Title: The Servant’s Success Comes through Faithfulness
Text: 1 Timothy 4.11-16
CP: Serve in such a way that you are an example to the believers of how they should conduct themselves.
Intro: Did you see this week’s article from the NY Times by Elisabeth Dias: “The Apocalypse as an ‘unveiling’: What religion teaches us about end times.”
She writes: For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah, even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.
Well, to be sure, all of this is for us to gain a picture of what end times will be like and be reminded that they’re coming. Lk 21. 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
So yes, we’re near the end times, but this pandemic isn’t the apocalypse. But according to the Lord, these events are warnings or signs of the end. These ‘episodes’ are opportunities for people to come to Christ. They are opportunities for people to see this as a forewarning of the apocalypse to come. That’s why we have the book of Revelation. Just as the Old Testament folks were told of the Christ and given opportunities for repentance – opportunities to trust and follow God, we likewise, are given information and opportunities. By the way, the word apocalypse is the Greek word we translate Revelation.
So how are we to live in this age of pandemics and wars? Do we live in fear? You and I as believers have an advantage over others who walk in darkness. We know who is in charge and that we don’t have to live in fear. Jesus says in the Matthew passage a couple of verses later that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. So, what’s more, important for us to ask is if that is happening. Are we busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing? I would say we must be busy about our work – taking the gospel to the nations – no matter the circumstances surrounding us.
This has been the topic of our study over recent weeks: service, ministry. But, to serve people without sharing the Gospel or without the underlying goal of sharing the Gospel falls short of our goal of letting people know that we’re all sinners, we all need forgiveness and God has provided that forgiveness through His Son Jesus. It’s falling short of what we have been called to do.
So, with this in mind, I’d like to turn our focus onto the individual: You, me.
In our study in 1 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy in his work. Let me cut to the chase – Paul tells Timothy that his success as a servant comes through faithfulness in what he does, in how he does it and in his consistency to that work.
I’ve outlined it this way – The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:
- In what you do (11-12)
- In how you do it, and (13-14)
- In your consistency to it (15-16)
Our context is godliness, so keep that in mind as we make our way through this passage on the servant and the task; This theme of godliness really flows throughout the letter. In 3.14-16, Paul states his purpose in writing this letter, to encourage Timothy to teach the church about who she is, how she should behave and what it is she believes. And what she believes is that her godliness comes through the atoning work of Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. That godliness then comes through the believer’s life in what he does and how he acts.
Don’t forget this: in all of your ‘doing’ it doesn’t make you godly. Let that sink in! This doesn’t mean you don’t do the work of the ministry, but rather that your ministry flows from your godliness – that was the focus last week.
In 4.1, Paul points to the false teachers and their false godliness, achieved by what they do and don’t do. And then in the passage we looked at last week, Paul encourages Timothy in his personal godliness: to nourish himself through the word of God and exercise his godliness daily as he lives out his life.
We’re still in the context of godliness, Paul now brings this section to a conclusion. It is a transitional paragraph to more teaching on how the church should behave; on how they should be godly in their behavior toward each other. So, Paul focuses now on Timothy’s work – his service. And just what is that work? We see it in v11, v13, and v16: teaching.
Timothy is encouraged to faithfully serve through his teaching – which combats the false teachers and directs the believers in a proper direction and understanding.
So, these are the three sections
The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:
- In what you do (11-12)
- In how you do it, and (13-14)
- In your consistency to it (15-16)
Transition: let’s look 1st at The Servant’s Success come through faithfulness:
- In what you do
exp.: Timothy is commanded here: imperatives; there are actually 12 imperatives from v6-16; there are 10 in our text (11-16); I’ve lost some of you kids; you guys know what an imperative is: clean your room; take out the trash; It is a command; Paul is giving his orders to Timothy; command and teach these things; ‘these things’ is repeated (6, 11, 15, v 16 pronoun); this is the job you’ve been assigned – do your job!
But Paul anticipates problems for Timothy, more problems of what he’s probably been dealing with; rd v 12; We see in v 11-12 two areas of focus:
- A Focus on others: Command & Teach these things
- A Focus on Oneself: Let no one despise (think against) you, but set the example (‘be the type’); tupos; type, be the type of Christian you’re teaching them to be.
- In 5 ways: Speech, Conduct, Love, Faith, and Purity.
Our focus this morning is on the servant. The context is, of course, Timothy. He is the pastor there. But as a servant, the same principles apply to you. You want to do what you have been called to do, and you want to do it faithfully. And as you serve, you want to be the type of Christian that is an example for others to follow. Notice the 1st two characteristics (Speech & Conduct) are external and the last two (Faith & Purity) are internal. Love binds them all together.
What’s even more interesting to me is that these characteristics are the exact opposite of what the false teachers were presenting.
The False Teachers were just the opposite
- In Speech: They were babblers, vain, foolish talkers (1.6)
- In Conduct: these guys have brought disrepute upon the church and have caused many to stray (6.10)
- In Love: These guys are lovers of money and themselves (3.3; 6.10)
- In Faith: they’ve made shipwreck of their faith (1.19); departed from the faith (4.1)
- In Purity: which these guys have stained; their false teaching spreads like gangrene (6.12; 2 Tim 2.17)
app.: But not so with Timothy, and not so with you and me, as we set the believers an example to be followed.
t.s.: The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness: In what you do, and next, in how you do it.
- In how you do it (13-14)
exp.: rd v 13a; until I come, harkens back to his expectation of delay, as seen in 3.14; I can’t help but hear the Word of the Lord for us to devote ourselves to the work He has called us to do. Rd 6.6f; 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
Mt. 28.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Js 5 7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Repeated in God’s Word we’re encouraged, exhorted to our word from the text, to devote ourselves to the task at hand, to serve faithfully, because the Lord’s return is imminent.
Look at v 14; rd v 14; as before, so we see again how Paul calls charges Timothy to conduct his work with a focus on others but to not neglect a focus on himself in fulfilling this duty. Two areas of focus:
- A Focus on others through ministry: Command & Teach these things
- A Focus on Oneself in that ministry: Let no one despise (think against) you, but set the example
- A Focus on others through ministry: Public Reading of Scriptures, Exhortation, Teaching
- A Focus on Oneself in that ministry: Do not neglect the gift you have;
I love that teaching is focused on again (11&13); because teaching is his ministry, it is his service.
app.: Your gifting may be teaching, just like Timothy’s. But your gifting may be in other areas. I don’t know what you’ve been called to do but do it well. Success in your service comes through faithfulness to what you do and how you do it (utilizing your gifts).
t.s.: finally, The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:
- In your consistency
exp.: Look at the three words Paul uses to encourage Timothy’s consistency: practice, immerse, persist; I love the word practice – as in what lawyers and doctors do: they practice law or medicine. The idea of practicing something means to apply what you’ve been theorizing. It is the application of your contemplation. Cambridge Dictionary: action rather than thoughts or ideas. And that fits so well with servants who consider what they’re called to do and then practice it. Practice, immerse yourself, persist in this; actually, the pronoun is plural. I like most other translations: persist in these.
Transition: Now, before you think my message is teaching that the results depend solely upon the servant and his ability to keep to the task…
ill.: E. Stanley Jones, Methodist Missionary to India in the early 1900s, presents a wonderful illustration that fits our teaching this morning. He says there are three types of people. There is the rowboat Christian who knows what to do and does it. The work hard and things move. But, if they stop, so does the work. The work is dependent on their abilities, their strength, and – well, it just depends totally upon them. But progress is slow and hard.
There is the 2nd person – the sailboat. This person knows what to do, but success is so dependent upon other things: circumstances, situations, etc. Sailboat Christians can get so much done when life is good and everything is moving along with no interruptions, with nothing to sideline them. As the sailboat can move so much faster than a rowboat, at times, it just sits dead in the water because it is so dependent upon outside forces.
And finally, there is the Steamboat. Steamboat Christians move forward because of what’s inside. It’s circumstances of wind, or a lack of wind, don’t stop it. It progresses against the current, against the wind, and just keep chugging along because of what is inside. And for the believer, we understand this is the Spirit of the Living God taking up residence in our souls, empowering us.
app.: This is so important to remember because a life of service without the spirit is legalism. This is our first take-a-way for the day.
1. A life of service without the Spirit is legalism. There are a lot of people working really hard during this time. You can identify this problem in your own life because those who are doing this work in their own power usually grow resentful and bitter.
I’m reminded of a MASH scene where a sickness runs through the camp. For some reason, Father Mulcahy doesn’t get the sickness and he serves others with such excitement. I think because so often he feels useless. Now, while others are in need, he can serve – and he does. In this scene, he’s washing the soiled sheets in a big washbasin and just singing, “This is the way we wash our sheets, wash our sheets, wash our sheets…” Now Major Winchester comes in from some time away and he walks into this sickness running throughout the camp.” He’s needed, but he doesn’t want to serve. Major Houlihan says otherwise. The scene ends with Major Winchester washing the sheets with him singing the same song Father Mulcahy sings, only he’s obviously not as enthusiastic.
A life of service without the Spirit is no different than what the Pharisees did. And with that comes a vengeance to protect the position you’re in and not the people you’re serving.
So how do you keep from getting that way? Can I share from experience? I think Paul does a great job of reminding us through his letter to Timothy that we need to keep our focus on two spheres: our work to others and ourselves. For ourselves, he uses negatives:
2. Remember the two spheres of focus:
- Service – serving others, but in our work don’t forget:
- Self – you have to take care of yourself.
- Be the example of what a servant is. (don’t let others despise you)
- Use your gifts, serve out of who you are. (don’t neglect your gift)
3. Remember as you serve the Lord, he’s fully aware of what is going on.
Do you remember the story of the Lord’s Supper? Do you remember how it all came about? In Mark 14.12-16 it reads: 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Now, note that the Lord knows a man is going to be coming their way entering into the city – at the same time they’re there. 2nd, they follow this man to a house – where he goes in and they follow him. Notice also, the room is already prepared!
I’ve learned through the years that God sends us to places he already knows about and has already worked out the details. I promise you: God already knows about this virus and how it will play out in our lives. If he calls you into service, he’s worked out your details, too. God is going to do what he does to glorify himself.