Leading by Word and Example

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16)

God is so faithful to lead us where we need to go, both for our sake and for His glory, for His name’s sake. We have His Word and we have His Spirit as believers, and we have the Son who has bridged the gap between our lowly state and the majesty of the Father. He has provided all that we need to grow in Christlikeness, which is our great privilege. If this is true, that we need to continue to grow in Christlikeness, then we are saying and admitting that none of us have yet arrived at what we are to be. There is room for each of us to move forward in this faith we have been given. It is a relief, I think, when we can readily admit that we need help, that we need God in this life, in our spiritual walk, that we are all, in a sense, helpless on our own, but with hope we can look to God for strength.

This whole book that we have been looking at of 1 Timothy is a book where the apostle Paul is urging Timothy to lead well, to lead well those under his charge, to lead them to a more vibrant and pleasing relationship with Christ. Timothy’s mission was to lead the people spiritually, to lead them well, and to do this he had Paul urging him on in this task.

If Timothy was a natural born, independent, capable leader, then he wouldn’t need Paul to do this, and I guess he wouldn’t need Christ. But Timothy wasn’t that, he was a man who needed help to do what God had called him to do. Just because he struggled to lead well and therefore needed Paul to instruct him, that does not mean he wasn’t supposed to be a leader. He was supposed to lead spiritually those under his charge, but it was something he needed to grow into. He needed to experience God’s power in him to do what he was clearly called to do.

We mistakingly think, “Well, since I can’t lead well, maybe I’m not supposed to be a leader,” “Since I can’t teach well, maybe I’m not supposed to teach,” “Since I can’t evangelize well, maybe I’m not supposed to evangelize.” We can say these things, “I can’t do this or that,” even when we have clear instruction in God’s Word that we are to do them. When we do that we are wrong. God doesn’t call those to do His work who may naturally do the work already. He calls people and He makes them to be the people He wants them to be, He saves and He equips. He equips, He forms us to do His works for His glory.

Here is my point. Timothy had a long way to go to be a great leader, but the God who saved Timothy was committed to making him the leader he needed to be. Timothy needed to believe that. And Timothy needed to be humble enough to receive instruction from Paul. What did Timothy need to learn from Paul to be a spiritual leader? Several things that we will look at together. And as we look at them, please consider your role as a spiritual leader. Where has God put you to lead? Where does He have you so that you can lead well? Fathers and husbands, you are called to lead your families, so this is for you. Mothers, you are called to lead your children. Youth, you can be leaders among your friends. Elders and deacons, we are called to lead in the church. Each of us can lead, each of us should lead where God has put us to lead.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13)

This bit of instruction for Timothy ought to resonate with each of us who are believers in Christ. Here Paul is talking about literally reading the Scriptures in the church, exhortation, and teaching. And not just that he is to do this, but that he is to be devoted to it. What does that mean? It means that he is to give close attention to it. As one commentator says, “it implies previous preparation in private.” As a leader he is to do some outward, even public things, but not until he has properly prepared in private. That is where this devotion comes in, being devoted to it. The proclamation, exhorting, and teaching begins with a private preparation of the heart before God.

There is always a difference in just doing something versus being devoted to it. I can be a teacher, but that is different than being devoted to teaching. I can be a cyclist, but being a devoted cyclist, well that means more. Timothy was being called to be devoted to these three things. He was being called out to a serious level here, this goes way beyond doing a task but is instead giving all to the task, great effort to the task. And so as a spiritual leader Timothy was to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture. This was a commitment to reading God’s Word to the people under his care. Again, this is simply reading of the Scriptures in the worship service. This reading was always accompanied by explaining the Scriptures. So reading and explaining what was read. This is basically expository preaching. Read the text and explain the text. Spiritual leaders are to read the Bible and explain the Bible. Think about this in the context of a man in his home. Men, we should read the Bible and explain the Bible. You may say, “But I don’t understand the Bible, I don’t understand much of it.” Well, this is where our discussion on devotion comes in. We are to be devoted to studying it and understanding it so that we can explain it, right?

I wonder how serious we take this. We study all kinds of things. How to cook, how to repair the car, how to be a better fisherman, writer, parent, and so on. We are devoted to many things, but what about a devotion to understanding God’s Word to us so that we can explain it to others? In the area of your spiritual leadership you are called to this.

He goes on and says spiritual leaders are to be devoted to exhortation. Exhortation here means challenging or encouraging others to apply the truths learned from God’s Word. Once the Bible is read and understood it is to be applied. Sometimes, most of the time we need to be encouraged to apply it. We may say, “Oh that sounds good, that makes sense, I’m glad to know that,” but what about applying it? What about it being so real to us that it becomes a part of how we live?

Timothy was being instructed by Paul to press upon those under his spiritual care to make the Scriptures a living part of their lives. We have missed something if we become satisfied with simply passing on information to someone about God. We are to take another step with people and urge them to practice it, to practice it.

Next Paul goes on to say, be devoted to teaching. Spiritual leaders are to be teachers. Teaching here is explaining God’s Word. This may not be in public but could be one-on-one or in a small group, in church or in a home or on the streets. It is conveying to someone the truths of God’s Word. This too starts with devotion. It starts with a commitment to know God’s Word and this commitment continues through the process of teaching.

These three areas of devotion are important. They all have to do with putting God on display, we are commanded to put God on display in this world. And we are especially to do this with those under our spiritual care. These are marks of a spiritual leader.

Now for Timothy this was clearly a calling by God. God, as we will read, clearly called Timothy out to be a spiritual leader in the church. Timothy didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a pastor. He didn’t evaluate all the career choices of his day and say, “Well, preaching sounds good, I think I’ll do that.” No, it wasn’t like that for him. Here is how it went for him, as Paul describes it.

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:14)

The role that Timothy had as a leader in the church was doable for him because God had gifted him specifically for it. And this gifting was confirmed in him by prophecy through a council of elders.

He was doing God’s work, the work that God had given him to do as a spiritual leader. This does not mean his work was easy and didn’t take great focus and diligence to perform well. In fact, as we just read, Paul says don’t neglect this role, don’t neglect the gift given to you that is needed for the role God has put you in. The basic message is this: “Timothy, stay the course.”

Remember, he was a young man in a difficult culture with a constant barrage of false teachers trying to undermine his ministry and tear apart the church in which he served. By any human evaluation, we can imagine it would be easy for him to walk away with feelings of discouragement and defeat. And so this is all the more reason to remember his calling is from the master, from God Himself, his gifting was from God. God had appointed him for this no matter what the challenges may be. It is hard when one feels like everyone is against him and darts are flying from multiple angles. Quitting was not to be an option for Timothy, and so Paul urges him on no matter what his feelings may be telling him.

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Timothy 4:13-15)

The discussion moves from specific tasks to do, such as public reading and explanation, exhortation, teaching, not neglecting the gift given to you, remember your calling, to more intense words that give indication of complete absorption of responsibility. So much complete absorption of responsibility that such effort and devotion is clearly and unmistakably seen by others.

To “practice these things” carries with it the idea of planning and strategizing. When not actively doing the work of spiritually leading, he is to be planning to do that work. And he is to be immersed in these things. This is to be completely in them. To be totally consumed by his responsibility to lead spiritually. And again, this to happen in such a way so as to be seen by others. Neither Timothy nor any other person is perfect or even near perfect, and so there is great room for progress. A spiritual leader is in need of growth and that growth ought to be seen. It ought to be happening and it ought to be recognized by those he leads. Here is how Paul describes this type of spiritual growth in his own life from Philippians 3…

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Spiritual leadership is a necessity in God’s plan for His people. One of the greatest and most important places where there is a need for spiritual leadership is in the home. And the primary person who is to lead spiritually in the home is the father and husband. We can take all the points from our passage this morning and we can apply them to the role of a father and husband in the home. And how fathers and husbands lead in the home will affect the church and our communities.

Yesterday here at our church we had a leadership meeting which consisted of all of the elders, deacons, and current deacon candidates. It was a really good meeting, and I would say one of those meetings where the Spirit of God was at work. The topic that we spent most of our time on was this idea of leadership, spiritual leadership in the church and in our homes. There were ten men in this meeting and it was evident that the Lord had placed a burden on each one’s heart regarding this topic of spiritual leadership in the church and in our homes. We talked about this in two ways. First, many of us acknowledged our own struggles to lead well, to lead consistently in our homes. No one was there pretending to have gotten to a place of flawlessness as a spiritual leader. We know it’s hard because we have all and are all experiencing the challenges involved with such a significant task.

The second way we discussed this topic was looking more broadly at our church as a whole. We did not talk about any of you individually and none of your names were mentioned. It was not anyone’s intent to talk about individuals in that setting regarding leadership or lack of it in the homes of any of you. But we did all, 100%, agree that we are concerned and even burdened that many of you, along with us, are struggling to lead well. In fact we talked about what we are seeing, not just in our world or in churches at large but in our church of leadership issues around us. I mean, men not leading as men are called to lead. We determined after some time of discussion to do something, proactively, to resolve to the best of our abilities, with God’s strength, to remedy this problem that we see. We believe that men should step up and lead, that men should step up and be the spiritual leaders in the home and subsequently in the church.

Men, when Paul gave these instructions to Timothy he was instructing Timothy to lead well those under his spiritual care. Men, your wife and your children are under your spiritual care. How are you doing with that, honestly? We want to help you even as we want to grow as well. For the glory of Christ we need to grow as men in this area.

Here is what we are planning to do. On Sunday, July 10th, we want to have a church meeting and would like 100% participation of the men in our church. A church meeting just for men. And there we will outline for you all a plan for helping you and all of us to lead well as God has intended in our homes. It will be about a thirty minute meeting and it will be informational. We want to share with you the steps we plan to take, classes you can attend, books that we may read together, opportunities for accountability with others, and other things that will all have the goal of glorifying God by being the leaders God intends for us to be.

Many of you feel defeated in this area, lost as if stumbling in the dark, unable to move ahead for whatever reason, but by God’s grace we hope to navigate these waters of spiritual leadership together as a church for however long it takes to please God with our lives as we lead our families.

We will be talking more about this, but for now please put July 10th on your calendar after church and plan to attend. For you ladies and for the children who will be here while your husbands and fathers are in the meeting, we will have pizza for all of you, so you can enjoy lunch and fellowship together during that time.

Now, I want to share one other thing with you from our meeting yesterday. We also decided to make a Sunday morning schedule change for the summer months of July, August, and also September. For those months we are going to have one worship service instead of two. Our plan is for this to be a temporary summer schedule. We will bring in a few more chairs and will also have an overflow room upstairs if needed. Our worship service for those three months will be 10:00am to 11:00am, and Sunday school will be from 11:15am to 12:00 noon. So for the July 10th meeting for all the men, it will be after Sunday school at 12:00 noon on that day.

We are excited to see what God will do among the men in our church and in the families of our church as we seek the Lord together in this matter of spiritual leadership.

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Timothy 4:13-15)