We have been going trough this letter from Paul to Timothy for a number of weeks now, and we have come to a section that has been a place of comfort and a challenge for me in the past three years of pastoring here at Emmaus. When I look back over my years of ministry in Fredericksburg Chick-fil-A and elsewhere, I could see how the Lord was preparing me to lead this church. In just about every place I have been, the Lord has asked me to lead people who are older than me. Sometimes considerably older. I will tell you, it has not always gone well. I will tell you one experience where I was the worship leader for the contemporary service at the church and we were having a joint service with the worship team and the choir. I was leading the music, from the drums. At this point I was in my early 20’s, long hair, earrings, and the majority of the choir was in their 50’s and 60’s and beyond. There was one lady who was particularly vocal about her distain for the situation, and when the service came, her seat was vacant. At that point I felt despised for my youth. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been placed in a leadership role over people who were well over your age? I will tell you there is no task more daunting and difficult than that. That is what Timothy was apparently called to do, and it seems that it was a difficult task for him if Paul felt it necessary to address it in this letter.
Lets read the text and see what the Holy Spirit has to say to Timothy, and to us this morning.
The first statement Paul makes to Timothy in this section is to command, and teach these things. This is a step up from what he was saying last time, when he said to put these things before the brothers. That was a little softer, but now he is exhorting Timothy to command. That is a strong word, not something we hear very often these days. Most people if they are commanded to do something, will refuse based simply on the fact that they have been commanded to do something, and that is not in our vocabulary. But it is interesting, Paul knew that if timothy gets up in front of the Church in Ephesus and commands certain things, he will get push back. Now, I have found this to be true in other places and here at Emmaus, that when I say something that is hard, or difficult, or challenging. When people are rebellious in heart and want to push back, they pick the low hanging fruit. Which is AGE. Most often, when people don’t agree with something you say, they will not challenge the content of the argument, they attack the age of the one presenting the argument. This is called “ad hominem” argumentation. Which is attacking the persons character rather than their argument, except the problem is age has nothing to do with character.
So, what does Paul tell Timothy to do as the antidote for being despised for his youth? Well, this is that part that is a challenge for me. It is not with more commands, it is by being a faithful pastor. The antidote to an ad hominem argument is not a better argument, it is an example. It is not asserting authority, it is an example, it isn’t insisting on respect, it is an example.
SO, what way is Paul exhorting Timothy tho do this? Well, it falls into two main categories: Your Life, and your teaching. Verse 16 says to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”
These two categories are broad for sure, but in them are the keys to successful leadership in any organization. To say it another way, teach the right things, and live the things you teach. And he Doesn’t leave it kind of vague and loose, he tells him in v. 15 to “practice these things and immerse yourself in them so that all may see your progress.” Now, before I move on from that, let me just ay that that phrase gives me so much comfort and hope. why? Well it is the word “progress”. If he had said holiness, or perfection, or righteousness, I would have to quit, but the fact that he said “progress”, means that he recognizes that Timothy is going to fail at these things and what people need to see is not the fact that he is perfect, but the fact that by God’s grace, he is growing. So, let me ask you do do something, as we look through this list of words for Timothy, I want you to hold me up to them for sure, I believe you should. But as you do, don’t use the lens of perfection, but ask yourself, “do I see Bryan growing in this area?”
So lets look first at what it means to keep a close watch on your life:
He says to set an example in a number of things:
– Speech… Are you, honest, respectful, encouraging?
– Conduct… Do your actions among believers and unbelievers alike set you apart?
– Love… Are you motivated by love for others, or by selfishness?
– Faith… Do you trust in God for your needs, or do you worry often?
– Purity… are you growing in purity? Mind, body, soul?
Now, the most challenging this for anyone is to teach the truth and exhort others to the truth when you struggle. The great news is that the truth transcends our ability to keep it. This should keep us humble.
So what does he encourage Timothy to do? He tells him to devote himself to three things that really encompass his calling as a pastor. When I think of my role, what I am first and foremost called to do is teach the scriptures. That is the primary role of a pastor. I am a minister of the Word. What I have to offer is not my example, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the message of the Bible. Now as a minister, my life needs to be a reflection of that truth, but my life is not the truth. So, Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to three things:
– Public Reading of Scripture…
– Exhortation…Helping people apply the scripture to their own lives…
– Teaching… explaining what the scriptures mean, and how they fit together…
Now, I have many responsibilities as a pastor, and many more things that people expect me to do as a pastor, but this right here is my marching orders from the Holy Spirit through Paul. There is nothing here about maintaining a website, or timely distribution of emails, or any number of the important things I do, and those things are important, but they are not the most important thing. So, let me give you permission to do seething that no church member has done in the three years that I have been a pastor here. IN three years as your pastor, not one church member has ever asked me how my study of the word has been? Now, I don’t say that to shame you, but to encourage you. maybe you feel like I tell you how it is every week, so, I will give you that… but I want to give you permission to ask me about the things that Paul lists here. How is my study of the word going? Ask me that. Also ask me how my growth in my personal life is? Bryan, how are you doing personally? Do you se God’s hand at work in your speech, your conduct, your love? How is your faith growing? Do you trust God more now than you did a year ago. Now, I know that as I say this, the majority of you will not ask me these questions, and that is fine, but I want to encourage you as your pastor, if you are afraid to ask those questions, pray for me in those areas.
Let me close with this, I want you to know that there are times I have felt looked down on for my youth, and that is to be expected. But I want you to know that my solution to that is not to assert my authority, or to get angry, I desire to set an example. To watch closely my life and my teaching so that you will see the progress that happens in my life by God’s grace.
Now, let me tell you how the story I shared at the beginning ended. Remember the lady that refused to participate in the choir activity? Well a couple years later her husband let me know…