Author: Ron Graham
Verse by verse study of Paul's first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine chapter 4 verses 13-16, looking at more of the principles Timothy was to follow in his ministry.
If you "give attention" to something, you focus on it and don't allow yourself to be distracted from it. There are things that attract our attention which are unimportant. On the other hand, there are things that are important which don't attract our attention. Every school boy who looks out the window instead of doing his schoolwork testifies to that. We have to work at ignoring the distractions and giving attention to the things that really deserve attention but may not attract it.
Further down in verse 15 Paul says, "be in these things". That means be absorbed in them, immersed in them, not just dabbling in them but giving them full attention and devotion.
Paul says, "Do not neglect the gift that is in you..." Timothy appears to have received some miraculous gift by the laying on of hands. What the gift was, and who the elders were who bestowed the gift, I don't know. The important thing is that Timothy was perhaps showing signs of neglecting that gift which was useful in his ministry.
Apart from the obvious, that a useful gift from God should be used to its full potential, there is the "use it or lose it" principle. When we neglect a gift or ability, it gets rusty, and the day may come when we lose that ability entirely and we can't do it anymore. This would be true of supernatural gifts as well as natural ones. Let's use the gifts God provides that we may not lose them, and thus become even more unprofitable servants than we already are.
The translation "meditate on these things" seems to me to give the wrong impression. Meditation is passive thinking —thought for thought's sake— whereas Paul is talking about doing things thoughtfully and attentively. He's telling Timothy to take pains with his work, study his work, plan it out, check it over, find ways to improve (see 2Tim 2:15).
Some people make progress by cutting corners, going fast, driving by the seat of their pants, taking action before taking thought. A lot of people also come to grief that way however. Progress is less chancy when you take pains and work intelligently, pay attention, get into your work, focus on it, and all the while think hard about what you are doing.
Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). One who would serve Christ has to set his eyes on his ministry and persevere in it. Paul tells Timothy, "Take heed to yourself and your ministry..." that is to say look closely at who you are and what God has called you to do, "and persevere" (1Timothy 4:16).
The one who preaches and teaches God's word as his vocation will have to be pretty determined. He will need to stick to his task, and give it his best, even when he becomes discouraged.
Our final point is an overview of the whole passage we have been studying. Implied in the passage, and underlying it, is the idea that the preacher must be a man of the word. This is actually stated in the second letter (2Timothy 3:14-17).
Christian ministry today is very diverse. Often supplementary skills are needed, so we find ministers from many walks of life using their respective skills in serving a special group, it may be drug addicts, prisoners, the sick, the illiterate, the traumatised, the abused, college students, industrial workers, soldiers, and so on. The skills used in serving these groups should not be viewed as a substitute for being skilled in the word, but rather as a supplement to it. Preaching the word of God is the main game.
The teachings of Christ are relevant and effective for everyone. After all, everybody's soul needs saving, whatever their other needs.
Of course, if a preacher (to use an exaggerated example) comes upon a drowning man, he doesn't stand on the shore yelling "Repent you sinner!" Rather, he uses his swimming and first aid skills to save the man's life. Clearly, however, if that's all the preacher ever does for the man, he stops far short. And, just as clearly, saving lives at the beach is not the preacher's job any more than it is a blacksmith's job or a lion trainer's job.
The worthiness of a man to take up a ministry should be judged primarily on his strength in the word of God. That's what he should major in. "To the doctrine" says Paul (1Timothy 4:16). That's where the preacher should be looking to see his vocation, and that's where a congregation should be looking when they hire him: is he a man of the word?