1 Timothy 4:16—Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Apostle Paul wrote his protégé Timothy to encourage him but what makes his words so powerful is his own example. He faithfully paid close attention to his life and his teaching. Next to Jesus, the case could be made that he influenced Christianity worldwide through his leadership more than any other man. His epistles continue as vital roots of the worship, theology, and pastoral life in the Catholic and Protestant traditions of the West, and the Orthodox traditions of the East.
What made Saint Paul such a strong leader was that he:
The word eristicis of Greek origin and refers to those who argue simply for the purpose of winning, regardless of the reason. The word animus comes to us from Latin and means strong dislike. We know this as animosity. While these two words share nothing in common, I believe that the former can lead to the latter causing the two to become intricately linked.
At the beginning of each year I pick a theme to observe and mark in reading through the Bible. In 2010 the theme was wisdom along with the nineteen base words key to examining this topic: wise, teach, instruct, advise, know, learn, understand, counsel, reveal, discern, insight, intelligence, guide, sense, mature, inform, perceive, realize, and revelation.
A home improvement con artist swindled a 100 year-old blind woman. He rang the woman's bell, unsolicited, to offer to do any repair work needed. The woman told him that for years she had struggled with a door that was difficult to open because it rubbed against the rug. To fix the problem, she agreed to pay the man $8,000, to jack up her house.
The certainty of knowing is a medicine of incalculable worth. I breathe knowing unseen air is present in this room. I know (brake inspections help), my Subaru will slow down when I push my foot against the pedal. If I miss eating several meals I am aware that I will easily get cold outside. After 23 years of marriage I have a good sense of what my wife will or will not do. What I know shapes my behavior, reflects my beliefs and gives me a confidence that ignorance could not manufacture.
Professor Howard Hendricks once related a story of how as a student he often walked by the home of one of his college professors. It seemed at all hours day or night the light would be on in the man’s study. One day he had the opportunity to ask him what kept him studying so much. The teacher replied, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.”
Moses was a highly educated man, taught by the finest scholars of Egypt. But with all his knowledge he tried to fix the injustices he observed through his own strength and God had to place him with shepherds, stripped of all that was familiar until a burning bush captured his eyes. Then he listened to God’s voice.
Have our brains turned to tofu? The fastest growing jungle in our world is not the triple-canopied tropical variety but rather the explosion of information that sprouts through every conceivable device. Consider the vast amount of data delivered via the internet, television, radio, and printed material and it is astounding that we are not mentally buried. How do we determine the difference between pyrite and gold?
If love was a waterfall one would be thoroughly drenched by the Ferraros. In a small town in Illinois, this family radiates what happens when God permeates a household. What strikes me most about them is their commitment to live simply so as to give as generously as possible to support Christians on the frontlines for their faith-men and women who serve in organizations like Gospel For Asia and Voice of Martyrs.
Nehemiah 9:19-21--You did not abandon them in the wilderness because of Your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go. You sent Your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths, and You gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.
“Maximize the god within you!” Welcome to the arena of self-help teaching spun from the mouths of success gurus. The gist of their message runs something like:
Ø Do your best; overcome your fears for the key to success lies within you!
Ø Go after your dreams. Listen to your inner voice it will never fail you.
Ø Be sincere. Persevere and believe in yourself. You can be whatever you want to be!
Many people have studied the life and ministry of Jesus. There is much written about His three-fold ministry of teaching, preaching and healing revealed in the gospels. But it seems to me that Jesus’ most important work was His fourth ministry of training! Where would the world be today had He not invested His life in the lives of His followers? John Maxwell, a superb trainer of leaders says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
At 2:47 a.m. the house shuddered. I looked over at my sleeping wife and asked if she had noticed anything. Since the dogs were not barking and I felt no sense of urgency, I drifted back to sleep. About a half an hour later, the doorbell rang and our two canines erupted. I opened the door to two policemen, bright flashing lights and the reality that an abandoned car sat atop the berm in front of our home.
1 Timothy 6:11,12--But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses.
There is almost an intoxication that comes with preaching the Word from a pulpit to a listening crowd. But I do not believe this is the kind of preaching Paul is challenging Timothy to perform. If anything, I have found over the years, that little results from Sunday morning sermons. Yes, people may go away encouraged, challenged, thinking or offended, but do their lives change much? Are disciples created or is the crowd just expanding? Disciples are not made by microphone messages to seated masses. This is why the church is not winning the world for Jesus.
Psalm 40:8--I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction lives within me.
1 Timothy 1:5--Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
I wish everyone could take a seven-day hiatus into the wilderness. There are no phones to ring. Trees do not hold ticking clocks. The ground may be uncomfortable and the weather may be cold but the air is clean and perspectives change. Sitting around a campfire for hours, the mind begins to clear. Beads of stress from a culture of busyness evaporate under stars without competition from neon lights. The sound of a rushing river soothes the soul. The cries of a vigilant falcon pierce the air with the anthem of freedom.