Concealed beneath my shirt, in a lap belt I had $4,000 cash. On my customs form I had declared all of it. As I waited in line to talk to the next available customs official in the Moscow Airport, I was terrified.
No, I was not part of an international drug deal or money laundering operation. I was simply doing my part in helping establish a team of long term missionaries in Volgograd, Russia in the early post-communist days of 1995. With all the political unrest that the rending of the iron curtain brought, banks in the former Soviet Union were not considered reliable by those in the west, so the initial start up funds for this long term missionary operation had to be carried in on the bodies of summer mission team members (of which I was one).
Part of our briefing for the summer trained us to be very cognizant of our surroundings, and very careful to avoid pick-pocketers. Apparently petty theft was very common in Russian cities at the time (especially toward Americans), and we were told to stay alert and not carry many valuables with us. Of course, I considered the forty $100 bills underneath my shirt to be valuable, so I was quite nervous about losing six months worth of rent into the hands of a band of gypsy thieves. Thankfully, I made it through customs just fine, but I was always aware of my surroundings and the location of those funds from the time they hit my money belt until they were delivered to the new landlord of our Russian flat.
I was thinking of that deposit of $100 bills today as I was reflecting upon Paul’s statement to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:14 when he says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” Paul was writing to Timothy to brief him to be very cognizant of his philosophical surroundings, and very careful to avoid false teachers. Apparently teaching wrong doctrine and failing to stand for the truth of the Gospel was very common in Asia where Timothy was, so Paul tells Timothy to stay alert and stop concealing the great deposit of truth that he was carrying. It seems that Timothy had gotten scared by the harsh treatment Paul received because of his ministry, and Timothy was probably tempted to alter his teaching slightly in order to stay out of trouble. Paul writes to encourage Timothy to guard the deposit of sound teaching that he had received from him.
I think Paul’s advice to Timothy holds true for us today. In a world where clinging to the sound teaching of Scripture labels you as “closed minded”, we may be tempted to either keep our truth concealed beneath our shirts, or even worse, fail to declare our allegiance to Christ when given the opportunity in the customary places of our day. Paul’s advice to us would be the same as his advice to Timothy, “Guard the deposit.”
What does it mean to “guard the deposit” of truth entrusted to us? I believe guarding the deposit means that we are aware of our surroundings. We know that there are influences in our world which promote truth that runs counter to the sound teaching of God’s Word, so we evaluate what we hear and see to determine if our world’s messages jive with God’s truth. We need to look around and discern through the filter of sound doctrine. Secondly, though, “guarding the deposit” means that we go ahead and declare God’s truth to those we encounter when the opportunity presents itself. Jesus does not want us to conceal His truth in our lap belts. He wants us to defend His Truth to our friends, family, and co-workers.
The thought of doing this can stir up quite a bit of fear within us. We are afraid that we will wilt when the pressure cooker of persecution turns on, and we fear that when we declare His Truth, we will say it wrong. This fear can be paralyzing, but it need not be. Jesus has given us an incredible gift to empower us to stay strong, and say it with power. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live inside us and to empower us to have the strength to stand under persecution and say it correctly. As you live your life this week, by faith believe that God’s Holy Spirit will help you to discern and declare God’s Truth. Act with that confidence and see God use you in this life until you return that deposit to Him in eternity.