Stepping up in life to new challenges and endeavours can be daunting, even overwhelming.
A new job, a new place to live, a new study environment are life changing events, and should never be approached lightly, as these kind of decisions can shape your life, and even your eternity.
Timothy had been left in Ephesus by Paul and faced a big task, to make sure the faith and doctrine that Paul had founded the church on remained unchanged.( 1 Timothy 1:3-5).There are many challenges that faced Timothy because of this role, not the least was a perception about his age (4:12).
The encouragement Paul gives here instructs any who are seeking to be a good servant of Christ ( 4:6) and what true knowledge really is, and the importance of living godly when life is still ahead of you.
1 – Guard the Deposit v 1-5, 6:20-21, 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Paul makes it clear to Timothy, there are devilish teachings which he will have to guard himself, and those in his charge, against.
It’s not always the outright, blatant denial of the person, deity, and work of Jesus Christ that is the leading point of these devilish false teachers. It’s usually something far more subtle. Something that deceives, tricks, that sounds right, looks right, even feels right, but ends up being purely demonic. It’s falsely called “knowledge”. (6:20).
Paul gives the example of legalism. It’s teaching that adds works to salvation that is the greatest trap for every believer.
With convincing arguments, the teachers that Paul was warning of, had taken the command for purity to extents far beyond what God ever intended, making marriage a forbidden thing. They had called good things made by God evil things, demanding abstinence from things that Jesus had declared clean, and could be made holy by closer examination of God’s Word and prayerful consideration ( 4:5).
Alarm bells should ring every time we hear a call for abstinence that cannot be found in scripture.
These false things, Paul, says, must be avoided, and the true things must be taught, reiterated, and firmly guarded.
The devil loves it when people get distracted by false teachings. Anything that takes one’s eyes off of Jesus, whether it’s morality or vice, pleases the devil. He can use guilt just as much as he can use a seared conscience to his ends. He will always appeal to the flesh. Don’t become proud in your knowledge and don’t be tricked into following foolishness.
2 – Train Yourself For Godliness v. 6-10
The answer to this that Paul gives Timothy is give himself more and more over to training in what he has already received.
The words of the faith and the good doctrine (4:6b) are the antidote to lies and deception. He will remain a faithful servant of Jesus, so long as his focus stays on Jesus (4:6).
What are these ‘silly myths’ that Timothy is being warned against? (4:7)
Paul is building from what he has already stated in 1:4. Things that promote speculation, conspiracies rather than truth are things that distract us from training ourselves in the faith, or exercising our gifts.
We become poor stewards when we use our time, our resources, or other people’s time and resources to endlessly talk about things that have absolutely no bearing on eternity or the advancing of the Gospel.
Paul says that we should have nothing to do with these things, but rather, focus our energy, our time, our hearts, minds, and strength on Godliness.
The example he gives of physical exercise (v8a) is often quoted by unfit people out of context, but he proves a valid point, don’t get caught up in foolishness. The only thing that gets a workout when we exercise our flesh is our flesh. Get into arguments on social media. Berate everyone you come in contact with because they don’t think the way you do. Find the negative in every sermon, every person, every event, every point. Your flesh will be strong, and your love will be absent, and you will not have a hint of Godliness.
Instead, exercise yourself in Godliness. You are not working in the flesh so you can have notoriety in this life. You are doing what you can, with what you have, so long as God gives you breath, to build a legacy of Godliness that bears fruit for eternity.
Our hope is not found in what we can do to be noticed by others, or in what they say of us. It is found in the Saviour of the world ( 4:10).
Godliness should be the sole ambition of the good servant of Christ. Anything that distracts us from that shows that our hopes and loves are out of order. A hope set on the living God, leads to a life of value, and one that matters for eternity.
3 – Practice The Long Obedience In The Same Direction v. 11-16
This kind of lifestyle is a lifelong process. There are no shortcuts. There is only grace, and a lifelong ambition to become more like Jesus, every single day.
This a difficult thing to accept in our fast paced, instant society where if we have to wait more than five minutes for a takeaway meal, we feel put out. We want instant gratification, instant success.
Church can be the same.We demand instant help, instant inspiration, instant maturity, but true discipleship is none of these. It is a ‘long obedience in the same direction’.
“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.” – Eugene Peterson
A life of consistency, integrity, maturity is never achieved overnight, and perfection is never achieved in this lifetime.
This commitment to lifelong repentance is something that is best fostered in a community that encourages youthful energy rather than despising anything new or different.
Timothy faced opposition not just because the message he had was the opposite of what many wanted, but because of his age.
Too often, there is awful lot of despising of youth and not enough encouragement of the progress they are making in godliness (4:15b).
Timothy’s lack of life experience should not be an obstacle, Paul points out, because Timothy is setting such an example in so many areas of his life, anyone who dismisses him based on his age, is wrong to do so, and he should press on into the living his life and doing what God has called him to do.
There is a culture of despising of youth in some churches that goes directly against Paul’s explicit commands here. We are far quicker to criticise and even heckle than we are to encourage, come alongside and commit to seeing Christ being formed in another. We are sin hunters far more than we are grace hunters.
1 Timothy 5:1 will point out that I can’t rebuke someone older. But I can encourage them.So,I strongly encourage the older Christians of our churches to not despise the youth.
If you want to influence them, live Godly,humble, and consistent lives that bring honour to God. Don’t seek opportunities to condemn, or be cynical, but seek opportunity to encourage, and above all, let them know you are praying for them.
I have learnt far more from Godly older Christians who show me how to live rather than telling me how to live. Young people never learn to be godly by being despised. They learn Godliness by example. They don’t look for perfection, but they do see faithfulness and they will honour that.
We as a church have mastered the art of criticism. It’s time to start mastering discipleship instead.
All of this is not to say there is not an explicit call to purity of life and doctrine that young people should be exhorted to.
There is this delicate balance of Godliness. We are required to trust fully in God, and rely completely on the work of Jesus for our salvation and sanctification, but we are,nonetheless, called to works. It is a great privilege to have this calling.
There are five key areas that Paul points out that are specific for Timothy in his young adulthood that will negate the condemnation he was facing because of his age. If he can be an example in these, his youth will not be a hinderance to those who which to make it one.
What you say matters. The tongue is powerful. James tells us that in his epistle. It can bring life or death. Are your words offering the Word of Life?
What you do, matters. We abuse grace when we live for ourselves. In our actions, our lifestyle, who is revealed to be in charge? Us, or Jesus?
Who and what you love, and in what order you love them, matters. Love is first and foremost self-sacrificing. Our love must reflect the love of Christ, otherwise it’s only self-serving.
What you believe, matters. People may hear what we believe, but do they see it in action? Our faith is not intellectual only, but reaches to every part of our lives. A legacy of faithfulness is the ultimate fruit of a sure faith.
Your sexuality, your thought life matters. This begins in our hearts.
Restrictions and regulations don’t necessarily lead to purity. Boundaries are vital to ensure intimacy is approached with the right God-honouring attitude, but ultimately, purity is a matter of the heart. If our hearts are not holy, our minds certainly won’t be, and will be on the fast track to sexual, emotional and spiritual ruin. The chance of impurity is greatly removed when we see members of the opposite sex as siblings in the Lord ( 1 Timothy 5:2).
“There is no struggle for purity so intense that Jesus’ grace cannot win the battle.” – Heath Lambert
Paul tells Timothy to immerse himself in these things ( 4:15), to be captivated with pleasing God is an honourable calling, and it is something every believer is called to.
The call of this passage is not to be like Timothy, or even like Paul. The point is that we are called to be good servants of Christ, and we would all do well to heed Paul’s advice.
Don’t be fooled by the traps of works-based salvation or sanctification. Be immersed in the Gospel, and in pleasing God with your life.
Don’t pay attention to those who would seek to distract you, either by foolish arguments and silly myths or by being negative about your chances of success. Focus on your calling, your gift, and do all you do for God’s glory.
Set your hopes, loves, and total focus on Him, and He will bless you with the fruit of faithfulness.