Tomorrow morning I have the opportunity to speak at the church where I grew up. I think that many would agree with this statement: it is more nerve-wracking to speak to people who have known you your entire life than to people who are fairly unfamiliar with who you are. This morning as I was praying for the service, God brought me through a familiar passage and gave me peace. I wanted to share this, especially with those who are young and working toward leadership and service in the Kingdom of God. The passage is from 1 Timothy 4:7-16.
Verses 7-8 say, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. ‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.’” There are things that are worth your time and things that are not worth your time. The vast majority of things are not worth your time. Make the decision to go on the offensive with your life; don’t simply react to all that happens to you. Take the initiative and pursue all that will cause you to grow into a godly man or woman.
Verses 12-13 say, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.” For those of us who are people pleasers, the opinions of others have a great impact on our emotional well-being. We have learned how to read facial expressions and body language so well that it is hard to receive the instruction to stop putting so much importance in that area; that it should not matter to us what others think or say about us. However, the most important phrase is the instruction of the calling to model integrity to others, whether they are younger or older than us. I might even add, whether they knew us as children or not. To a watching world, we are an example. Therefore, we should not shrink down, but rise up to the challenge that God calls us to. Paul’s instruction to Timothy was not that of an observer, but rather of a leader: “…focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.” Be a leader in your personal life and with your personal integrity first. Then be a leader in your corporate life and model integrity in the church.
The most powerful verses are 14-16: “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT. Can I emphasize this any more? I am reminded of Romans 12:6-8 that says, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” In other words, use your gifts to the utmost! Often our greatest insecurities can be found attached to our gifts. Cast out those insecurities in the name of Jesus and live in fullness and victory for the Kingdom!
Paul says, “Throw yourself into your tasks.” I imagine someone walking along the edge of a pool when all of a sudden he musters all his strength and side jumps into the deep end of the pool. That is how it should be with us. There is no half in, half out. We must be ALL IN with every responsibility we are given. We must perform with excellence in each opportunity we have, not because God judges us based on our performance, but because the level of our performance shows others the level of our dedication. That does not mean that we will not make mistakes. That does not mean we won’t bomb something once in a while. It has everything to do with our complete response to the responsibility that God has given us. It has everything to do with how we position ourselves to learn from God, grow in integrity, and model Christ to others. We must choose to not live a life of “good enough” but rather of excellence for the glory of God.
It is also worth mentioning, because it is a very Biblical concept, that those of us who are called to be leaders have a great responsibility on our shoulders. The way that we represent Christ has a major influence on the salvation of others. I remember the first time I read Ezekiel 3:17-18, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.’” SAY WHAT.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:16: “Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!” This isn’t meant to be a concept that inspires terror in us; but rather it should challenge us to RISE UP to all that God has called us to do. If we are given a godly conviction or are commissioned by God to do something, WE MUST DO IT. Period. Exclamation mark. Make that five. I say this to myself as much as I say it to anyone else. I have often yielded to fear when my conviction from God said otherwise. However, no more. I am throwing myself into my tasks, my calling, and the Kingdom of God. No more hesitation. High integrity shall be my song in the power of the Holy Spirit. Determine to do the same in your own life.
In what ways are you holding back? Make the decision today to rise up. There is no longer room for half in, half out. Throw yourself into the deep end. Respond to the call. Be the example. Pursue godliness. And do it all for the glory of God.