There are a multitude of voices that tell you both what to do and what not do as you grow into adulthood. You’ll receive mixed messages from parents, teachers, friends, peers, and from the vast influences of the culture and media. And like wearing headphones, you’ll tune some voices out while others speak directly to you. But there is one voice and one message that should govern your life: the Word of God. And it tells us what to flee from and what to pursue in our youth; what to run from, and what to run to:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
What to Flee
Like a fugitive running away from someone in order to escape captivity, Paul tells Timothy to flee from youth passions. As a young spiritual leader, Paul knew that Timothy would be tempted by passions (strong yearnings; lusts) that are characteristic of young people. Whether it is lust, laziness, disobedience, or immaturity, there are certain “passions” that are common to youthfulness. And they must be avoided at a young age, because they will turn into habits. Take care of the youthful sin now, before it takes control of you later in life!
What to Pursue
After telling Timothy what he was to shun, he told him what to seek. As usual, Paul first instructs about what not to do, and then counters it by saying what he should actually do Why? Because, evil is to be overcome by doing that which is good (Romans 12:21). In order to practically flee from youthful pleasures, Timothy was to run from them by running to something else—godly practices and virtues
Many young people think that Christianity is only about not doing what is wrong—no fun or sinful things like partying, drinking, smoking, hooking up, gossiping, fighting, cheating, etc. But that’s only half the picture. True Christianity also consists of doing many godly, positive things. It’s not just about what you flee from, but it is also about what you pursue, and that pursuit is righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
Run After Righteousness
Timothy is first told to purse righteousness, which is the right living of a heart and mind that are aligned with God’s Word, for God’s Word is profitable for “training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Instead of pursuing wrong living that is sinful, Christians are to pursue right living that is sanctified, set apart from the sinful world for God’s service.
How many young people do you know that can be labeled as being righteous? Christians are those who have “been set free from sin” and “have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18) because Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Because of Jesus’ death, you can die to the youthful passions of the flesh and live a righteous life in the Spirit!
Focus on Faith
Faith is active reliance and confidence in God and His promises. And in this context, faith is better understood as “faithfulness”—being faithful to God’s Word, God’s work, God’s people, and God’s gospel.
When your peers look at your Christian lifestyle they usually don’t expect you to be faithful to God for life due to the vast amount of hypocrisy in our society. But since your faith isn’t built upon religion, emotion, or falsehood, but upon Christ, you can remain faithful to the Lord because He is—and always will be—faithful to you (2 Timothy 2:13). While the world is unfaithful in their commitments to one another, whether in marriage, friendship, or business, you are to remain faithful to the Lord. Flee from unfaithfulness and pursue true faith.
Long for Love
The Greek word that Paul uses for love is “agape,” which refers to the greatest degree of love and affection. This word is used to describe God’s love: the love that God the Father has for His Son (John 17:26), for His children (John 14:21), and even for sinners (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). It is this love—the love that the Lord has—that Timothy is to pursue and to practice.
Flee from the youthful passions of hatred for others and love for self. Pursue a Christ-like, biblical love that can only come from a heart that has received the gracious love of God. Don’t just say you love, but show others that you love them (1 John 3:18).
In the context of relationships, Paul isn’t referring to peace as in the absence of warfare, but to truly love others. Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18), which shows that it is the Christian’s responsibility to always pursue peace with others in every type of relationship, whether it is at home, school, work, or in public.
Those who pursue peace will strive to remove gossip, drama, lying, and hate. They will be peacemakers. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). While not all peacemakers are Christians, all Christians should be peacemakers. This is because they “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Since you were formerly an enemy of God but are now at peace with Him, you can pursue peace with your enemies. You can show the peace that you have with God through your pursuit of peace with others.
Pursue with God’s People
Paul concludes by telling Timothy who he should pursue such things with: “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The Christian faith is not a race that you run alone, but a race that you run with brothers and sisters who can motivate you to keep running and finish the race. These are the people who have called on the name of the Lord, meaning they have called on the Lord for salvation with a pure heart.
God’s Word is clear: flee youthful passions and pursue godliness with godly people. Run after righteousness. Focus on faith. Long for love. Pursue peace. While the world flees from godly living and pursues sinful living, rise up and run from what is wrong and run to what is right!