Our Charge: Faithfulness

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

One of the primary ways we can honor God is by simply being thankful. Last Thursday was Thanksgiving in our American tradition. As with most of our holidays, it is easy to think about many things other than what the holiday is supposed to represent. I hope that each of us took some time to reflect on the many blessings that God has given to us as Christians. For some, the holidays are festive, happy, and enjoyable. Others may want them to be festive and happy, but are reminded instead of sad events and lonely times. Some have plenty, even excess as far as need, while others may be struggling with having enough. And while we are all in different places in life, in this world, all of us have much for which to be thankful to our God.

In Ephesians 1 when Paul writes that we have been blessed, he is not speaking to a select few Christians, but to all Christians. Our rescue from eternal sadness and grief to a union with Christ leading to peace today and exuberant joy in the future, these are reasons to be thankful. I mean our list, for each one of us, our list of thankfulness just in this life should be almost endless. We have the Holy Spirit in us, we have His strength by which to live, we have all of our needs met with a promise that they will always be met, we have people around us ministering to us in the name of Christ, we have ministry to do that God has appointed us to. Our list for today is almost endless, but then adding our list that continues into eternity leaves us speechless. We are blessed, we have reason to be thankful, we have reason to be the most thankful people. I am not saying life is not at times very hard, but I am saying that even in those hard times, we have reason to be thankful.

The Psalmist gives such colorful descriptions of what we have in Christ…

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:31-36)

One thing that we see in this Psalm is that our foundation is strong in Christ, it will not crumble. If your foundation, the one you are standing on and relying on seems to be crumbling under you, then you are not standing, placing your faith in the right foundation. God is our Rock.

If you have not taken the time to thank the Lord for His many blessings given to you or if you are having a hard time even recognizing those blessings, I would encourage you to step back, to bow before the Lord, to read the Psalms and to begin to rehearse who you are in Christ, as a Christian, and how He has held you up, and to focus further on what lies ahead for you as a child of the Everlasting King. Your inheritance is in Christ.

The greatest of all blessings is this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” God saves through His Son. Whatever challenges we have, whatever disappointments we endure, this truth still stands and should rise above, in all cases, whatever strife or troubles we face. Truths that are unalterable like this great truth, this one is meant to reign over others. 

When God saves through Jesus Christ, we then, as new creations in Christ, have a new path on which to live. He saves us and gives us a place in His Kingdom where we can contribute in His power in this world, contribute our time and efforts to glorify Him or to make the realities of His character known to those around us. And so we get to participate, to play a part in the process of bringing attention to Him. And this is why Paul says what he says to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18-20.

What he says specifically in verse 18 and the beginning of 19 is what Timothy is to do for God’s glory, and in the last part of verse 19 through verse 20 Paul gives attention to the consequences of not living as God has prescribed. That last part is important. We don’t want to be lulled into some place where we think that there are no consequences to our rejection of God’s principles. I am afraid that there are too many people, church raised people, who have bought into some false idea that to veer off the path that God has prescribed, that this can be done without terrible consequences. You cannot choose your own path and be happy or content in life. It is a lie. God loves you enough to do what it takes to bring you back if you are a rebellious Christian. And sometimes that “whatever it takes” is very hard, very painful, all done to turn us back to the beauty of Christ. If you are not a believer then God may do the same thing. He may let you suffer, He may let you get to the end of yourself, but I pray that in the end He will draw you to Himself. Paul talks about those who have rebelled, and we will get to that part of this passage next time, Lord willing. But for today let’s see the positive side, that is, what Paul instructs Timothy to do in his walk with the Lord.

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

Paul “charges” Timothy with something. This is instructing Timothy, as with a command. It is not a suggestion, it is not like, “Timothy I think this is a good idea for you.” No, it is much stronger than that, this is Paul commanding Timothy as inspired by God. Paul was being direct here. He says, “This charge I entrust to you.” Entrust here is to give Timothy something, it is like passing down a truth from generation to generation. These are like formal words, a formal passing down of something important. What Paul is passing down is what will help Timothy tremendously with the problem of false teachers that are all around. There was a real struggle with false teachers in Ephesus. 

You know, when there are problems around us we tend to do one of two things. We work to resolve them, or we do nothing and let them continue. Now all of us, we go after solutions, right? We see spiritual issues and problems and we work to resolve them, right? No, not really. We may at times, but other times most of us are guilty of letting them ride, maybe hoping they will work themselves out. Timothy was a church leader, a spiritual leader, and yet we can gather here that he needed urging to act. 

We are all different. Church leaders are different. Paul didn’t seem to need much encouragement to actively preach and teach truth in any circumstance, he was bold in the face of conflict. Timothy on the other hand, maybe not so much. But in his apparent timidity, God sends this man Paul to urge him on, to cheer him on, and Paul does exactly that.

I tell you, this is a great example of the importance of plurality of leadership in our churches. And not only that, it is a great example of having strong Christian brothers and sisters around us who can help us in our timidity, who can encourage us when we are weak, who can hold us up in our pain and grief and confusion. We need one another, and Timothy needed Paul, and Paul is willing to step in with this much needed encouragement.

He calls Timothy his child. He loves Timothy as a child, he shepherds Timothy as his child. Paul is a spiritual leader to Timothy and has been for awhile now. Paul invests his life in this younger man. Paul alone cannot accomplish the worldwide evangelism and shepherding of Christians that is needed in his world. He was a great servant of God, but no man can do it all, no woman can do it all. And so there is this investing in others, discipling of others. Jesus did it too with the twelve. 

In the early days of what I now see as God’s calling of me into ministry – I didn’t see it that way at the time, but you know, sometimes we can better interpret the past that we can the present – in those early days I had a man in my life that really encouraged me in my faith, but also in ministry. His role in my life was so significant that, humanly speaking, it is hard for me to see that I would have ever gotten into this kind of ministry without his role in my life. He could envision pastoral ministry for me long before I could see it. In many ways, I was Timothy and he was my Paul. The writer of Hebrews said this…

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (Hebrews 10:23-24)

This stirring up is encouraging each other to love and to good works.

Paul refers to a prophecy that was made about Timothy in particular. We don’t have details on this, but we see in Acts how God set certain people apart for particular works there in the first century. For instance we see this of Paul in Acts 13…

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)

We don’t have an account just like that of Timothy, but we do see sort of a commissioning of him in 1 Timothy 4:14, which says, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” There was a formal setting Timothy apart by a council of elders for ministry. Again, this reminder to Timothy should help him with the tasks put before him, that is that others were involved in his calling or in recognizing God’s call in his life. 

Many people struggle with questions like, “What is my gift from God?” Or, “How am I equipped to serve?” And there are all kinds of worksheets and surveys and resources that people have created to help us figure out what we are to be doing in this Christian life of service. Many of those resources may be helpful, but here is another thing. How about asking those close to you, those who will be honest with you. How about asking fellow believers, “What do you see me doing well? Will you pray with me and help me seek God and figure out how I might serve more effectively?” Many times others may have a more clear picture than we do of our giftings and strengths and weaknesses. Timothy’s entrance into Christian ministry was a group effort, it was apparently confirmed by Christians around him. I think that is important.

So Paul commands Timothy, he entrusts Timothy, he loves Timothy as his child in the faith, and he reminds him of his calling through prophecy, and then he says, “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” Paul is urging Timothy to wage the good warfare while holding the faith and a good conscience.

This waging of the good warfare, or your translation may read “fight the good fight,” suggests a significant, even grueling spiritual battle. Maybe this gives us a hint as to why Paul’s encouragement was necessary. The exertion of mental, emotional, and even physical energy will be necessary for such a conflict. There is nothing that makes this sound easy, even for a trained, now somewhat seasoned leader. I do think it is interesting though that Paul didn’t jump right to this call to fight the good fight. He started by building excitement over what Timothy’s role should be. Yes it is a fight, yes it is spiritual warfare, yes it is hard and uncomfortable and maybe inconvenient. You know, maybe if everyone would have just acted right at the church at Ephesus where Timothy ministered, then perhaps he could have just relaxed, and enjoyed the fine climate and other comforts in life. But the truth is, there were battles going on. By the way, there always are. But just because something is hard, that doesn’t mean there cannot be some excitement over doing just what you know God has set you up to do! We are to be engaged in the spiritual battles around us, and God is our strength in them. God gives us His armor for the battle.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Our timidity to fight the good fight usually comes when we look at ourselves and see the inadequacies in us, instead of looking to the foundation on which we stand in Christ and the strength that He gives. One is a focus on ourselves which never goes well, and the other is a focus on our God which is our calling.

This fight must be occur while “holding faith and a good conscience.” Paul unites faith with a good conscience. Faith refers to a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, a personal faith in Him. The good fight must occur while united with Christ by faith. This then helps to keep the spiritual battle in right perspective. The fight happens because of a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a fight for Him, with Him in mind, with His glory in mind. It is not a fight for our glory, for our exaltation, it is not to lift us up, it is not so we can push our agenda or personal preferences. It is a battle because of our faith in Christ Jesus, it has to be for His glory alone.

It also must be with a good conscience. Paul mentions something similar, mixing faith and conscience in 1:5 – “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Also in 3:9, speaking of deacons: “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” In 1:5 the suggestion is that only an obedient Christian can enjoy a good conscience. Paul is linking faithfulness or trusting in Christ with behavior that lends itself to a good conscience. Faith in Christ, true faith is linked to obedient living. This is an important point. And so rebellion can be linked to a lack of trusting in Christ or lack of saving faith in Christ. This is the “holding faith and a good conscience.”

I opened this morning talking about being thankful. Our greatest need has been met in Christ. If you don’t see that or don’t believe that, or if you are wavering to believe that Christ and our salvation in Him is our greatest need, then you are missing the grand design of redemption and the truth that God can supply all our happiness, meeting all our needs, and can do that in Christ. 

Please don’t settle for promises of happiness that will never deliver true happiness and joy. Don’t take that hard road, what the Bible calls the broad road that leads to destruction. That is the road that most take and most will not be saved from it. But for you, you have heard truth and today is the day of salvation. Join with those around you and be saved, and then be thankful.

This salvation then leads to a walk of faith, a new path that is like a war. It is a spiritual war, spiritual battle, but not one that we fight on our own. It is one that we are given the strength to fight, holding on to faith and a clear conscience. That is what we were designed for, that is where we find abundant life, that is where we do what we were created to do for the glory of Christ.

Don’t settle for less, don’t give into something less, don’t be fooled by what is not real and what cannot, will not satisfy you. You were, I was, like Timothy, created for more. Stand for Christ.

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. (1 Timothy 1:18-19a)