Going the Distance

6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

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 4:6-16)

If I could summarize for you verses 11-16, I would do it like this…

Command and teach God’s Word
Be an example with your speech
Be an example with your conduct
Be an example with your love
Be an example with your faith
Be an example with your purity
Devote yourself to read the Scriptures
Devote yourself to encourage application of the Scriptures
Devote yourself to teaching the Scriptures
Do not neglect your gifts from God
Practice all these things
Immerse yourself in all these things
Let everyone see your progress in godliness
Watch yourself closely
Watch your teaching very closely
Be persistent in your walk

Why did God create our world? Why did God create people in this world? Why did God create people who would hate Him and be enemies of His and of His righteous ways? And then, why has God chosen to take His enemies, those who hate Him and hate His ways, and call them His children and love them as His own? Why did God allow for His Son to take the punishment of these, His children, to suffer in their place so that they would not suffer His wrath?

It is an incredible flow of real events, that is, God’s plan of saving many from their sins and sparing them their due punishment. And the punishment is devastating, that is the punishment that true believers will not have to face, that they deserve but won’t have to face. I don’t think we comprehend well what we, as Christians, will not have to face but what we deserve. I don’t even know if we comprehend well what we really deserve. Hell is more, much worse than we can comprehend and we have been rescued from it. God’s wrath is much worse than we can comprehend and we have been rescued from it.

Salvation is an incredible, miraculous plan of God’s, and that any of us can be a part of such an awesome plan is stunning. But by faith, through Christ we can obtain it. Such an incredible event, our salvation, does not just then play a minor part in our lives. It dramatically effects all of those to whom it is effectual. No one is saved to go on to live a normal life. No one is saved and not changed. And all that we have been talking about over the last few weeks from 1 Timothy 4 points to radical change, points to a new life in Christ. Only one who has been changed and is growing in change can live a life according to God’s Word.

This is part of the change, this is the change that Paul describes to Timothy and that should mark our lives as well. Total commitment, that is what we have here:

Command and teach God’s Word
Be an example with your speech
Be an example with your conduct
Be an example with your love
Be an example with your faith
Be an example with your purity
Devote yourself to read the Scriptures
Devote yourself to encourage application of the Scriptures
Devote yourself to teaching the Scriptures
Do not neglect your gifts from God
Practice all these things
Immerse yourself in all these things
Let everyone see your progress in godliness
Watch yourself closely
Watch your teaching very closely
Be persistent in your walk

Now look at verse 16, we haven’t discussed this verse yet and it is a very key verse for us in this paragraph that describes Christian living.

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 4:16)

Paul says, “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” He starts with simply saying, “Timothy, pay close attention to yourself. Watch yourself.” This statement that speaks of detail, watch closely, pay attention, this is what a parent might say to a young child who is learning something new. Or what a coach may say to his player. Or what a math teacher might say to his student. Pay attention!

What is he to pay attention to? To his life, to how he lives his life. What does this include? Everything! From personal holiness, to obedience, to relationships, to words, to actions, to thoughts, to all the the do’s in life. The thing is, he is now a child of God, and so living life now is to be about living for God and not himself. If life is about just living for self then we can do whatever we feel like, at any moment, whatever we feel like doing. But this is never to be the case for true Christians. In Christ we are God’s children and He is our Father and we are to live as He instructs us to live. And sometimes this means we will do things that may go against our feelings at any given time. We may at times feel like letting our neighbor have it with a verbal attack and yet we are called to love our neighbors and even our enemies and to speak the truth in love and to never let corrupt words come from our mouths. Our feelings say, “Let them have it,” but our God says, “Wait…wait…do it this other way.”

What is the purpose of this? Why is it so important to watch our own lives carefully, to pay attention to how we live our lives? It is important because we are here to represent Him.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

We are to represent Christ in this world and God makes His appeal to mankind through people, through His ambassadors. God could just come down and speak directly to people, but He chooses to make His appeal through His people. And that appeal will at least in some part seem genuine or not based on whether those who speak on behalf of Christ are really living out the message or not. This may sound like a trivial example, but if the salesman does not even use the product he is selling, then why would I use it? If the messenger of God does not want and desire to live out the message, then why would anyone else? I’m not saying the messenger is somehow sinless, that is not possible, but where is his heart in the matter? That is important to know.

And so paying careful attention to our walk will impact the message proclaimed, right? This is a scary thing for the preacher to say. It is scary because, I know for me personally, my life often does not rise to the high level of my own preaching. I wish it did, I want it to, but I too fall short. I am not talking about perfect living, only moving in the direction of holy living with an ever growing desire for such living.

But if we are not paying close attention to our lives, then we will end up all over the place spiritually and will never move consistently closer to where God desires that we be. So we have to keep a close watch on ourselves and forever be evaluating our walk up against what God has given us in His Word. This can be hard.

And here is another thing: part of this being watchful must include listening to others and their observations of us. There is no place for arrogance here. We need people who will speak truth to us, they are gifts from God.

There is another thing we are to keep a close watch on, and that is our teaching. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”

Teaching God’s Word is a serious matter. It is amazing really, how lightly some take it. James 3:1 gives us insight into this: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

There is or should be a seriousness about God’s Word, a seriousness that causes us to carefully use it when speaking to others. As ambassadors of God we should never say something is from God if it’s not. We should never say, “Well, God says this or that,” when He has not said that at all. I hear people, and you do too, attribute certain things to God that He never said. You may hear someone say, “God is a loving God and He would never send anyone to hell.” Well, God is a loving God, that part is true, but He is also a righteous judge and many will go to hell. People all the time make erroneous statements about God or what God has said. But as for us, we should watch out that we don’t do that.

And while we should be careful, we have all probably misspoken about God at some time. The point is that we need to be careful. We need to be careful that we don’t just say things because we have always thought them to be true, but we should only speak things about God and His ways when we know them to be true from His Word.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” Because we belong to God, because holiness matters, because the world is watching, because truth matters.

Paul then says this: “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Paul says to persist in these things, to stay focused on these things, these new ways of living in Christ. This is a call to persevere in the truths of God. Paul in this book has spoken much of those who will abandon the faith. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Now we see the contrast – those who will not depart. To not depart is to persevere. Quitting is not an option for the believer; being tempted to quit, maybe so, but not quitting.

God has never promised us or any other believers that life will be easy. I would say we are in for a rough time of it as Christians in this culture, but that has been true for Christians in almost every culture at every time. The question is will we persevere in this faith that we proclaim? Will we continue on even in the face of really hard things? Here is how some who have gone before us have described their lives…

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

Many have suffered before us, we may be called upon to suffer greatly, but if we do, will that suffering prove our faith? Will we persevere?

Jesus was so upfront with His disciples about how things would be in the last days.

3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:3-13)

Who will be saved? “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Those who persevere, who endure are those who truly belong to God through Christ.

Today is Father’s Day. We haven’t talked about Father’s Day yet this morning. But now I’m going to. Fathers, this message today is for you. Not just for you, but especially for you. God is giving us here what it looks like to be a person after His own heart. Men, we should take the lead here. We should be the ones who stand up and say, “Yes, I want to be a man of God, God help me to be a man for you.”

Fathers, as weak as we are, we should be leading the way for our families and for our church. As helpless as we feel at times, remember we aren’t to be ruled by our feelings. As helpless as we may feel at times, we should be the ones willing to lead in these truths. Men, we should be the examples of faith for our families, we should be living the faith, teaching this faith, calling upon the Lord for strength. We should be the examples. I am praying this for all of you men, I am praying that God will raise us up to be His ambassadors in our families and in our church and in this sometimes hostile world.

Men, we should, by the strength of Christ…

Command and teach God’s Word
Be an example with your speech
Be an example with your conduct
Be an example with your love
Be an example with your faith
Be an example with your purity
Devote yourself to read the Scriptures
Devote yourself to encourage application of the Scriptures
Devote yourself to teaching the Scriptures
Do not neglect your gifts from God
Practice all these things
Immerse yourself in all these things
Let everyone see your progress in godliness
Watch yourself closely
Watch your teaching very closely
Be persistent in your walk

This is our calling.

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)