What does the Joker do when faced with a dominant Sinner? No, I’m not talking about a scene from Batman. I’m talking about the turning point of the most recent semi-final tennis match at Wimbledon. Two sets down to Jannik Sinner, Novak “Joker” Djokovic took a strategic bathroom break before returning to the court and winning in a five-set thriller. Djokovic, who has successfully used such tactics before, said, “You mainly use this moment to reset yourself mentally, changing your environment.”
The psychology of turning points in sports is well documented. Coaches and players look for pivotal moments to shift momentum in their favor. Whether during a break or during play, such mental shifts can literally change the game. In Djokovic’s Wimbledon “reset” moment, he gave himself a pep talk in the mirror, which he called a “positive talk.” Whatever he said to himself at that moment reshaped his thinking and changed the course of his game.
Prepare for Difficulty
In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul penned a phrase that clearly resonates with many believers today: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
Broken down, this sentence could be paraphrased, “Timothy, know this, that in the last days violent and dangerous seasons will come.”
I believe Paul is not emphasizing the “last days” as much as the difficult seasons that will come throughout what is a period of time extending from Christ’s First Coming all the way to His Second.
Paul goes on in this passage to describe 19 typical attributes of depraved humans that are evident in the treacherous seasons of history and most prevalent today. They are especially dangerous for the believer who will suffer persecution, as Paul forewarns (v. 12).
My purpose here is not to examine the examples Paul gives of depraved mankind, but rather to look at the mindset believers need for an imminent and difficult season that demands a decisive moment. The momentum of this world has turned against us. Christianity has never been so much on the back foot, and we have an urgent need for a Djokovic-like “bathroom break”—a mental adjustment.
Continue in What You Have Learned
At the end of 2 Timothy 3, Paul gave Timothy a “positive talk” on how to live when momentum shifts against you. Remember, Paul was in prison and Timothy was starting out as a young Christian leader. He was already facing adversity when Paul showed him where to focus his attention. In verse 14 of chapter 3 he simply said, “You [Timothy] must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of.”
As evil progresses from bad to worse, Christians need to have a strategy to stay on course for spiritual victory.
You can almost hear Paul speaking like a coach, motivating his young protégé to draw on what he has been taught. Timothy knew from where his victory would come. He knew and trusted the sources from whom he was taught. A reminder would boost his confidence for what he had already become convinced of.
Finally, Paul tells Timothy of the sufficiency of Scripture in equipping him for all he would do. (vv. 16–17) The Scriptures are the Word of God and concern the “Word of life,” that is, Jesus (1 John 1:1). As evil progresses from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13), Christians need to have a strategy to stay on course for spiritual victory. Today we see evidence of the progressing evil all around as hatred and violence on the earth reigns. We are seeing love of self, money, and pleasure more evidently replace the love of God, of good and truth. It is easy to shrink back as we begin to feel violated, vulnerable, and defeated, but that is the moment to take a timeout. As we do, may Paul’s words to Timothy motivate us to recall the things we have learned and become convinced of. And at such a time, may the fullness of God’s Word richly indwell us to equip and complete us for the days and seasons of life ahead.
Are you stuck, going backwards, or uncertain about the future? Take a moment to allow God to reset your heart in preparation for finishing well.