When I was in school, especially in the upper grades, we learned how to write letters. I remember practicing writing different kinds of letters, formal and informal, noting where the heading, the date, the address, the body, the salutation, and the signature went on the page. Unfortunately, the use of written letters, stamped and sent by USPS is becoming rather obsolete as a way of communication – mostly because of texting, email, and blogs (like this one).
It’s unfortunate because of how much recorded history that would have been lost if not for the letters handwritten and sent by those who have gone before us.
For instance, one of my favorite books is John Adams written by David McCullough (who is one of my favorite authors). This book was turned into a wonderful HBO series that is also a favorite of mine. So much of the Adams book and therefore so much of what we know of colonial America and our fight for independence was gleaned from letters that our 2nd president wrote to his wife Abigail throughout their lives together. Of course, these letters weren’t necessarily meant to be read by anyone other than the intended recipient but just think of the benefit they hold today. These letters not only provide facts but perspective as well.
Every time I read the letters recorded in the Holy Bible (like those epistles of Paul) I try to remember that the Apostle had no idea that I, 2,000+ years later, would not only be reading those letters but embracing theology and directions for godly living.
This morning in the 6th chapter of Paul’s first letter to his good friend, Timothy, I was inspired and intrigued by what was there. Don’t forget this was one guy writing to another.
6 There is great gain in godliness with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; 8 but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
Those of us who make a living in some form of ministry need to hear this. I know I did. Paul writes on…
11 But as for you, man of God, (Timothy) shun all this (love of money); aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Again, keep in mind that this was a private letter meant for Timothy’s eyes only and for his encouragement. And yet this encouraged and taught and convicted me today!
Even though letter writing is going by the wayside, we are still leaving archives of words, deeds, and attitudes behind. I sometimes fail to remember that I am building a base upon which others will stand one day. As Paul put it: Laying up a good foundation for the future.
The end of Paul’s first letter to Timothy spoke clearly to me this morning,
20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.
I used this correspondence to inspire me to do this:
Take care of the people, the tasks, and the calling that have been entrusted to me.
First Timothy. A personal letter from one man to another? Yes, but I don’t think that they would mind if I open and read their mail sometimes. In fact, I think they’d be delighted.