William Shakespeare wrote, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past…” Photo albums. Year books. Old letters. Walking through a cemetery. A diary. Past church directories. High school reunions. Golden oldies on the radio. Maybe it’s being lost in the moment when you hear Elvis singing, “Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…” These are the vehicles of the remembrance of things past.
Memory is important. To the extent that you lose it you realize that is not a good thing. Memory is our tie to the past. It defines who we are to some extent. We don’t want to live in the past. Nor do we want to forget it. There is a timeless lesson in the reality that those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. Let’s keep memories alive!
Memory is a funny thing. We may not remember things the way they actually were. We may not remember things the way others might, who were also there. We can embellish the good things or blow the bad things of the past all out of proportion. We can practice selective memory the same as selective hearing. We can remember ourselves always at our best. If we examine our past closely enough, we may find that our memories do not reveal a totally accurate record of how things really were.
Churches have memories. As you enter the front door of the Mabelvale facility there are three photos on the wall to the right showing the Mabelvale church at three time periods in its history. Those periods are from 1944 to 1960, 1960 to 1972 and 1972 to present. Old Mabelvale pocket directories hold a lot of memories. I have several pocket directories dating back to 1963. I used to one from 1957, but have given it away. Dennis Defrese put together a scrapbook (a history of the Mabelvale church), in honor of Mary Nell Cohrt. It contains pictures, bulletins, records and documents relating to Mabelvale that go back to 1950’s. Of more recent memory, I have a number of pictures from old Keenage banquets and All Comers class trips going back 25 or more years. You remember gospel meetings of the past and what they meant to you.
There are several times in 2 Timothy 1:1-6 when Paul engaged in the remembrance of things past as well as the present. Memory is implied in Paul’s mention of his ancestors (Vs. 3). “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day” (Vs. 3). “As I remember your tears” (Vs. 4). “I am reminded of your sincere faith” (Vs. 5). “For this reason I remind you” (Vs. 6). Do you remember your upbringing? Paul had memories of his family heritage: “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience…” (Vs. 3). Paul said that he served God as did his ancestors. Paul had a strict upbringing in a dedicated Jewish home: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6).
The force of the present tense verb “whom I serve,” combined with the backwards looking “as did my ancestors” is to stress the continuity of Paul’s service to God. The key idea here is Paul’s spiritual heritage in view of his upbringing. His ancestors believed in the concept of resurrection. So did he. His forefathers looked for the coming Messiah. He preached that Messiah.
Do you sit around the table with your siblings and reminisce about what it was like when you were growing up? Do you talk about school and home? Work and friends? Your dating years? My brother will usually remember things about our growing up years that I have long forgotten, or may not have known. Once in a while I remember something that he doesn’t. We think of our parents every day. We can see a little of mom and dad in each other. Do you remember others in your prayers? Paul remembered Timothy in his prayers: “as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day” (Vs. 3). This is a phrase we often employ: “Remember so & so in your prayers.” Paul had many people on his prayer list:
1. “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” (Rom. 1:8).
2. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).
3. “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Col. 1:3).
4. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Do you remember certain people in your prayers? I have yet to meet the person that preferred to be forgotten in that regard. Do you have certain people that you remember often in prayer? Perhaps your aging parents? Your children? Brethren who are struggling with the human condition? Don’t forget your preacher! Do you remember those people who are always there for you? Paul remembered Timothy: “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” (Vs. 4). Isn’t it interesting that Paul said, “I remember your tears”? Tears for what? This remembrance marked a close personal bond between Paul and Timothy. We do not know the occasion alluded to here. Do you have those individuals with whom you have shared trying or touching times in life. You remember them because you share a special bond with them. Have there been traumatic times in your life when someone was there for you? Of course you remember them!
Do you remember your spiritual connections as a child? Paul said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (Vs. 5). Perhaps most of us are reminded of the “fingerprints of faith” left on you from your parents. Timothy’s father is not in the picture here. See, Acts 16:1-3. You have memories of the spiritual influence of your mother or father, or preferably both. If grandparents filled that role for you, then, you have good memories of them. You have memories of the church where you grew up. I pray those memories are good. I hope they embody people, perhaps long gone, who loved you and influenced you in ways untold. I hope that most of your fondest memories involve spiritual things. For some, growing up may involve some not so pleasant memories of church life. Perhaps there was tension, trouble, strife and division in the congregation where you grew up. Those experiences could have planted seeds of bitterness that are present to this day. I hope not.
Do you remember trying to excel in any aspect of service in God’s kingdom? Paul reminded Timothy to stir up the gift that he had (Vs. 6). The “gift” Paul mentions here is not identified, but consistent with the promise of Acts 8:18, where miraculous gifts were bestowed by the apostles. See also 1 Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” Paul simply urged Timothy to utilize the miraculous gift Paul had given him. Spiritual gifts did not make zombies out of those who possessed them. It demanded the proper motives and consent of those who had the gift(s). We do not have miraculous gifts today, but we do have natural gifts. Stir up the natural gift that is in you!
Stir up the good memories of things that are past. Make memories with the people you love. Do all you can to leave others with good memories of you!