Devotional # 203. 8/22/16. 1 Timothy 4:7-16.
Intro. The last few weeks we’ve looked at requirements for leadership in the church and also how to recognize false religious leaders infecting the Church. This week the text is focused on Paul encouraging Timothy in what he needs to be doing personally. This is beneficial for us because it gives us insight into Paul and Timothy but into our own lives as well. The first section (vv. 7-11) will teach us about godliness and the second half (vv. 12-16) teaches us, in four main categories, how to grow spiritually which will in turn help others to grow.
v. 7. In verse 6 we’re told that being “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” is important. So we know what to apply but what do we reject? We reject profane stories and “old wives fables.” These would be old religious myths and gossip. If someone tells you the Bible isn’t the word of God or that it’s been corrupted you should reject that. In the same way “old wives fables”, which are from the stereotype that elderly ladies sit around and gossip, should be rejected. There is nothing more captivating than hearing juicy news that no one else knows, but allowing that news to take over your mind and sharing it with others should be rejected with self-control.
Instead we’re told to exercise “godliness.” A month ago I started a Rookie hockey league and in preparation I started exercising. I jog, do push-ups and curls. I have a game once a week but if I train throughout the week I’ve found I’m stronger for the game and less sore afterwards. Exercise in the spiritual life is the same. Each week we have “games” and the more I exercise the better prepared I am for those battles.
v. 8. Paul told us in verse 7 that spiritual exercise will produce greater “godliness.” As we were directed to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, Devotional # 197) we recognize “godliness” is important. But how do we really define “godliness”? “The New Testament word for godliness, in its original meaning, conveys the idea of it, a personal attitude toward God that results in actions that are pleasing to him. This personal attitude toward God is what we call devotion to God” (Source 1). Our attitude towards God results in actions that please Him, and this doesn’t mean we’re just a good person or that we feel happy at worship in our church. Our attitude is our mindset which is transformed by God and we live that change in our life by doing the actions that the Holy Spirit convicts us of.
Paul wisely tells us that physical exercise is beneficial in a small part of our life but godliness is beneficial in all parts. Often we see someone who is physically fit or really ripped and admire them but really that’s a small piece of our life’s puzzle. But we practice godliness “having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” As Christians, living godly lives profits our current life but it also profits our eternal lives. Why do you think that is? Because life on earth is just practice for our eternity in heaven. I think many believers don’t realize that they will grow spiritually in heaven (read “The Truth About Heaven” article). So it follows that the more God teaches us on earth the further ahead we’ll be in heaven. Not that it’s a competition, instead if we stop being stubborn when God is trying to grow us then the better off we’ll be here on earth but, more importantly, in heaven.
vv. 9-11. The understanding that we must practice godliness and that it will be beneficial here and in heaven is a “faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” We shouldn’t just believe this in our head (intellect) but we need to allow it to trickle down to our heart where it is established as a truth to fall back on in the darkest times.
Because these things are true we Christians face persecution and difficulty. Why? Why does godliness produce such hatred and difficulty? Because Satan hates a godly attitude in action. If a person reads their Bible and goes to church but doesn’t have a heart change that’s exactly where Satan wants you. Apathy = working for Satan. If you don’t like the idea of punching a timeclock for the Devil than pay attention to what God tells us. We “labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God.” The true Christian will suffer. But what is our foundation? The “living God”! We don’t serve an imaginary god, we serve the “living God”. God is “the Savior of all men [and women]”; Jesus Christ was not killed on the cross just to rot in a grave, instead He died on the cross to rise from the dead. This is the truth that has changed our attitude into action, the truth that we get to share with others. Why does Paul tell us to “command and teach” these things? Teaching these things makes sense – I’m doing that right now! But why “command” them? Because just like it’s easier to be an apathetic couch potato and to gossip then to live for the living God, we need to be commanded to do these things since suggestions rarely work. Do you know why the Hebrews wandered the wilderness for 40 years? Sure, because of disobedience but in reality it’s so much more than that. After seeing plagues and such a great salvation out of Egypt how was it that the Hebrews complained to go back for food (Numbers 11:5) worshipped a golden calf (Exodus 32) and rejected God’s leadership (Numbers 16:32)? Because they had too much “Egypt” still in their hearts. They needed commandments (Exodus 20). Going through trials and persecutions produces an attitude change into godly action (godliness)!! I need to be taught, reminded and commanded to do this, how about you?
4:12-16. The Individual’s Work Affecting Others.
Here Paul gives specific exhortation to Timothy, but we can also learn from it. First, Timothy was told to stand up for himself even though he was young (v. 12). Second, he was told what to give attention to (v. 13). Third, not to neglect his “gift” (v. 14). Lastly, Timothy is reminded to continue and progress (vv. 15-16).
v. 12. I love this verse where Paul tells Timothy not to let anyone despise his youth. When I was a young man starting to preach, my mentor pastor told me don’t let anyone despise your youth, just keep learning and preaching. Sometimes, older generations think they are encouraging younger generations by correcting them and telling them how they should speak or what they should think. But if it’s without love, it profits nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). I know how demoralizing it is to be corrected in that way. But I’ve also experienced loving correction and encouragement and that’s an awesome experience! Did you know Charles Spurgeon was 17 years old when he became the pastor of a church? Can you imagine the people that looked down on him for his age? Often people have pride because they think “the young” haven’t been through the experiences that really cause a person to grow and understand the Bible. I can definitely understand that, and I have those same thoughts myself…but it’s all in how you communicate that. God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), so he can speak through a young person. Especially a young person who shows a godly attitude and desire to serve the Lord (“an example to believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity”)! We should be encouraging the young or else we’ll run out of teachers and the church will die.
vv. 13-14. In this part Paul gives Timothy two main things to consider: what to do and what not to do. He is supposed to read, exhort and study doctrine. These should certainly characterize any shepherd’s daily tasks. Speaking from experience God gives certain people the inner drive to read and study the Bible for hours in order to exhort others. He also gives some the gift of exhortation. All Christians are supposed to do these three things (“reading, exhortation, doctrine”), but this is different from the command Paul is giving Timothy (and other pastors with similar gifts) here. See Devotional 104 on Ephesians 4:7-16 for how spiritual gifts are different from the general requirements by the same names. We’ve seen Paul remind Timothy that there were prophesies about him earlier (1 Timothy 1:18, Devotional # 196). Regardless of our spiritual gift(s), we should not neglect them. I don’t believe that because Paul mentioned this, it automatically implies that Timothy was neglecting his gift(s), instead I believe anyone can fall into the trap of neglecting their gifts. Why? Because it can be hard work to “work out” spiritual gifts and because, as we said earlier, Satan loves to get in the way of godliness. But be encouraged, the Holy Spirit will always help you exercise your gifts.
vv. 15-16. Finally, Paul tells Timothy to “meditate on these things” and to give himself “entirely to them.” What “things” should Timothy “meditate” on? I think it’s everything in all four of these major categories of verses 12-16. If he gives himself over to being an example “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” and “reading, exhortation, doctrine”, etc. then he will influence the people of the church in a positive way. Here in verse 15 Paul reminds Timothy that if he does “meditate” and devote himself to these things everyone will see his progress. Why would Paul say that, considering he’s always telling us not to worry about what others think? For two reasons: 1. The purpose of this letter (the book of 1 Timothy) is to instruct Timothy on how to get the Ephesian church back in order (see Devotional # 192, 1 Timothy 1:1-2 for more); 2. because Timothy had been chastised for being too young to teach (v. 12). So it makes sense that Paul would tell Timothy to do things that would benefit him spiritually and show his detractors what kind of man he was while growing them into the Christians they were meant to be (v. 16).
Conclusion. We should be encouraged to pursue godliness, which is our attitude towards God resulting in actions that please Him. We should also stand up for ourselves if we’re young and doing God’s work. That work is what we give attention to while not neglecting our gifts. We are reminded to push forward and progress for our own edification and for the growth of others.
Source 1: Jerry Bridges, “What is Godliness?”, Nav Press, https://bible.org/article/what-godliness