What do we use our energy for? Life has its many challenges, but it is important to focus our attention and energies on a few things. Here, Paul uses two key verbs: flee and pursue. They represent one of Paul’s favourite perspectives on the Christian life (cf. 2 Timothy 2:22).
Timothy is to flee with all his energy (literally “run for his life”) from those things that threaten his soul. False doctrine, meaningless teachings or diversions, the love of money—these are some things he must resolutely run away from, like the way Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife and her temptations (Genesis 39:12).
The Ten Commandments have many commands that are set in the negative form: “Do not . . .” This has led some people to have the wrong idea of godliness. The Pharisees were an example. Their whole religion was built on a framework of how to avoid breaking the Law. Therefore, in order not to flout the Sabbath law, they devised all kinds of human rules to define what constituted work on the Sabbath. In the process, they failed to feel compassion for the sick and needy, and accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath when He healed people (Matthew 12:9–14). Jesus had to teach His listeners that the whole Law and the Prophets can be summarised in the two commandments: love God and love your neighbour (Matthew 22:37–40).
Godliness consists of both fleeing from evil and pursuing good. While Timothy must flee from sin and evil, he must also pursue with all his energy those things that will glorify God. He must pursue wholehearted devotion to God (godliness), holiness in relationships (righteousness), trust in God (faith), selfless relationships (love), and bearing with difficult circumstances (endurance) and people (gentleness) so that in all these things, Christ-likeness would be revealed.
The twin ideas of fleeing and pursuing are further reiterated by the terms “fight” and “take hold” in verse 12. “Fight the good fight” is a favourite metaphor of Paul (1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:7). “Take hold of the eternal life” (to which Paul and Timothy were called) conveys the idea of a firm grasp of the Christian identity (cf. Timothy’s public confession), heritage, and destiny.
What must you currently flee from? What new areas would you include in your list? How well are you doing on this front?
Likewise, how well are you pursuing some of the qualities or virtues listed by Paul? Consider other virtues or habits. How can the phrases “fight the good fight” and “hold on to eternal life” motivate you in your pursuit of godliness?