urges him to fan up his special "gift" into strong, unquenchable flames.

The "gift" Timothy is to rekindle is from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives Timothy a special spirit characterized by the three attributes of "power and love and a sound mind."

Vs 9-10 are almost a creed is tailored to fit Timothy, but this creed fits a lot of us because many of us are like Timothy--hesitant Christians who need to be reminded to "fan the flame" and not be ashamed. Verse 9 testifies to the constant activity and presence of God in Timothy's life. God's activity has a dual nature. God has saved us and God has called us. God's activity is grace and purpose. These two divine reasons have been established forever and acted out in history with the live and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Vital Signs

Paul also reminds Timothy that he is imprisoned because he is a messenger for the gospel of Christ, but Paul is not ashamed of this because, as he says in v12, he lives in such a way that his life is totally committed to God. Paul is in jail, but he is in excellent spiritual health. Thus, we are reminded to take care of our spiritual health, but no wearable sensors have yet been created to monitor that kind of health. No one is studying the technological means of measuring our rate of heartwarming actions, our spiritual pilgrimage, or the temperature of our passion for Christ. Our spiritual vital signs cannot be easily analyzed, but Paul argues that certain steps can be taken to improve them.

There is nothing high tech about the benefits of grace. While we ooh and ahh over the latest achievements of technology, first-century believers preferred the ancient to the novel. Paul refers to the age-old faith of his ancestors and calls the grace of Jesus Christ a gift given "before the ages began."

So if God remains unchanging love, how do we check our notoriously human tendencies to wander and be less than loving? How do we guard the faith that our mothers and grandmothers taught us? How do we detect glitches in our spiritual health? Someone might say that the human tendency to carry bad spiritual habits and to ignore vital signs of the soul is as ancient as the garden of Eden--which is true but does not help much.

Paul suggests that the "gift of God" must be "rekindled." Our question is how is that going to happen. First of all, The Church can help you. The church offers personal training in the field of spirituality. We will coach you. We will encourage you. We suggest a healthy diet of bread and wine, study and prayer. We will teach you up to a point, but then you must be self-disciplined in your own personal training too. We cannot run your spiritual life for you. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own spiritual development. So what must you do in order to have divine fire in your life. You must want it. You must want it more than anything else in life. God must be your number one goal and ambition. And wanting holy fire that much leads to the second principle--namely live it.

There are two ways to live in the world--as if we were connected to it like a leaf to a tree or as if we are a universe unto ourselves. Most people live the latter. They are entirely self-centered. They think they are the universe. God calls us to live the former. We are part of a great tree of life sprung from a creative act of God. We are called to live in love for all God's creatures, especially we are to live in love for all people. This does not diminish us. By connecting us with God's creation it completes us. If we have the discipline to curb our own whims, if we can develop the self-control to listen when our impulse is to speak, if we pause to think instead of just reacting, then we already have something of the sound mind that IITM is talking about. We have the beginnings of a holy life. The secret of the holy life is not a holy reputation; but rather a holy attitude toward all of creation. It is reverence for God, reverence for the myself, reverence others.

But we admit that it is difficult to measure our progress in holiness. Sensors will not measure our pace, nor will microchip accelerometers analyze our performance. We must depend upon more internal signs to detect spiritual problems.. The two Paul mentions most prominently are "cowardice," and embarrassment.

Cowardice, fear, timidity--no timid Christian will be able to engage in the parry and thrust of spiritual struggle that every human being faces every day. Embarrassment. Cowardice is no doubt the product of embarrassment, mentioned twice in this passage from IITM. A person in poor spiritual health is unwilling to suffer, unwilling to endure giggles, stares, rejection, ridicule or the like.

It's curious that while New Agers will outspokenly proclaim pyramid power, or channelers, or crystals, Christians struggle to mumble that they believe Jesus is the Christ, the Risen Son of the Living God. How about you? Given the choice would you be more embarrassed to admit that your bodily functions are being monitored by microsensors in your clothing, or that you have put your trust in God? I suspect that if Paul were here this morning, he would say that we are all too timid and ashamed and embarrassed by the gospel. He would say that we have a better spirit than that. We have a better love than that. We know better. Live what you know then, show what you know. Speak what you know. Amen.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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