THE PRIORITY & VARIETY OF PRAYER

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Do you write letters to friends using chapters? Of course not, and neither did Paul when he wrote his letters. Someone else divided Paul’s letters into chapters at a later date to make them easier for us to read. The word “therefore” [1 Timothy 2:1] links Paul’s previous exhortation to fight the good fight with prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon in warfare [see Ephesians 6:17-20]. An experienced overseas Christian worker recently wrote, “After years of working here, we have come to realise that the real battle is fought and won in believing prayer”. We want to fight that ‘real battle’ in believing prayer and in a focussed, persistent way, we want to pray to see God’s kingdom come and His will done. Prayer is the key to the breakthroughs we long for. Some obstacles can appear immovable and some situations seem unchangeable. Something may seem firmly ‘locked’ and prayer is the key.

As Paul begins to write about prayer he uses the words, “first of all” [verse 1a] emphasising clearly the priority of prayer. Perhaps the words “first of all” could be interpreted as “before all else – pray!” There is a danger of slipping into a mechanical routine and not depending upon God in prayer. Recently, a Christian worker asked me why in the department of the church in which they work, they do not start the day with prayer! Prayer was as much a part of the apostolic ministry as the preaching of the Word [Acts 6:4].

Not only does Paul emphasise the importance of prayer, but also the variety of prayer [verse 1b] – how we should pray. There are seven different Greek nouns for prayer and Paul uses four of them in this verse:

The first word is “supplications” [Grk. ‘deesis’]. This kind of prayer is specific, concrete needs. It implies a sense of helplessness and need.

The second word is “prayers” [Grk. “proseuche”]. This is the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament. It has been suggested that a better translation might be “humble entreaties.” The word speaks of prayer in general, and covers general needs, such as the need for wisdom, love, holiness, etc. The same word is used in Ephesians 6:18, where we are exhorted to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers“.

The third word is “intercessions” [Grk. “enteuxis”]. “This word originally meant an encounter, a meeting with another…. of an interview with someone in authority” [The Pastoral Epistles, by E.M.Blaiklock, p.29]. It is the particular action of submitting a petition to a king. This is praying for others in need!

The fourth word is “thanksgiving” [Grk. “eucharistia”]. This word speaks of gratitude, grateful language to God, as an act of worship and thankfulness.

This is an element too often missing in our praying [see Phil. 4:6].

Questions:

Why do you think that prayer has so often been relegated in our Christian living to a less important place than God intended? If this has been the case in your life, what do you think that you should do about it?

THE FIGHT OF FAITH

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Paul writes to Timothy about waging a good warfare and uses the word “charge” [verse 18]. He used the same word in 1 Timothy 1:3. It is a military word meaning “an urgent command handed down from a superior officer”.

The battle we wage has two fronts to it: the inner front – the personal battle as the enemy seeks to attack our minds; and the outer front – seeing the enemy defeated in the lives of others and in the community. It is important that we win the battle on both fronts.

Paul is specifically writing to Timothy about the battle for truth in the church and in his exhortation to Timothy, he mentions three vital elements that are necessary in order to successfully fight in this battle:

The first element is “prophecy” [verse 18]. Prophecy is God’s Word into a specific situation. It may be a word given in the Spirit or from God’s Word that is a “more sure word of prophecy” [2 Peter 1:19]. It is important to know what God is saying and we stand upon His Word. When King Jehoshaphat faced a huge enemy, he called the people of Judah to prayer and fasting. As they prayed God spoke and gave them a clear word about how to fight in that battle [2 Chronicles 20:14-17] and it led them to worship, praise and victory.

The second element is faith [verse 19]. The English Standard Version translates this as “holding faith”. This means literally trusting God and not wavering. Faith stands firm in the face of every difficulty. It would be so easy for Timothy to flinch in the face of opposition and difficulty. Sometimes the fiercest battles are raged for a period before the victory comes and that is when we have to stand firm. Paul told the Ephesians, “Having done all, stand” [Ephesians 6:13]. We must hold on and not give up!

The third element is a good conscience [verse 19]. Five times Paul mentions the conscience in his letters to Timothy [1 Tim. 1:5,19; 3:9; 4:2 and 2 Timothy 4:2]. The word “conscience” means, “to know with.” Conscience is the inner judge that accuses us when we have done wrong and approves when we have done right [see Romans 2:14-15]. Have you ever done wrong and felt guilty about it? That is the voice of your conscience. It can be defiled [Titus 1:15], and repeated sinning hardens the conscience [1 Timothy 4:2], but the blood of Jesus can make our conscience clean [Hebrews 9:14 and 10:22]

Questions:

Why do you think it is important that we know God’s Word as we are in a spiritual battle?

Have you ever been tempted to give up and take the more comfortable and easier road than following Jesus? What caused this temptation and how did you handle it?

Why is it important to keep a good conscience when fighting a spiritual battle? Is there any guilt in your life that hinders you and needs to be cleansed?

GOD’S GRACE

 

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17 

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all” [1 Timothy 1:15]

Having spoken about the complicated message of false teachers that brought confusion and division among Christians, Paul now shares in simplicity a little of his own testimony. The true Gospel that he preaches is about God’s grace, and it gives glory, not to men, but to God. It is so simple that even a child can understand it. The phrase, “simplicity of heart” was used of the early believers just after Pentecost [Acts 2:46]. Paul was deeply concerned that people lose the simplicity of the Gospel. Writing to the Corinthians, he said, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3].

Paul’s testimony is that God had saved him even though he had been a blasphemer, a persecutor of Christians and violently arrogant, and totally ignorant of the wrong that he was doing. God saw that he was a faithful man to the light he had and so entrusted him with the Gospel, putting him into the ministry. We see here what Paul was [v13a]; how he was saved [v13b-15] and what he became [v12,16]. It was grace of God that did this, and he gets so excited that he begins to quote one of the hymns of the early church [1:17]. It is the grace of God that saved us, makes us His servants, and worshippers!

Paul writes in the present calling himself the chief of sinners [verse 15]. God saved him and changed his attitudes over the years.

  •  In A.D. 49 when he had been a Christian for fourteen years Paul appear to be proud and arrogant. He wrote, “As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me” [Galatians 2:6].
  •  In A.D. 55 Paul seems more humble and writes, “I am the least of the apostles” [1 Corinthians 15:9].
  •  Five years later he says, “I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people” [Ephesians 3:8].
  •  Now approaching death, and having walked with Christ for more than 30 years, he writes, “I am the worst of all sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15].

It is not complicated! It is God’s grace that saved Paul, called him into the ministry, and has been refining and changing him.

Questions:

Why have we equated depth with that which is complicated and simplicity with shallowness?

If someone asked you what you believe as a Christian, how would you answer them as simply as possible? Why do you think that God has saved you?

What changes have you seen in your own heart, life and attitudes as you have walked with the Lord?

MR LAW AND MR GRACE

Bible Reading: Romans 7:1-25

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” [Romans 7:4].

Some years ago I read an interesting story that helped me to understand the relationship between law and grace. It demonstrates the difference between being married to Mr Law, and being married to Mr Grace, Jesus Christ. It is really helpful in understanding how damaging the teachers who wrongly use the law can be. Let me share this story with you:

A beautiful young woman married her childhood sweetheart. He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand her weakness. On the first night of their honeymoon he handed her a list of duties and responsibilities he demanded that she fulfil as a wife. It was a miserable marriage, because Mr Law always pointed out our failings.  And the worst of it was, he was always right! She spent the next ten years trying to comply with his rules but she could never measure up. Then, one day her husband died.

A few years later, this beautiful woman remarried, but this time she married a real prince. He loved her and lavished affection on her. No matter how much of a mess the house was in, and how screwed up she was he still loved her. Many years passed. One day she was cleaning out some papers, and found the list of expectations that her first husband had given her on their honeymoon. As she remembered his demands anxiety began to fill her heart, but then something remarkable happened. She suddenly realized that all the demands that she could never fulfil when she was married to her mean husband had become the things that she did naturally for years out of love for her prince.

 

Here is a perfect description of how the law points out our weaknesses and makes demands that we could never fulfil because of our weakness. This perfectly describes Paul’s experience of bondage in Romans chapter 7, but then Jesus came and died to set us free, and we became “married” to Him. When someone falsely teaches that a Christian must obey the rules and regulations of the law it brings bondage. We have been set free from the law and because we love Jesus we cannot help but please Him.

Questions:

What is the main point that you have learned as you have read this story of Mr Law and Mr Grace?

Why do you think that grace is so much better than law?

Do you think that as we now live in the power of the Holy Spirit, that He would ever lead us to break God’s law?

BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:13-18; Galatians 5:1-15

“Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy” [1 Timothy 6:3-5 NTL].

Paul is scathing in his criticism of the false teachers who misuse the law, cause endless disputes and trouble, and whose motives are impure.

In 1 Timothy 1:8-9 Paul explains the purpose of the law. It is only good when used as God intended. The purpose of the law is to bring conviction of sin to those who are ungodly. Writing to the Galatians, Paul says that the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to God [Galatians 3:24]. The law cannot save, but it can convict of sin. Law and the Gospel go together. The law without the Gospel is diagnosis without remedy. The Gospel without the law is the Good News of salvation for people who don’t believe that they need it because they have never heard the bad news of judgment. John Wesley taught that preaching should begin with law, and then be mixed with grace, and finally grace alone. These statements help us to understand the purpose of the law.

The false teachers misused the law, and added confusing fables and legends to the Old Testament. Paul called them idle talkers [1 Tim 1:6, see Titus 1:10].

The Greek word ‘mataios’ translated as ‘idle’ can also be translated as ‘useless’. They demanded that Christian believers be circumcised, must keep the law and had so added to God’s Word that it confused people and led them astray. Paul specifically named three of the false teachers in the church at Ephesus, Hymenaeus and Alexander [1 Tim. 1:20] and Philetus [2 Tim 2:17].

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by trying to keep the law. When we turn from sin to Christ the Holy Spirit makes His home in us, and He fulfils God’s law in us. Jesus has set us free from the condemnation of the law and the heavy burden of trying to keep it. Let’s live in the freedom and simplicity that we have in Christ and beware of those who would seek to bring us into bondage.

Questions:

What do you think are the motives of those false teachers who cause confusion and bondage?

How can we recognise the difference between truth and error? Can you name some of the errors that we are facing in the church today?

 

Why did Paul emphasize so strongly to Timothy the importance of standing against the false teachers?

 

DOCTRINE IS IMPORTANT

 

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:1-11

Some years ago I heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something”. This is such a foolish statement because what we believe determines how we live. A vital key to growth in the early church was to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Acts 2:42].

Paul makes it clear that we should recognise what is contrary to sound doctrine [1 Timothy 1:10]. In the original text there are 32 references to “doctrine,” “teach,” “teacher,” “teaches,” and “teaching,” in the three Pastoral Epistles [1 & 2 Timothy and Titus]. Clearly doctrine is important. In the early church, the believers were taught the Word of God and the meaning of basic Christian doctrines. The writer of Hebrews lists foundational doctrines.

Whether they are aware of it or not, there will always be people who teach false teaching and who seek to lead people astray from the truth. This was a major problem that Timothy faced in Ephesus. These false teachers were misusing the law and so bringing people into condemnation [1 Timothy 1:5-11]. In both of his letters to Timothy the apostle Paul warns about false teaching in the last days and of society that is barren of virtue but abounding with vices [1 Tim. 4:1-5 and 2 Tim. 3:1-9]. The majority of the epistles in the New Testament were written to counteract false teaching and present truth.

A simple example of how wrong teaching can affect a Christian is the teaching that spiritual warfare is a struggle with our old human nature. Many times Paul states in his epistles that our old nature is crucified with Christ and therefore dead. We are to reckon it dead [Romans 6:6-8,11]. You don’t need a sinful nature to sin! Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature when they disobeyed God and obeyed the devil. Instead of trying to fight our old nature that is dead, let’s recognise that the battle is in the mind, where Satan attacks our thought-life with evil suggestions and temptations. “They have read that their old self was crucified and that they should consider themselves dead… And yet they find that they keep being ‘haunted’ by what appears to be their old man. Some of these folks end up spending their entire lives kicking a corpse, wrestling a carcass and otherwise wasting their energy on an enemy that has already died, while the real foe laughs sarcastically through the prison bars of their lives” [Spirit Wars by Chris Vallotton, p.33].

Tomorrow we will look at the nature of some of the false teaching that Timothy was facing and what it did to people.

Questions:

Why is it important that we clearly understand the foundations of our faith and what we believe?

The apostle Peter wrote, “And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” [1 Peter 3:15]. Would you be able to explain your Christian hope if a person who is not a Christian asks you? What can you do to be more effective in explaining your faith?

GOD USES IMPERFECT PEOPLE

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 1:6-12

As we take a closer look at Timothy we clearly see that like all of us he has weaknesses as well as strengths. When God writes a biography it includes both the strengths and weaknesses.

One of Timothy’s weaknesses is timidity. Paul says to Timothy that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” [2 Timothy 1:7]. The word “fear” in this verse is often translated as “timidity”. The Greek word is ‘deilia’ and can be translated as cowardice, timidity or fearfulness. A derivative of ‘deilia’ is found in John 14:27, and means “to shrink for fear”. This word is always used in a negative context.

Timothy struggled to face up to difficult situations and confront issues and the reason was probably fear. Many years ago a pastor told me that one of the most difficult decisions a leader has to make is when to confront a situation and when not to do so. There were situations in the church at Ephesus that had to be confronted, and especially the false teachers who were leading people astray. Sometimes it is easier to deny that a problem exists or just hope that it will go away without taking any action. I suspect that confronting people was a struggle for Timothy.

Timothy did not need a new experience, because God had given everything that he needed. What Timothy needed to do was to stir up the gift that was already in him by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. Paul tells Timothy to stir [“fan into flame” NIV] up the gift within him [2 Timothy 1:6]. Have you noticed how seemly dying embers on a Barbecue can suddenly become aflame and hot again when they are fanned?

Three natural issues may have also contributed to Timothy’s timidity. The first was that he was not physically strong, had stomach problems and was frequently sick [1 Timothy 5:23]. The second was his youthfulness. Paul needed to encourage him not to let this hinder his ministry [1 Timothy 4:23]. It would not have been easy, in that culture, to teach and confront older people.

The third issue was his lack of training, and through his letters Paul needed to instruct Timothy on how a local church should be managed.

Questions:

How do you handle the issue of confrontation? How do you know when it is necessary to confront someone and when it is right to wait?

Are there things in your life that hinder and hold you back from ministering to other people? How are you prepared to deal with those hindrances?

What do you think that Paul means when he speaks about not being ashamed of the testimony of Jesus [see 2 Timothy 1:8]?

TIMOTHY NEEDED ENCOURAGEMENT

Bible Reading: Acts 19:21-41

The primary reason why Paul wrote to Timothy was to encourage him. His letters are full of encouragement for a young Christian worker who was facing many difficulties.

Ephesus was not any easy place for a Christian to live or to serve the Lord. Paul had a remarkable ministry in Ephesus, and the church had grown dramatically. It is never easy to succeed someone who has been successful, because people will always make comparisons! Let’s be honest about it, church is not always an easy place to work, or even feel at home in!

People have different agendas. Very often people in church have come from hurting and broken backgrounds and although in the process of being healed are often fragile and the old adage that hurt people hurt people is very real. Our son didn’t like church very much when he was younger, and would say to me, “I have no problem with Jesus but I don’t like church! We are so grateful that although he struggled with church, the Lord still had His hand on him.

There was another reason why it was tough for Timothy. There were powerful demonic forces at work in Ephesus. It was a centre of idolatry and the worship of Diana. Diana was the Roman name of Artemis, the Greek goddess of love and fertility and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We can feel something of the emotion against Christians in our reading today. People who profited from making shrines of Diana were angry because their livelihood was being threatened [verses 23-27] and they started a riot.

In addition to this, Ephesus was full of sexual immorality and temple prostitution, and Timothy was young and single. Can you sense the struggle that Timothy might be going through – struggling with the church, in a demonically charged atmosphere and surrounded by immorality. It is little wonder that Paul told Timothy to “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” [2 Timothy 2:22], and to remain loyal to the faith [2 Timothy 1:13-14].

Questions:

Why do you think that God allowed Timothy to be placed in such a difficult situation where he would face strong temptation?

What promise does God in 1 Corinthians 10:13 to those who are tempted?

Why is encouragement such an important part of ministry in the body of Christ? Encouragement is a choice – why not choose to encourage someone today?

Have you recently been tempted to give up because the way has been too difficult or people have been unkind? Ask God to strengthen and help you.

INTRODUCING TIMOTHY

Bible Reading: Acts 16:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10

We are going to take a look over the next few weeks at Timothy and the contents of Paul’s letters to him. Although this will still be partially devotional in character, it is also intended to help people to have a deeper understanding of the teaching of God’s Word.

We first read about Timothy during Paul’s second missionary journey [see Acts 16:1-4]. Timothy came from a town called Lystra, in what is modern-day Turkey, and had a godly heritage. His grandmother, Lois, and his mother Eunice were women of genuine faith [2 Timothy 1:5] and Timothy himself was already following Jesus and spoken well of by the leaders of the church in Lystra when Paul first met him.

Paul wanted Timothy to travel together with him and Silas but because Timothy’s father was Greek he was uncircumcised and this would have caused offence to the Jews among whom Paul was ministering in that area. For this reason Paul circumcised Timothy.

Paul became like a father to Timothy and several times called him his “son in the Lord” [1 Timothy 1:2,18; 2 Timothy 1:2:1]. There was a special bond between them, and Paul trusted him to go on important missions. Paul wrote to the Colossians whilst a prisoner in Rome and Timothy was with him at that difficult time [Colossians 1:1]. Writing to the Philippians about Timothy Paul said of him:

 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News” [Phil. 3:20-22].

We also know that Timothy was himself imprisoned for his faith at some point, but it is unclear exactly when that was [see Hebrews 13:23].

Paul had sent Timothy to Ephesus to represent him and to oversee some difficult issues in the church there, and wrote his letters to Timothy to encourage him in this task and to give him fatherly advice.

Questions:

Why was it important that Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy? Is it relevant to us today that people need to be fathered spiritually?

What was it about Timothy’s spiritual character that attracted Paul to him? Could the same things be said about you?

Do you think that it was necessary for Paul to circumcise Timothy, and if so why? Can you think of similar situations today where it might be necessary to take unusual steps in order to identify with people from a different culture to our own in order to win them for Christ?

THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – IN CLOSING

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

Over the past weeks, we have taken a look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I trust that this has been both a blessing and a challenge to you.

You could not help but notice how the various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit overlap and flow into one another, somewhat like the colours of the rainbow. We know that the colours of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, but when you see a rainbow you cannot always separate the colours one from another. It is this way with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Each aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a manifestation of God’s character, because the Holy Spirit is God and His ministry is to glory Jesus. No aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is more prominent or more important than another, but I think that it is fair to say that love is the sum total of all the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. The other aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit all flow from love – peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all issue from love and are aspects of love.

God has given us everything that we need for righteousness and godliness, but just as fruit grows and ripens on the trees, so as we are abiding in Christ, the vine, we should be growing in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to have the control in our lives the more we will grow into the likeness of Jesus. God’s purpose for each of His children is that they be conformed to the image of His Son [Romans 8:29]. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and one day will be completed when we see Jesus – “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” [1 John 3:2].

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O Thou Spirit divine, All my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me”

No questions today, but an encouragement. If the Lord has blessed you through this series of daily devotional words, why not write and encourage me.

A Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank you that you are changing me into the image of your Son, Jesus. I yield myself afresh to your Holy Spirit and ask you to have Your way in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.