1 Timothy 4:11 - 5:2 (CSB) Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. Don’t neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.
Some Christians, like myself, are so curious of what God has called us to do. It does tend to direct us in one direction or another. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. But by the grace of God, it is never a waste of time.
And for some of us, we might be obsessed with knowing the call and purpose of God on our lives for so long that we might miss the wonderful moments of grace along the way. Or we become so obsessed with what we know what God told us to do but assume so much of it, that we miss the opportunity to just be obedient.
I say this to say, that might make sense to some of you. And to the rest of you, it might be oddly specific. You would be correct because this describes my walk with God since being saved at 32 years old.
I won’t bog you down with boring details. One moment I was saved. A few months later, I felt God called me to preach his word. And to nobody’s fault other than my own, I assumed a lot in his calling. I assumed that it was going to always be in a church, as pastor, as planter, as a gatherer of people, going to seminary, and in vocational ministry.
And I became obsessed with the church. Church history, Evangelicalism, denominations, preaching of the gospel, pragmatism, gender roles, why do so many church planters deal with father wounds, and on and on it goes.
And none of those obsessions were in vain. But what did God say to me?
- Preach his word (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
- Proclaim his gospel (Mark 16:14-18)
- Feed his lambs. (John 21)
God in fact did not tell me to be a pastor, be a church planter, to gather up people, to go to seminary, and to be in vocational ministry. Maybe one day I will do any of that or none of that. If the grace is provided, then I will great joy serve God and his people in that way.
Yet, what God was clear in his commandment to me: “Open my mouth and proclaim my gospel.”
Took me 14 years to figure that out. Yep, I am not God’s sharpest knife in the drawer.
And those things God did not tell me to do? All wonderful, God-given blessings to all ministers. Those are good gifts of God.
Beyond that, I know that I needed to be in church, under the covering in the elders, in order to minister to others.
And you have the same commandment and calling on your life.
You want a purpose: love, serve, and minister to others. What does that look like? Let me ask you this. What do you like to do that God calls good? So, here is my suggestion: pray about it and go and do, and then see where the Holy Spirit will take you.
I promise you it won’t be easy. The Holy Spirit took me on a path from hell to heaven and back, through the valley of the shadow of death right back to his presence. It was the hardest and most difficult thing I have ever gone through. But I know that I know I look more like my Savior today than I did 14 years ago–that is for darn sure.
Let’s examine Paul’s charges to Pastor Timothy and to you and to me.
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone despise your youth
Jeremiah 1:4-8 (CSB) The word of the LORD came to me:
I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
But I protested, “Oh no, Lord GOD! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.”
Then the LORD said to me:
Do not say, “I am only a youth,”
for you will go to everyone I send you to
and speak whatever I tell you.
Do not be afraid of anyone,
for I will be with you to rescue you.
This is the LORD’s declaration.
Or if you want even younger than that:
Luke 1:11-17 (CSB) An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”
You know when to minister? Now is the time to minister to one another. “But I am only 12 years old.” So were some of the Disciples of Christ. “But I am young in the faith and don’t know that much.” Listen, if you believe and trust Jesus Christ, then the Spirit of Christ is in you.
Romans 8:11 (CSB) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.
The same Spirit that filled Jesus, the disciples, the prophets, the kings, the priests, and all believers since Pentecost and empowered them for all ministry to one another. If you believe and trust in Christ, then that same Spirit, who is the Living God, dwells in you.
Go and minister.
Minister in Christ: set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity
This is not legalism nor a bunch of works we have to do in order for others to accept us and judge us in their own eyes. There judgment doesn’t matter. Only God’s. But here is the thing.
Luke 13:6-9 (CSB) And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’
“But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Let me explain that parable in another way:
Galatians 5:18-26 (CSB) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Your ministry starts with your character. And let me be honest: in the world of influencers and social media, we can work really hard to make ourselves look really good. We can even keep friends, spouses, and children seeing our real selves because we are so desperate to look the part and look righteous in their eyes. One, that is back breaking and you will fail. And two, God knows the motives of your heart and knows that you are trying really hard to please him. But some of you are doing it so that you are not close to him and you have to do what he says. “Let me be obedient on these things that are really easy for me to do but I won’t give up the hard stuff because I need that in order to be happy.”
You are going to fail and crash. And when that happens, your life will just bottom out.
Here is the good news: Christ is inviting you right now to give him that back-breaking load.
Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Some of y’all are not ready to give up on your idols and your sins just yet. Keep on. That will take you straight to death and into Hell.
But some of y’all are done. You are at the end of your rope. You are sick and tired of the masks that you have to keep putting on and it has worn you down. Christ said, “Take my yoke. Take my righteousness. I am low and humble and gentle in heart. In God alone is where you will find rest for your soul. Your weight of sin will crush you. Trust in me. Take me at my word. Believe what I say. Let me take your sin. And in return, I give you this gift which is easy and light and freeing because it is gift of eternal life.”
Minister in Christ: give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching
In this context, Paul was telling Timothy, “Until I come, keep ministering.” But you know what, we are to “give our attention to the public reading, exhortation and teaching” until Christ comes back. Do these things for all always.
Nourish, feast, snack, drinking in the word of Christ. Only then will your soul cease to hunger and your heart will no longer thirst.
Minister in Christ: Don’t neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders
This is a statement for all. Christians sometimes, and I speak for myself included, spend too much time trying to figure out what their gift is.
Let me ask you something, “Where does God’s grace have you right now? What can you be doing to minister to one another right in this moment?”
Go and do that. Stop overthinking and do it.
Minister in Christ: Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all
I wish that the Christian life was a linear progression. Like, if you ever thought about lifting weights, you might be tempted to think that you can slap some weights on a bar, lift, and you will get stronger over time. Even if you put more and more weights on the bar and just keep getting stronger. I know a few gym rats reading this will be shaking their head no. Why? Because your progress stalls. You might have to reset.
So too is the Christian life. But it is not a simple reset or a simple “two steps back”. It is often times the worst roller coaster you have ever been on. Twists, turns, dives, ups, downs, loopy loops, and twists. But over time, you will look back at 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 20 years ago and you will see the work that God has done in your heart.
And if they are evident to you, they will be evident to those around you.
Minister in Christ: Pay close attention to your life and your teaching, persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers
We just got done reading and thinking in chapter 3 about the qualifications of the elder and the deacon. What was the type of qualification that kept coming up over and over again? The character of the elder and the character of the deacon.
Why wouldn’t the character of the Christian who are called to minister to one another be any less?
Minister in Christ: Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity
This is the call of the church and ministry to be cross-generational and cross-stage of live. Strive, yearn, ask, and demand for your small groups to be filled with people who are young and old, male and female, single and married, divorced and widow, kids and no kids, black, brown, yellow, and white, and all points in between.
And in case you forget all of this, remember to treat one another like family–a family who has the most perfect and loving Father with the Eldest brother who is the great King of kings and bonded together by the Holy Spirit himself.
The good news is not only that we are saved to God by God but through the cross of Christ, we are saved to one another.
And that is scary. Really scary. Especially for most of us who have been hurt by people in the church and by those who claim to be followers of Christ in one way or another.
We live in jacked up world. And that is no excuse for those claiming to be Christians to hurt other people.
But here’s the flipside of that coin: we are all called to love and minister to one another and our character in loving and serving and ministering to one another absolutely matters. You are not going to be perfect like the Lord Jesus. Yet, go and read the promises that God has for his children:
Romans 8:29 (CSB) For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
We are all being conformed and sanctified so that one day, we will truly look like his son.
Your character matters. You are holy because God is holy. You are set apart because God is set apart. You cannot look like the world. And despite our wounds and hurts from people in the church, we are still in this together. We are not going to do this apart from each other. That isn’t the plan of God. That is not the will of God.
Our hope is not in how well we do church: that is, beat and scatter the wolves nor how we feed God’s lambs (you and me)–our hope is in Christ alone, who is the Good Shepherd. Obey his call to love and minister to one another.
Whatever you have called us to do, give us grace to do your will. Amen.