Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. 1 Timothy 4:16
Our clinic laboratory has impressively complicated machinery that can quickly provide accurate results for our patients – as long as those machines are working properly. To this end, the laboratory staff performs routine quality control. At regular intervals, the machines must be calibrated in comparison to a known control that assures that the machine is providing accurate results. If the staff failed to perform this quality control, the machines may not be that much off today, but tomorrow, and every day thereafter, they would get further and further from the truth. In fact, if they were inaccurate enough, the lab’s results would eventually become quite harmful. Being convinced that a wrong answer is right is far worse than not knowing the answer at all. Oops, apparently you are pregnant. Sorry we got that test wrong six months ago. Daily, the laboratory staff must make sure that its end product is consistent with reality.
Though he wasn’t speaking of modern laboratories, this is similar to Paul’s message in today’s passage. In it, he told Timothy, his protégé, that he must continually look inward at his own life. Daily, he needed to choose rigorous honesty and introspection, asking if his life was consistent with the teachings of Christ. Does my life and behavior look like that which I believe? If Timothy looked at his own life and found that it had wandered from his faith, then he required a recalibration to bring it back in line.
If we desire to experience the life for which we created, then we too must regularly do this. Life is busy. We all get distracted. If we’re not careful, we can easily turn just a little today, and a little more tomorrow from the direction we want our lives to go. We rarely go the right direction simply by accident. When we don’t purposefully point our lives at God, we naturally turn towards ourselves, which is often contrary to God’s plan.
So, daily, we must take time to look at our words, thoughts, and actions, asking if they’re consistent with what we claim we believe. If we’ve not done this in a while, it can be painful because we know how much change it will require to get back. We’re not going to be perfect in this life and there is always forgiveness in Christ for our failures. If, however, our beliefs never impact our way of life, then we must at least ask ourselves if our faith is real. Just as an accurate lab machine produces results that are in line with reality, an authentic Christian produces fruit that is consistent with what he believes.