2 Timothy 4: 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
The Dana Foundation is a private US philanthropic organization whose goal is to advance brain research. A study, Mental Preparation of High-Level Athletes (by Kayt Sukel, July 23, 2012) interviewed key female gymnasts from the gold medal-winning 1996 Olympics. I clearly remember watching that group of girls, appropriately named the “Magnificent Seven”, and I was in awe at what they could do on the biggest stage in front of their home crowd in Atlanta. The mental toughness of these young girls was incredible.
The youngest of these girls, at 14, was Dominique Moceanu. The Olympics were her goal since the age of 9, and she gave up the normal life of a pre-teen to practise 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Her life was full of repetitions. “It was important to perfect your routines, of course. But it also helped with the mental game”, says Moceanu. According to the study, when we talk about “muscle memory”, our muscles obviously don’t have memories, but we have a brain network that helps us not just to remember movement, but also to help us accomplish new goals. Moceanu said that she went into a kind of autopilot: “Right before I would go up on any apparatus, I would just say a little prayer and then let it all go.”
In today’s scripture Paul is mentoring his young friend Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul begins by exhorting Timothy to preach the word of God, and to “correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (vs 2). And in the fifth verse of this chapter he says: But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. It is the phrase “keep your head in all situations” that stood out to me.
Moceanu flawlessly performed flips on a 4 inch wide beam, with millions of people watching. She learned to “keep [her] head in all situations”, but how much more important is it for us to keep our head in all situations as we carry out the ministry that God has for us? We read the stories of what the apostle Paul endured (2 Cor. 11). Five times Paul received 40 lashes; he was beaten by rods three times, once pelted with stones, and shipwrecked three times, and much more. Oswald Chambers said: “Paul had a strong and steady underlying consistency in his life. Consequently he could let his external life change without internal distress because he was rooted and grounded in God”. (My Utmost for His Highest, Nov 25)
How about you? When life crumbles around you, are you able to keep your head spiritually? If not, perhaps you are not as rooted and grounded in God as you think. Commit yourself to your relationship to God like an elite athlete commits themselves to their sport and you will become the consistent believer that God, and those around you, need in this world today.