LAST WORDS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:11-16 and 20-21

As Paul draws his first letter to Timothy to a close he gives his son in the faith a closing exhortation and challenge. He wants to challenge Timothy but also wants to encourage him. He says to him, “You, man of God” [verse 11]. Those words must have sounded like music to Timothy. The phrase “man of God” would be very meaningful to Timothy, because it was the Old Testament term for a prophet [1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Kings 12:22; 13:1, etc.]. All of us need this kind of positive affirmation at different times.

I remember many years ago that Robert Fergusson and I were sharing in the family evening devotions in a home in Jakarta. There were two sons, one of them named Jephthah. Robert suddenly went across to him and said, “You mighty man of valour,” quoting the words of the Angel of the Lord, spoken to Gideon in the Old Testament [Judges 6:12]. Gideon was a timid man who struggled with fear and that word empowered him. In a similar way Jephthah was empowered by that word of encouragement and affirmation and went on to achieve great things for God.

Having encouraged and affirmed Timothy, Paul closes with a reminder and a challenge. He reminds Timothy of his good confession [verse 12]. This was possibly a reference to his baptism, but could also refer to Timothy’s good testimony and stand for the faith. In the light of this confession Paul challenges Timothy to keep doing what he is doing:

Keep Striving for Righteousness [verse 11]. Note the urgency of the words “flee” and “pursue.” We are to flee from evil, and in this context from those who are corruptly using religion to make themselves rich. Note carefully the things that Paul says we should pursue – righteousness, a godly life, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness [NLT]. This is basic to Christian living!

Keep fighting the fight of faith [verse 12]. The tense of the word fight here means literally “keep fighting.” We are in a battle but there is a crown of life awaiting those who are faithful!

Keep looking to Jesus’ Coming [verse 13-16]. Keep your eyes on the finishing line and the Saviour who is waiting there to greet you. It has variously been suggested that verses 15-16 were part of an early baptismal confession [see verse 12] or possibly a hymn sung in the early church. It is a wonderful description of God, and His Son, our Lord Jesus.

Keep guarding what God has given you [verse 20]. We must the guard truth of the Gospel that has been entrusted to the church and its leaders. It is the truth that the church must hold to as Satan seeks to dilute the church through false teachers and false teaching.

Questions:

Why is it important that we affirm and encourage people who are serving God? Who have you spoken encouragement and affirmation to in the past week?

Which of the four challenges that Paul gave to Timothy most challenges you personally? Why is this the case, and what do you intend to do about it?

I have been writing daily for the past 10 months, and in order to remain fresh and continue to write in the coming months, I am going to take six weeks’ break. I will be preparing future devotional words for the blog during this time and also taking a holiday with my wife.

In our home church, Kerith Community Church, we have some very gifted writers. I have asked six of these to write a devotional word for the blog each Friday over the next six weeks. Please continue to follow and be blessed.

I look forward to being with you again on Monday, October 12th as we continue with Paul’s very personal second letter to Timothy. It is the last recorded writing that we have of Paul.

A WISE APPROACH TO MONEY

 

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Having shared four basic truths about money, that money cannot buy contentment, it does last forever, our basic needs are very few, and the desire to be wealthy leads to sin [1 Timothy 6:1-10], Paul now shows us five healthy and positive Biblical attitudes towards wealth and possessions.

It is Timothy’s responsibility to speak to his people in a way that they might not want to listen. Some people might react by saying, “It’s my money, I earned it, and I will do what I want with it”. It is true that we must make choices, but such an attitude reveals conceit and pride, and especially if we understand that all the money we have is because of God’s grace and belongs to Him. What then should be a healthy attitude towards wealth and possessions?

Firstly, be humble [verse 17a]. Don’t be arrogant or proud in the way that you handle money. Do not make an ostentatious show of riches that hurts and offends others, and recognise that it is God who gives the ability to make money [Deuteronomy 8:18].

Secondly, trust God [verse 17b]. Don’t be tempted to rely or depend upon money but on God. People can wake up to find themselves without a penny – but God is always there!

Thirdly, enjoy what God gives you [verse 17c]. What a word – “God richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment” [Amp. Bible].

It is not wrong to enjoy the things that God gives you, but remember it is God who provides and we should honour Him in all that we do.

Fourthly, employ what God gives you [v18]. We are to be “rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others]” [Amplified Bible]. One of the reasons we are commanded to work is not just to make money for ourselves, but also to give to the poor [Ephesians 4:28]. We are stewards of all that God gives us! Paul speaks of two kinds of money that He gives us – that which is seed, to be sown to bear the fruit of righteousness, and that which is bread, for ourselves to eat and enjoy [2 Corinthians 9:10]

Fifthly, look for Heaven’s Reward [verse 19]. Everything we do should be with eternity in view. As we do what is good and share with others, so we are laying up for ourselves “the riches that endure forever” [Amplified Bible].

Questions

What is your attitude to the money that God has blessed you with? In what way do you think it is seed to be sown and bread to be eaten?

Why is it important both to enjoy what God has given you and to employ what God has given you? In what way are you enjoying God’s provision?

It is both counter-cultural and Biblically cultural to recognise that we don’t just work to earn money for ourselves but to care for the poor. How does this impact you personally?

THE DESIRE TO BE WEALTHY

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:9-10; Mark 10:17-24

Today we will consider two further basic principles about wealth and riches from the teaching of Paul to Timothy.

Paul teaches that our basic needs are really very few. He says that if we have food and clothing we should be content [verse 8]. The word translated here as clothing, [some versions say “raiment”], is the Greek word ‘skepasma,’ which is only found once in the New Testament. It means “covering” and perhaps included shelter. Perhaps there is a need to simplify our life style. We can actually become so cluttered with things that we forget how to enjoy the basics. The American essayist, Henry David Thoreau wisely commented that, “A man is wealthy in proportion to the number of things he can do without.” Thoreau also said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

A further principle that Paul teaches is that the desire to be wealthy leads to sin [verse 9-10]. Money in itself is not evil, and having money doesn’t make you a bad person. Used wisely money can be a great blessing, especially in helping others. The issue is a love of money that becomes your motivation and passion. The temptation is to make decisions based on money, rather than seeking God’s will and walking with him. If an eagerness to make money pushes out the consideration of other, more important values, we’re in serious personal and spiritual danger. Many a person has looked back with sadness when, after their pursuit of money, they’ve sacrificed their families, health, and their own higher ideals.

The words that describe the dangers of the pursuit of money are “ruin,” “destruction,” “wandering from the faith” and “pierced themselves with many griefs [“acute mental pangs” – Amplified Bible] [verses 9-10]. The love of money leads to covetousness [Ecclesiastes 5:10], self-reliance and forgetting the Lord [Deuteronomy 8:1-6], selfishness [Ezekiel 16:49,50], and can choke our spiritual life [Luke 8:7,14].

In my own life, there have been times when I have had too much of a liking for money, and I have had to deal with it as one might deal with an idol. The answer for me has been to give it away! We must get rid of anything that hinders our walk with God!

Questions:

Why is it dangerous to make decisions in life based purely on finance, and financial gain?

Read Matthew 6:33. What is the promise that Jesus gives us in this verse, and what is the condition for enjoying that promise?

Do you agree that we can become so cluttered with things that we forget the basics of life? How can you personally simplify your life-style?

RICHES WILL DISAPPEAR

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:3-10; Luke 12:16-21

We are continuing today with the basic principles that Paul teaches about money. Yesterday we saw that it does not bring contentment. Some people make a god of money but we must remember that wealth does not last forever [verse 7].

Some years ago archaeologists discovered an ancient temple dedicated to the god mammon under the city of London. Mammon is a Bible word, meaning riches, and Jesus spoke about it. He said, “You cannot serve God and mammon” [Matthew 6:24].

Job had a remarkable attitude towards possessions. When he went through the terrible trauma of losing his wealth, his health and all his children, he responded by mourning, worshipping God and refusing to blame Him. His response was, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21].

Paul affirms Job’s statement and says to Timothy, “We didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die” [1 Timothy 6:7 NLT].

A wealthy lady was being helped into a lifeboat as the Titanic was sinking. A seaman offered her a mandarin orange, but she suddenly remembered the diamonds she had left in her cabin. The last words she was heard to speak as she went back into the ship were, “I must get my diamonds,” and she was never seen again. There may come a day when a mandarin orange is more valuable than a hoard of diamonds!

Tutankhamen’s most valued possessions were placed in his tomb alongside his body, so that he could enjoy them in the next life. Thousands of years later, when the tomb was opened, the possessions were still there!

Solomon wrote, “Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird” [Proverbs 23:5 NLT].

Questions

Read Matthew 6:19-21. What does Jesus say about our attitude to riches and wealth? What does he say about the state of our heart [spiritual life]?

Read Luke 12:16-21. What is Jesus teaching in this parable of the rich man?

What does it mean to be rich toward God in verse 21?

It is not wrong to be materially wealthy but Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven [Matthew 19:23-24]. Why is this the case?

MONEY AND CONTENTMENT

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:3-8

Some years ago, I heard someone describe the sixth chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy as instructions to the poor [v1-2], instructions to the rich [v3-10 & 17-19], and instructions to their minister [v11-16 & 20-21].

Paul now turns his attention to issues of money and material wealth. The false teachers at the church in Ephesus used the church as a means of making easy money. Their motives were wrong and Paul described them as destitute of truth [verse 5].

Paul uses this opportunity to present four basic truths about money. Today we will take a look at the first of these basic truths:

Wealth does not bring Contentment [verse 6]. It is so sad to see people eaten up with the desire to make money and deceived by thinking that money will bring contentment. The real gain is not godliness with money but godliness with contentment [verse 6]. Money cannot buy contentment. The writer of Hebrews links covetousness and discontent. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” [Hebrews 13:5]. “Encouraging coveting is a major national industry; we call it advertising”

[J. John]. It is impossible to be covetous and contented at the same time.

Contentment does not depend upon how much a person has or does not have. Writing about being contented Paul says, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” [Philippians 4:11-13]. Contentment is an inner sufficiency that keeps us at peace despite our outward circumstances.

One of the wealthiest men in history, Solomon, recognised that money is a hard taskmaster, when he wrote, “Whoever has money never has money enough” [Ecclesiastes 5:12]. He summed up the meaningless of just making money by saying, “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labours.  But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” [Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NLT].

Questions:

Why do you think that godliness with contentment is great gain? What does contentment look like to you? Would you say that you are a contented person?

Read 1 Timothy 6:8. Would our lives be more contented if we took this verse to heart and simplified our life style?

Why is God so against covetousness?

EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:1-2

The apostle Paul gives clear instructions about the relationship between Christian slaves and their masters. Historians have estimated that half of the population of the Roman Empire were composed of slaves, many of whom were educated and cultured but were not considered persons at all. Many of these slaves had become Christians. Imagine what the message of freedom in Christ would mean to them. In Christ they had value, meaning, purpose and a hope, and belonged to a Christian fellowship of similarly minded people.

We can imagine how some of these slaves, enjoying their newfound freedom in Christ, might rebel against their masters. Although now Christian believers, and enjoying the fellowship of other believers, it did not change their social status. It is against this cultural backcloth that Paul teaches about the right attitude of slaves to their masters. This may well remain the case in parts of the Middle East where in many cases ethnic minorities are treated as slaves without rights, but the same principles also apply to the relationship between employers and employees.

Firstly, employees should honour their employers so that God’s name and the teaching of His word should not be defamed [verse 1]. Secondly, a Christian employee should not be disrespectful towards their employer if he is a Christian, but rather rejoice that he and his employer are brothers in Christ, and that his service as an employee will either directly or indirectly benefit other believers [verse 2]. The Christian employee should not expect special favours of their Christian employer simply on the grounds of their common faith. His work should be exemplary and this, rather than words spoken in working hours, should be a testimony that brings glory to God.

Why did Paul encourage slaves to have a godly attitude to their masters rather than attacking slavery? Perhaps it was because he realised that the gospel would be hindered if the church were perceived as a militant group trying to undermine the social order of the day. Society will only be changed as individuals are changed. It is said that the revival in the days of Wesley changed the course of history and the revolution that was taking place in France was averted. The church did not attack the social evils of its day, but it was the personal change of attitude that Christ brought into the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals that brought about the change in society.

Questions:

Someone has made the statement, “I can change no one. I must first change. If I change, then others around me might change.” Do you agree with this statement, and if so why?

In the light of Paul’s writing, what is the best way to see a society change?

In what way could you be a witness for Christ in the place where you work?

THE APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:22-25

Paul gives Timothy clear instruction about the qualities required for eldership in an earlier chapter of his letter [1 Timothy 3:1-7], but now gives Timothy further instruction on the actual appointment of an elder.

Paul makes it is clear that it is wrong to “hastily” ordain someone into eldership. Leadership in the church requires godly wisdom and spiritual maturity and a person should manifest these qualities before being ordained.

Sadly, not all believers live pure lives. The sins of some are evident, whilst the sins of others are carefully concealed, although they will eventually be revealed [verse 24]. For this reason it is important that time be taken to thoroughly investigate a person before ordaining them as elders. It is obvious that no one is perfect, but the qualifications set out earlier in Paul’s letter to Timothy must be clearly followed.

It is important to recognise that if an elder is ordained whose life is bound by sin and ungodliness, that the one appointing that person becomes a partaker in that person’s sin [verse 22b]. I guess that the modern words for this would “guilty by association”.

I have been puzzled as to why the exhortation to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake because he was frequently unwell [verse 23] should be included in this brief passage about the payment, discipline and appointment of elders. Recently I heard some suggest that the responsibility to appoint leaders given to Timothy by the apostle Paul caused him stress and that this would affect him physically. Wine would settle both his nerves and his stomach. This may seem far-fetched but perhaps not so when we consider that Timothy struggled with timidity [2 Timothy 1:7].

The fact that Paul clearly gave Timothy the responsibility to appoint elders raises the issue of whose responsibility it is today to appoint elders. Paul “commanded” Titus to appoint elders in Crete [Titus 1:5], and Paul and Barnabas, as apostles, had obviously appointed elders in the churches that they had planted [see Acts 14:23]. Obviously the local church elders would have a part in the appointing of new elders, but there is great value in having someone from outside the local church helping in the decision. Such a person would be in relationship with them, would be an elder in a local church [Paul was an elder in the church at Antioch], and have a proven effective spiritual ministry. There is no evidence in Scripture that an apostle is an appointed position, but rather that they have a gifting that is evident to all and a genuine God-given authority.

Questions:

Why do think it is that the person appointing an elder who is not worthy of being an elder becomes a partaker [shares] in that person’s sins?

Why is it important that a local church is led by good, spiritually-minded elders who have the respect of the congregation?

WHEN AN ELDER SINS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:19-21

Before we consider what Paul says about handling the problem of an elder falling into sin, we must address the issue of gossip. Paul makes it clear that we should not receive an accusation against an elder unless confirmed by two or three witnesses [verse 19]. The dangerous combination of Satan as the accuser of the brethren, and people gossiping and spreading rumours is very destructive and has caused some godly leaders to resign unnecessarily.

Paul gives three cautions to Timothy. The first is to be sure of the facts. The principle of witnesses is also stated in Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16 and 2 Corinthians 13:1. A person who makes an accusation against a Christian leader must support it with witnesses. Warren Wiersbe makes the comment, “‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ may be a good slogan for a volunteer fire department, but it does not apply to local churches. ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ could possibly mean that somebody’s tongue has been “set on fire of hell’! [James 3:6]” [Quoted from “Be Faithful,” p.82].

Paul’s second caution is to be open with the other elders if an elder has fallen into sin [verse 20]. Because Paul is writing about an eldership issue it is fair to assume that the word “all” refers to the other elders, and not to the whole body of believers. It is very sad when a believer falls into sin, but when an elder falls it is not only very sad but can seriously affect the faith of other believers. Issues of sin must not be covered up. The person who has done wrong should be given opportunity to repent, and if he does so he should be forgiven [2 Corinthians 2:6-11]. I often think of a well-known pastor who fell into immorality. He was deeply repentant. The elders were able to keep the issue to themselves, and other party’s involved, including the man’s wife, chose to remain quiet. He stepped down from ministry for a year, with the understanding that he was taking a sabbatical. At the end of the year he was restored as an elder in a most gracious way. Because someone has sinned does not mean it is the end of his or her ministry. If you think that is the case, then just read the story of David and his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51.

Paul’s third caution is to be impartial and without prejudice [verse 21]. However hard it may be, personal feelings or relationships must not cloud issues that have to be dealt with.

Finally, we must realise that the purpose of discipline is always restorative and not punitive. When seeking to restore someone it should be in a spirit of gentleness, and also with the realisation that we ourselves could fall into the same trap [Galatians 6:1-2]. Be as kind to others as you would be to yourself.

Questions:

If you discovered that an elder in your church was living a double-life and committing sin what would you do about it?

Why is it most important that in restoring someone who has sinned we are gentle and guard our own hearts?

SHOULD CHURCH ELDERS BE PAID?

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:17-25; 2 Corinthians 11:7-11

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching” [1 Timothy 5:17 NLT]

Having written about honouring true widows, Paul now turns his attention to honouring the church elders [verse 17-25]. He concentrates on two specific areas, paying the elders [verses 17-18], and the disciplining of elders who fall into sin [verses 19-22].

Elders who rule well, and especially those who “labour in the word and doctrine” [verse 17] are worthy of “double honour.” “Double honour” can be translated as “generous pay.” [The word “honour” here is used as in “honorarium.”]. If an elder really takes his ministry seriously, to the point that it requires much of his time, then it might well impinge upon his ability to earn an income in outside employment. If an elder/pastor is faithful in feeding and leading God’s people, then the church ought to be faithful and pay them adequately. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere, for instance, to the church at Corinth he wrote,What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the Law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who ploughs and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest” [1 Corinthians 9:7-10 NLT].

Interestingly, Paul used that same quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4 in writing to Timothy [1 Timothy 5:17], and even strengthened his argument by quoting the words of Jesus, “The labourer is worthy of his wages” [Luke 10:7]

It seems that Paul, an apostle and an elder in the Church at Antioch chose to deny himself the right to be paid, but received gifts from the churches [2 Corinthians 11:7], and also worked as a tentmaker to earn money to support his ministry and so not burden the churches [Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12;

1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8].

It is also true that an elder should never be in the ministry simply to earn money. I recently heard someone ask the question, “If God has called you to a ministry, and the church is not in a position to pay you, would you still continue in the ministry that God has called you to and trust Him to provide?” Here is in acid test of motive.

Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 9:14. What did Jesus command concerning those who preach the Gospel?

Why do you think that payment for those who serve in the church has been such an issue? What is your opinion having read what Paul has written?

PROVIDE FOR YOUR HOUSEHOLD

 

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:8

“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” [1 Timothy 5:8 New Living Translation]

In the context in which it is set this verse applies to the caring of elderly relatives and especially widows. However, in my own life God used this verse to speak very strongly into my heart, not in the context of elderly relatives, but my own wife and family. Commenting on this verse, Jack Hayford says, “A person who does not provide for his own family not only fails to live up to the principles of the faith that he professes, but fails to live up to the code of unbelievers concerning filial obligations” [The Spirit-Filled Life Bible]. These are strong words, “denied the faith” and “worse than unbelievers!”

Many years ago I paid up all our bills and was due to fly to Singapore and Indonesia the following day. After paying all the bills, I had just £102 pounds left, and told my wife that I would need money as I was travelling. In order to be “fair” I would only take £70 and leave £32 for her!

Paul’s word to Timothy about caring for your own household was part of my Bible reading that evening, and it brought me under deep conviction that I was doing wrong. The next morning I gave my wife £100 and left home with £2 in my pocket.

That trip was one of the most amazing times of my life. God provided a beautiful car for me in Singapore, and each time I received money I was able to bless others. It was in Singapore that I was able to pay for someone’s return airfare to be with her family in the UK. In Indonesia the Lord provided money to pay the shortfall on someone else’s annual house rent. In one of the meetings I was given a large gift. When I prayed about this the Lord told me that it was for my family. I had been on the road ministering for several years and away from home for nine months of each year. That gift paid for all our bills and the opportunity to rest and be together as a family for three months. When I arrived home I still had two one pound coins in my pocket. It all began with providing for my own family’s need.

When you do not take care of your family you forfeit God’s promise to provide, but when you do take care of your family, God will not only provide for them but also abundantly provide for you others through you.

Questions:

Why is it that a Christian who does not provide for his or her own family has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever?