1) Training: You need to know what you are doing, and practice doing it.
2) Fitness: reasonably good condition to match the task.
3) Partners: People who can work as a team and people you can depend on.
4) Tools: Ropes, sunscreen, proper clothing, etc.
I am not here to teach you about Mt. Climbing Safety, but rather, to talk about the risk of ministry, of serving people, and how to minimize the risk….The seasoned Paul is speaking to the young Timothy, encouraging him to be prepared to engage in serving God by serving people, first he warns of the dangers, opposition, seduction, and people that will oppose him. Then Paul speaks of confronting the danger, to continue on in serving by minimizing the risk of danger and not getting caught up in the bad behaviour. Paul talks about being trained properly, being fit and having partners that you trust working together, and having the right arsenal of tools (prayer and thanksgiving). The danger will still be there, but if you are ready and prepared, anticipating the danger, you will be successful in ministry. You cannot fail! There may always be difficulties, but if God can keep the most foolish of Mountain Climbers safe, he can use the youngest of servants to his glory. Yet to be prepared and anticipate problems is part of the process of maturity as a servant of God.
Back to our scripture, let’s talk about the danger of serving God: there will always be evil. On the mountain, the dangers are crevasses, avalanches, dehydration, hypothermia, and much more. In ministry, we want to think everything will be perfect, but evil, false teaching, the work of Satan can rise up at anytime. I am always disappointed when there are problems in the church or the Christian community, but we should not be surprised. Paul warns the young Timothy: READ 1 Tim. 4:1-2.
One of the most important phrases is “the spirit clearly says…” In that little phrase is wisdom: listen to the spirit. There are those who have a gift for discernment, as the Holy Spirit tells you that something is not quite right. I obviously won’t say what it was, but I years ago this church making a certain decision, and the decision did not work out real well, not major problems but just not right. Years later I remember my father commenting that there were a few people that had reservations. Not in a stubborn way, or a trying to stop everything way, but just a concern. And my father said, “I should have listened…” there was a spiritual sensitivity at work, the Holy Spirit. It’s part of ministry. The Spirit guiding us and giving direction, the nudge of what is right and what is wrong. “The Spirit Clearly says…” perhaps no more important insight as we venture forth in serving people in our world, to listen for the instruction of the spirit. Listen for the Spirit, and don’t just accept everything at face value…
There are many alternative teachings to the truth, and some will follow. Satan is not only a tempter, but also a deceiver, bringing a spirit of falsehood. The danger in ministry is when truth is twisted, and we must remain firm in our faith/ integrity, hold our head high and forge on in the calling of serving others in our community and world. There is evil in the world, for that is what is beneath many of the problems we face.
1 Tim. 4:3 is about people who try to control others, telling them…READ. Let me turn this around and say it positively. What I try to do as I talk with people in this community: I REFUSE to make decisions for people. I talk about right and wrong, I talk about godly living, but I don’t tell people who they should marry, what job they should take, whether they should move in or out of Sumas or other life decisions. I don’t tell people with definitiveness specifically where they should serve. That’s between them and God. I may have advice, I might listen, give my opinion on your gifts if I have any, but I am not an authoritative controlling person that has a perfect plan. 1 Tim. 4:3, seems to me, is about the problem of people controlling too much. The deception of Satan and controlling people are some of the dangers of ministry, and isn’t it amazing being all us numbleskull heads that God accomplishes anything of substance through us. Sometimes I wish God would just bi-pass us people and make everything new on earth.
The dangers of serving God are real, as real as a crevasse high on Mt. Baker. Yet There is no greater calling than to serve God by serving people. If you are properly prepared, the danger is minimal, or rather, non-existent. Satan will bring a deceptive spirit, there will be false teaching and controlling spirits, yet God’s word will accomplish its purpose and God will be glorified.
Training, 1 Tim. 4:6-7. (I’m leaving vv. 4-5 till last because they speak of “Thanksgiving” and this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving). Train yourself to be godly. Train yourself in ministry, and you will learn to love it. Back in the 70’s, in high school, my father taught the youth and we took the spiritual gifts assessment. I remember my father saying, one of the best ways to discover your spiritual gift was to try a lot of things and find out. I.e. not just theory, but practice in the real world and figure out what fits. The way to resist seduction and control is to train yourself to be a faithful servant. Practice. Paul tells Timothy to rely on earlier training. So much of the Bible is practical. One of the people I admire is Denny Bos. How often I want to talk to him and he’s out in the community putting up a tarp, serving God by serving people. And people don’t refer to Denny as a handyman, they refer to him as an encourager, they understand that whatever he is doing it is in the name of Christ. Training. Practicing. Going out and doing it. Serving others. Paul points out to Timothy that he has had instruction, he has been in ministry, so hold onto it. When the danger comes, he can stand firm. Paul says to Timothy, point the fruit of your training out to others, what you know to be right and true.
Fitness 1 Tim. 4:8: Paul actually touches on being physically healthy, at least as a secondary principle, but he especially focuses on “godliness.” That is, living the Christian life, living as a servant of Christ, living by the truth of God. A weak person is not going to make it to the top of Mt. Baker. A person who is not mentally prepared is likely to make it to the top of Mt. Baker. A Christian with no depth, no consistent living as a Christian, is likely to abandon ministry when evil rises up, when deception brings its confusion.
Good partners, 1 Tim. 4:9-10 notice the “we”. The implicit message from Paul is that Timothy is not alone. When we think of Paul, we wrongly sometimes imagine him to be a lone ranger out on the mission trail, but in reality, he is NEVER alone. He always has somebody with him. We tend to think of pastors as having a “ministry”, but that is wrongheaded. 20 years ago, there was a popular notion that pastors were supposed to have a vision for the church. And the people were to follow the pastors vision. I remember reading one little article, a lone voice, that questioned that wisdom. This man’s thought was that the pastor’s role was not to have a vision for him alone, but his job was to articulate the God given vision of the people. That makes a lot of sense, because God always intends teams of people. The vision of the people! On the mountain, danger multiplies for solo climbers, for if there is trouble, there is nobody to fall back on, nobody to consult, nobody to pull you out of a crevasse. There is nothing lonelier than solo ministry, because we need each other, people that are on the same page, people that will encourage each other and help each other. Good partners are an absolute necessity when it comes to serving others and ministering in the name of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that as we work together in Sumas, for those who want to join the team of serving the community and reaching out to a hurting world, the key is to do it together. “we labor” paul says, “we have put our hope.” The dangers of ministry will be minimized. when we stick together as a team, looking to glorify God…
Tools, 1 Tim. 4:4-5. The primary tool is to understand creation and the goodness of God’s creation. Be a person that delights in everything that is good. All truth is God’s truth. If it is true then it is God. This truth enlarges our world of what is good, there is more good than evil. A people to celebrate. We need discernment to know what is good or bad. God’s creation can be twisted for evil. Some things can be good or bad. I am incredibly thankful for computers, but the internet can be twisted for evil. Marriage is good, but there can be abuse.
To celebrate what God has created is to keep us safe from danger. To claim the creation of God and celebrate what he has done is to delight in the Lord. The Christian servant is to celebrate. We look forward to the world to come, and we should, but let us not abandon this world and all that God has done. To receive with thanksgiving and God’s word, which consecrates. I have always been impressed with one of Sally’s papers in school years ago. She said that there were two ways to stay clean (in the sense of holiness, acceptable to God, set apart). One was to never get dirty, to try and live a perfectly moral and acceptable life to God. That way is impossible, of course, for we are all sinners. The other way is the Jesus way. Jesus touched the leper, he ate with sinners, and everything he touched, he cleansed. He healed the sick. He saved the sinner. Paul is saying to redeem everything for God that we come into contact with: the way to overcome evil is to redeem it for God. Give thanks for everything you can possibly give thanks. Thanksgiving, prayer, the word of God are the tools, like a rope to a mountain climber, keeping you safe and secure. A key word is in v. 5: consecrated. That’s the act of making it right. Redeeming. Wherever Jesus went he cleansed, he made pure, he made right, he consecrated! May we consecrate the City of Sumas for God, consecrate the people we meet, consecrate the lives of the people we are called to serve, consecrate through the word of God, thanksgiving and prayer.
Ministry: serving God by serving people. The danger of ministry is the deception of Satan, false teaching, those that try to control others. Overcome evil by listening to the Spirit of God, training in ministry, keeping fit/spiritually healthy/godly living, finding team member in ministry in which you are working together, and consecrating everyone you meet and every situation by celebrating that which is good with thanksgiving and prayer. May you have a great week of Thanksgiving, not only for the food on Thursday, but for all the people in your lives, and everything that is good and wholesome. Amen.