Friday, August 19, 2011

A Good Servant of Jesus – 1 Tim 4:6-8

If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." (NLT)

What Christian doesn’t want to be a good servant of Jesus? In this case, Paul was writing to Timothy. That means that I can get some general truths about what a good servant is but I don’t think I can do exactly what Timothy was supposed to do, as my life is different from his. I’m not a young pastor who needed to warn his congregation about departing from the faith by listening to doctrines taught by demons including false rules about marriage and food.
To be a good servant, Timothy needed to make these things clear to his people. I can be a good servant as I sit in the congregation and be attentive to what my pastor is teaching then put it into practice. Of course, there is much more to being a good servant and I can look to other Scriptures to understand some of these things.
It’s always good to find out how Jesus taught and demonstrated a principle. John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” (RSV) A good servant is one who is doing his master’s will. In fact, it Jesus didn’t just do the Father’s will, but the way He phrased this, it was His motivation and desire. It was what kept Him going. I find this hard to do. There are many distractions in the world and each seems good and right. However, they can take my focus off doing the Father’s will. Each of us has to examine our activities to make sure they aren’t distractions. They can be things like wanting to earn a living, staying or getting healthy, getting married, preserving a marriage, or raising children. Sometimes they can be lofty goals such as writing a book that will change lives for the better, feeding the hungry in Africa or Asia, or bringing clean drinking water to villages. Motivation for doing these things is often what determines whether or not they are God’s will or a distraction.
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (NKJV) As I think about motivation, I have to decide if what I’m doing is something I want to do or is it something that I know the Father wants me to do. In my previous list, I mentioned earning a living. That is certainly something that God wants each of us to do. 1 Tim 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (NIV) In examining this desire, it passes the test of being in God’s will. However, the wrong motivation can mess up being a good servant. If I’m only providing for my family so that I’ll have respect among other, maintain my reputation as a believer, or to become wealthy, then I’m not being a good servant. The motivation or attitude for all goals in life can be summed up in one short verse. 1 Cor 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)
It is very easy for me to trick myself into believing I’m doing what the Father wants. Our desires are very powerful as James points out, we are lured and enticed by our desires which then give way to sin (James 1:14-15). It takes a lot of soul searching to make sure that the things I’m doing are truly for God and not for myself. I have to ask the Lord to search me and reveal to me whether I’m doing this to bring honor to myself or if it is what He wants. 1 Cor 4:4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (RSV) Even Paul considered the fact that he could be acting with a clear conscience and still not be motive properly.
A Good Servant Is Nourished by the Word
One of the ways that I can let the Lord search me and reveal to me whether my motivations are my own desires or His will is to be reading and studying His Word daily. When I’m nourished by food, I must take the time to eat, chew, and let it digest. In the same way, I must take time to read the Bible. A bite here and there will not work. If I don’t chew on the Word, think about it, and work on understanding, it will be ineffective in nourishing my soul. I also need to make sure that it digests so that it becomes a part of my life. Someone said that you are what you eat. I think that applies to the Word of God also. If His Word is nourishing me then I will become more like Jesus.
Jer 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. (NKJV) Does God’s Word bring joy to my heart or is it a chore or duty to read it daily so that I can cross it off my list? It is possible to lose the awe for His Word that first saved me. It is possible to read and not see the Glory of the Lord in all that He is and all that He has done. If I am called by the name of Christ, then I have reason to have joy and I should know His Word and the promises found in His Word.
Peter commanded us in 1 Peter 2:2 to crave pure spiritual milk. I not only need to enjoy the Word of God, but I must crave and desire it. It has to be a longing that is there every day. The craving for the Word of God is the same as craving to be in the presence of the Father. There is no church, temple, or place on earth where we can be any nearer to God than when we are dwelling on His Word. David expressed it wonderfully. Ps 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? (NASB) When I thirst for God and hunger and thirst for righteousness, then I will have a craving for His Word and will be nourished by it.
A Good Servant Doesn’t Waste Time
I’m not supposed to be arguing over godless ideas or old wives’ tales. That is a waste of time. If I spend some time thinking about these and writing about them, can it be called arguing about them and wasting my time and the time of anyone who reads this? If you think so, then skip to the next section. However, I need to describe some godless ideas and old wives’ tales so that I know what to avoid.
Godless ideas are philosophies that invoke emotional discussions that can’t be resolved. They are godless because they leave God out of the argument or use God without a good Biblical foundation. Two topics that are sure to cause debate are:
·         Government should solve all our social problems
·         Government should be small and not try to solve social problems.
I can feel the heat rising already. The first is a godless idea because it leaves no room for God, rule and order based on His Word, and His working through His people. The second is godless because it refuses to acknowledge that God has established governments and that He is sovereign in how a government works, especially when His people don’t do what they are supposed to do. I better stop with these very general comments otherwise I will be wasting my time and yours.
Old wives’ tales are a different category of wasting time. They include everything from methods of removing warts to being blessed by God or getting luck by forwarding an e-mail. They have wild claims about people (politicians, movie stars, etc) being super good or bad. There are stories that grab my emotions and make my eyes water but they aren’t true. While they may inspire me for a few moments, they are not the Word of God backed by the power of the Holy Spirit to produce godliness. Others make me laugh and bring joy for a minute. Some may be valuable and provide something of worth, after all, Jesus taught with parables. But I must be discerning to pass on the good and skip the bad, especially the ones that are not true and are nothing but slander and gossip.
A Good Servant Trains to Be Godly
This is really a big subject. Most of the Bible is devoted to this. I can look at the Sermon on the Mount and see what Jesus taught or I can read the epistles and see what the Apostles taught. Paul tells me that godliness provides benefits in two ways, for this life and for eternity.
Speaking of eternity first, godliness can’t be developed until salvation is first settled. I can only be a godly person if I’m saved. The Bible is loaded with verses that explain that we are all sinners (Rom 3:23) and that all of our attempts at being righteous before becoming a believer are worthless (Isaiah 64:6). Most religions teach the we are actually good people and we just need to find the goodness inside to achieve godliness. Jesus made it clear that only God is good. Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (ESV) To be godly, we need to have God within us. Paul prayed in Eph 3:16-19 that Christ would dwell in our hearts by faith and then we would be filled with all the fullness of God. We can’t have God in us unless we have Christ in us. When we have Christ in us then we can be full of God and become godly. Then, according to 1 Cor 3:10-15 I will receive a reward in eternity for everything I do based on Christ the foundation. In other words, when I act and do godly things as a Christian, I will receive a reward in eternity. If I do time wasting things, I won’t receive a reward for those things, even if I’m a Christian. If I’m not a Christian, then whatever I do will not be rewarded because it isn’t founded on Jesus but myself or others.
Even though I have Jesus living in me, it doesn’t automatically make me godly. I need to train myself for godliness. This is the interesting part because now it sounds like this is all about my ability to train myself and how diligent I am in practicing Christian disciplines. However, it is also about the Holy Spirit working in me. Rom 8:13-14 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (NIV) Training myself in godliness can’t be done on my own. I must do it in complete dependence on the Spirit to lead me and give me the strength to put off all the sinful things I practiced before becoming a Christian. I have attitudes and motivations that have all been corrupted by my sinful nature. Those things can’t be put away without the power of God’s Holy Spirit working in me. I must cooperate with Him if I want to be trained in godliness.
The benefits I receive when I practice godliness in cooperation with the Spirit lead to a life that is much more pleasant in this world as well as preparing me for eternity. Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (NKJV) The only people who wouldn’t want these attributes in their lives are blinded by sin and sensuality. When I have these, then life is so much better even when the circumstances are almost unbearable.
It isn’t easy to be a good servant of Jesus, but the rewards are out of this world.