Where do you want to be in 5 years? Have you ever been asked that question? It’s a great one to contemplate.Do you want to be a CEO, a professional football player, a published author?
First question is where do you want to be, and the next question is what do you do to get there. If you want to be a professional football player you better start working out, studying the game, get on with a good team, get into college football. If you want to be an author you need to find a topic, you need to talk with people in that field, and you need to find a publisher interested in that topic. If you want to be a CEO you need to start taking on leadership, you need to understand how to run a company, how to manage people, you need to brush up on business principles. To any goal there are steps to get there.
So what are your five year spiritual aspirations and what are the steps to get there? What do you want people to say of you in five years? I hear people make bucket lists and am constantly surprised how little of eternal consequence end on them. They consists of eat great food, visit cool places, exhilarating experiences, but where is share the gospel with 100 people. Preach the gospel to a hurting community. What are your spiritual aspirations and how do you get there. Today’s passage addresses the how do you get there.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.
Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11 Command and teach these things.
12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
This passage revolves around what it takes for Timothy to be a good ministry of the gospel, to be a faithful minister (4:6). Regardless of the specifics of what we want to do (CEO, football player, minister) we wall want to be faithful with what God calls us to. These verse inform how we go about whatever God calls us to do. It shows that to be faithful we must have a rigorous/uncompromising commitment to God’s ways.
1. Rigorous commitment. When I was in college I studied physical therapy and lived in the athletic dorm and got to spend time with college athletes. It was amazing to see their commitment and discipline every day of the year. But I remember one time when a freshman offensive lineman had a moment of weakness in the cafeteria. All the morning runs, lifting weights, and dietary restrictions got to him. We were having fries and he couldn’t take any more of trying to get his weight down. He had three plates of food on his tray and one plate was a foot high mountain of fries. He was a happy man, with a big grin on his face and bounce in his step. But one of his coaches happened to see what was going on and walked over to him grabbed the plate of fries and walked off. He told him, “You are training to be an elite athlete. You can’t do that.” I thought he was going to quit the team! :-) It takes a rigorous commitment to do anything of significance, and living the Christian life is no different. Look at the words used here:
V7 you are to “Train for godliness.” First notice the goal, it’s godliness, we want to be like God. Earthly goals have some value, but godliness has value now and in the life to come. Second notice how we get their. It is training. It doesn’t happen by accident or by drifting into it.
The greek word is Gymnasia which is where we get the word for gym. It means a “mental and spiritual training and discipline self-control” (1T 4.7). Warriors trained in gyms. It means there is an intensity to what you do.
You are training, disciplining yourself. He relates intense physical training to how we train spiritually. It denotes an intensity. Who ends up in the Olympics. The person who didn’t have anything else to do? I think I ll just go out and down hill ski today. Absolutely not. The one who has trained and discipline themselves.
You also see words like in v 10 “we toil and strive.” Toil is labor, hard work. The word is ?\'e3\'f9\'ed\'e9\'e6w, which where the English word agony comes from. It’s a straining after, exerting yourself, pain enduring effort and resolve. That is the Christian life.
V13 “Devote yourself to Scripture, preaching and teaching.” To attach oneself to a thing, cleave to it, to hold fast by a thing. Devoting to one thing means detaching yourself from other things.
V7 “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales.” You have to push those things to the side. Could include horoscope, superstitions, etc. Could also include good things distract us from the better things. We have Christian movies, cartoons with Bible stories, blogs, etc. good things, probably a notch above myths and old wives tales. But a distraction from the basic disciplines. We have to push aside lesser things in order to be faithful with the greater things. How much more the truly trivial like television and movies and the endless entertainment. Our culture feels entitled to relax and be consumed by these things. You are in training and this is part of the battle! If you are devoted to being a good athlete you have to push aside things like Biggie Fries. If you are devoted to something you have to push aside lesser things.
V16 Persist in these. You do them to the end. You don’t retire from it. You don’t take summer break. It is not a seasonal job. Immerse yourself in these (v16).\'f4\'e1?\'f4\'e1 \'ec\'e5\'eb?\'f4\'e1, ?\'ed \'f4\'ef?\'f4\'ef\'e9\'f2 ?\'f3\'e8\'e9, Be in these things. Devote yourself to these. No weekends off. No breaks from serving God. You don’t earn a day off or a time to sin. Don’t give into those thoughts. When does it get easy? When you died and are in paradise with Jesus. Till then work hard!
Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down... Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scripture. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can only come from discipline.” V. Raymond Edman.
Set an example. He is not saying look around and see what everyone else is doing and do that. Let them set the bar for you. No! He is saying you set the standard. This is the essence of spiritual leadership. You are not letting the world dictate what you do and don’t do. Don’t let those in the office be your standard. You don’t let tv inform what is right and wrong. It comes from God’s word.
We are to have a rigorous commitment. This is the attitude in our walk with God. Now let’s look at our exercises, the things we need to do.
2. Spiritual Exercises
I run once a week. But I started playing basketball a few months ago and after playing I realized there are muscles that don’t get used when I jog. A few weeks ago I went bike riding with Steve Bailey, and realized I used muscles then that I don’t use as much when I run and play basketball. If I am training for a sport I do exercises pertinent to that sport. What are the exercises pertinent to godliness. We are told here and in it we see that doctrine is practical as much as it is cognitive.
● Devote yourself to the word.
Personally; are you in the word. Does your life reflect a devotion, a hunger, a rigorous commitment to the word, to its exposition, to doctrine.
But notice here he says devoted to public reading of God’s word. Christians gathered in churches (assemblies) to hear the word, and hear it taugh. This has been the practice of the church for all ages (Luke 4:12, Nehemiah 8:8). The simple reading and teaching of God’s word is what creates the church. It’s what sustains the church. Not smoke screens, light shows, television's, comedy routines, amplifiers, etc.
This is why we teach in church. We gather for the preaching of God’s word. We want to understand it, we want to understand the doctrine of the church. When it says teaching he means the core principles of the Christian faith. That is doctrine. Don’t think doctrine is irrelevant, or that it is too hard, or just for pastors. Doctrine is the wall of faith that support and protect us. Understanding the Trinity, the person of Christ, the nature and being of God, Redemption, the power of the Holy Spirit.
Devote yourself to this. Parents, instill this value in your kids. Even ask them the question, “ What does it seem that daddy is devoted too?”
Make church a priority. Let them see it in your life. Church is important because we encounter God through his word. In the NT you often see God move and work in a community of people gathered and seeking him.
I had lunch with the senior saints and asked them what advice they have for the younger families in the church. I got some great answers. I won’t share all, but one lady said, “When you have young kids you just have to make up in your mind Saturday night that you are going to church in the morning, no if’s and’s or butt’ s. And you go and you do it, and you are fine if you get there and one of the kids doesn’t have shoes on.” That is good stutff. You more concerned with them hearing the Word than everything looking picture perfect.
He puts a priority on it here. Do you put a priority on it? Are you eager to hear God’s word taught, read with others. Come eager! It’s the church of the living God. Come on time! :-)
b. Prayer. Pray to God. commune with. Pray not just to get things you want but for your life to conform to his will.
c. Self Examination.
Prayer is not about us getting what we want but our lives lining up with God’s will. Watch your life and doctrine. Set an example Watch yourself. “fix attention on, observe, a constant state of readiness.” You have an enemy outside and an enemy within. Don’t give into the flesh, your old self. You get exams at doctors. They look over you carefully, they poke, the prod, they ask questions to see if there are any abnormalities. Do you do that with yourself? Do you examine your life? Do you examine where your doctrine might be off.
Confess your sin. When was the last time you confessed your sin to someone. To your wife, “I’m sorry I got angry. Will you forgive me.” That is a spiritual power clean. It kills pride, self sufficiency, puts you at the mercy of another.”
David searched himself (Psalm 139:23-24). He prayed for God to show him his fault. It used of one searching out a city to find a weakness in its defense. You have to search to develop a plan to invade. How diligent would you be to ensure your success. But this isn’t how we treat ourselves. We are gracious to ourselves and search those we argue with. We treat our spouse like that, our kids, our neighbors. We look for what we don’t like and then we drill them for it. We are called to search and examine but it is not the heart of others. It is our own heart. When was the last time you prayed and fasted that God might show you your own faults? This is a lost discipline.
Christians are often good at rooting out the evident sins: drunkenness, immorality, but then never quite deal with the hidden sins of selfishness, judgmentalism, complacency. The sins that you can still be a respectable citizen and even a church member in good standing, but fruitless in your faith. Have you stopped growing? When was the last time you confessed your sin to someone?
Do some homework: consider where you need to grow. Where have you settled in your faith? Are you eager for the things God calls you to. We have been talking for 10 months now about getting more involved in the lives of neighbors, coworkers, reaching out to the lost. What is different now than 10 months ago. What have you done. Is there any progress. What is hindering you? Talk to a friend on where you struggle, where you have questions. Invite them into your life and your walk with the Lord.
Look at the categories we are given to set an example in: life, love, faith, purity. How are you doing there. Are you living in purity: mind, thoughts, actions with your girlfriend. Treat men as brothers, women as sisters. Love: how are you loving other people: your own family, and kids, how are you doing with strangers, people you don’t know and might not see again. Speech: is your speech honoring to God, not just no cursing or foul language; are you using it to build others up, encourage them, lead them in knowledge of the faith. Faith: Are you walking by faith, stepping out, living for the life to come and not just the things of this life. Examine yourself and these things.
c. Use your gifts. He charges him to beware of negligence. Timothy had gifts and was called to use them. Do you think Timothy using his gifts ever came at an easy time? If so then he probably would not have needed to be exhorted here. Now Timothy probably had many gifts, like every person has many gifts, but here Paul is specifically address a gift for building up the church. That is the point of this letter, to know how to conduct ourselves in the house of God (3:14).
What gifts do you have for building up the church? Are you neglecting those? Use them put them to use. In 3:13 We saw that when we serve we grow in the faith.
We are not trying to create a room of spectators but an army of God. That is what the church is. People are living their faith, not watching a message.
That all might see your progress. This is a goal to strive for in the present. It’s not that we attain a certain level, like we memorized the right quota, we stayed away from the really bad things. There should be a constant progress. We are continually making improvement. This is the goal. It is for every Christian, pastors included. This is what Timothy was told to do. It’s what we should do. Constant commitment for continual improvement.
3. The Results of Training.You can lose focus when things get hard. Knowing the results keep you going. That football player in the lunchroom kept at it because he had a vision of playing in the NFL. Results motivate me and they should you too. Let’s look at a couple.
● First, we are Nourished. V 6 says we are Trained/nourished in the words of faith and good doctrine.
When we moved into our house our neighborhood association brought us a plant. It is the only living plant we have in the house. It is still alive, it’s a hard plant to kill. I frequently go out and it is shriveled up. Malnourished. Parched. Many Christians are alive but spiritual withered. Feeble in articulating the faith. Feeble in living out their faith. Grieving to see. If you are struggling in life turn to the nourishing truth of God’s word. Put your hope in it.
Words of faith. Contrary to Eeyore the donkey who is depressed about everything. “Thats a nice tale, nicer than the rest of me.” or “Looks like you are all having fun; wish I could have some.” “Guess there is no hope of things getting any better.” Downcast, sluggish, withered. He looks like my plant!
● We are strengthened now but the end goal is salvation.
We do these things because we want to be saved from sin, evil and the world. We want to be saved and we want others to be saved. We will save ourselves and our listeners (v16). 4:6 says if he does this things he will be a good minister. Reminds of the good and faithful servant that is faithful to do his master’s work. That’s what we want to hear.
It also reminds us that we have a responsibility toward others. Our pursuit of God has a bearing on others. The example we set is powerful.
Timothy is a pastor. Imagine what happens when a pastor does not have a rigorous commitment to these things. He is not in the word sohe doesn’t know what God calls him to do. He doesn’t know God’s standard for life. He looks around the world and sees what people are doing and they all seem pretty good to him. Jesus doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. He is pretty content where he is at. He does what he wants and minds his business. Doesn’t treat people too bad but also doesn’t see a need to stick up for anything of importance, distance himself from anything. He teaches others to think the same. He has no compass for life and so he is confused by life. He is depressed and brings down those around him. “What are people going to think when he says, Let me tell you about Jesus.”
That is the effect a poor minister can have on a congregation. That is the effect a bad Christian can have on his family, his office, his neighborhood, and his church.
Now think of the opposite. Of one who is in the word. Is quoting it to himself when things go wrong, when he messes up. Is setting an example in the office of being loving, pure, speaking well. He confesses his own shortcomings when he messes up. He encourages others when things go wrong. He is always full of faith. He stirs others to keep going. You see the love he has for his wife, his kids. There is a distinction. This is what God calls his people to. That has promise in this life and the life to come. That is what we want to labor after.
“So many professing Christians are so spiritually undisciplined that they seem to have little fruit and power in their lives.”
I believe this is an important message. Last week Yianni taught about the importance of the church, and see the church for what it is: the household of the living God, the pillar and buttress of truth. The church is also the army of God.
In five years I want Bridgeway to be a thriving church. A church whose members are going out into the community, making a difference in the lives of other people, known in their neighborhood and workplaces as those whose faith is genuine, who they can go to for answers, who are leading Bible studies in their homes, who are sending out church plants, evangelists, pastors. People are being converted. This is my vision for the church. I think it reflects the church in the NT.
To get there we all have to be progressing. It’s not just about me. It is about our whole body: living, doing, being the church of God. Rigorously! Going to love those who don’t love us. Are we going to welcome new people into our lives, not just the doors of the church. Are we going to give our kids an example of a group of people committed to reaching the lost, the needy, the hurting. Are we in shape to do that or are we going to give up, retreat, find a church that we can hide in the back.