In April, we started walking through 1 Timothy with our leadership team at Grace. We will walk through 2 Timothy and Titus as part of this exercise. I wanted to share our thoughts with you. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of our leadership at Grace to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.
1 Timothy 1
Paul instructs Timothy to fight the good fight. Leadership in any capacity is wrought with turmoil in a sinful world. The very thing that Timothy must fight against is the tendency of some in the church to move away from a grace-based message and operation by faith toward a works-based system and a system in which things that are worthless are taught. Considering this, there are times when the leader has to choose to do something that will be unpopular or that will be met with resistance even though it is in the best interest of those he or she leads. This requires a strong stomach and a strong resolve. According to Paul, there are those who ha rejected the truth and who have rejected working for people’s good. Whether it was because they wanted to be popular or wanted to please people by giving in to popular preference, even if it might be unhealthy, Paul’s statement was that in giving up the truth, God’s administration by faith as opposed to works and the preaching of God’s word alone, some have shipwrecked their faith. There is a great cost when it comes to being a leader, especially in the church. Observing God’s administration, at all cost, is worth more than the pleasure of the people we serve. We work for two things, the glory of God and the good of others. This is a difficult mindset for any leader to keep, especially in an age when it is acceptable for ‘churches’ or organizations to lack commitment and regard their leaders as expendable. Sadly, it has become the norm in the basic operations of many churches and organizations to operate in such a way or do certain things that send a clear message: we have commitment issues. Many leaders do the same.
1 Timothy 2
Paul, then, begins to make specific application in how he would want Timothy, his student and the elder of the churches in Ephesus at this point. His first instruction was not that Timothy should openly bring complaints against people. It wasn’t that he should immediately come up with an answer to various problems. Timothy was not to be worried about retaining church membership or increase financial giving. Paul’s first application was that Timothy should pray. Before anything else, pray. Why? I believe it is because our vision is clouded by our own unrighteousness. Before we can do anything, our hearts must be rightly motivated. The only way to be rightly motivated is for us to listen intently to the motivator, the Holy Spirit. This idea should be familiar. Paul wrote at the beginning of his letter that God’s administration is by faith.
Prayer was to consist of petitions, intercessions, and thinksgivings being made for everyone. If someone is doing something I don’t agree with, my first prerogative is to pray for that person, that he or she is striving to live by faith. I should also give thanks for this person, for God has given them convictions for a reason. Added to this, I ought to ask God to reveal my own heart because I may be wrongfully criticizing someone else and not understanding why they do things the way that they do.
These prayers accomplish something in our own hearts and in the way that we live. They produce within us tranquility and a quiet spirit in all godliness and dignity. This pleases God because we become able to overcome ourselves and follow Him by faith. We are made able to fight the good fight and participate with God, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, as He works all things together.
Consequently, if we do not have a tranquil and a quiet spirit and we fail to seek understanding in prayer, we become obstacles to the Gospel. It is actually dangerous for us and for the people we lead when we get caught up in ourselves. Leaders, I beg you to seek first understanding in prayer and through genuine inquisition regarding all matters. For, we will either love Christ or love our perceived authority.
After all, we are not mediators between God and others. The preacher isn’t. The deacon isn’t. The CEO isn’t. The trustee isn’t. The ministry leader isn’t. The Sunday School teacher isn’t. The president of the United States isn’t. Jesus Christ is the only mediator. There may be a very real reason He has led someone else to do things a certain way. Our leadership, then, does not mean that we have the responsibility to be someone else’s conviction. Our objective as leaders is to point people to Christ. It is Christ who changes hearts. If we do something or say something or complain or gossip or sing or take up the offering or preach in a way that does not point people first to Christ, we lead in vain. Our positions mean nothing and are of no value.
All people, then, should be resolved to humility in all things; in prayer, in clothing (not dressing as though we are better than anyone else), having a spirit of quietness and dignity without complaining because we don’t promote ourselves or others. We promote only Christ and wish to operate at His pleasure by faith. So, there are things that will always try to steal our attention. Someone will complain about something. Someone will leave us or reject us because of our convictions. Leadership is difficult. Fight the good fight, brothers and sisters. Further God’s administration by faith.