While Paul traveled to Macedonia, he left behind his beloved Timothy to take charge of the church at Ephesus. It was quite a daunting job indeed. Timothy was young and inexperienced. And the problems of the church included the teaching of false doctrines, misconduct, and apostasy. But Paul believed Timothy had what it took to get the job done, and the faith to see him through. And so Paul writes a letter to his beloved friend encouraging, guiding, and warning him to pay close attention to not only the conduct of the church, but more importantly his own. Lest the message of the gospel be discredited.
The name Timothy means, “one who honors God.” And as pastor of the church, both his testimony and his lifestyle needed to live up to his title. Paul warned him to be constantly aware saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teachings; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (4:16)
As it was with Timothy, so it is with us. We need to pay close attention to our own conduct. This ensures that our message of the gospel brings both people to Jesus, and glory to the Lord. The world is watching to see if we are not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. Like Timothy we need to, “in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (vs. 4:12) How do we show ourselves as godly examples? Paul gives us the tools we need to be on guard so that instead of becoming liabilities to the gospel, we become valuable assets.
He begins by telling us to beware of wrong doctrine. Paul warns that in “later times” many would fall away from the faith, “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”. We see this happening in the world today. Many are leaving the sound, true doctrine of the Bible for “feel good religion”. They eagerly follow false teachers with their messages that tickle the ears and justify worldly lifestyles. We need to pay close attention to the words that both we and other believers speak to make sure they line up with God’s Word. And by doing so not only will we lead others to His truth we will become, “a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” (vs. 4:6)
Knowing God’s Word comes from spending time both in His presence and in the Bible. Paul can’t stress enough the importance of the scriptures. We need to pay close attention that we are reading them, urging others to do the same, and teaching their meanings to those around us. And equally important is our alone time with God. By carving out a space reserved just for the Lord each day, we learn more about Him, and strengthen our relationship with Him. We become more Christlike. And when we reflect His character, we become powerful witnesses to the world. For as Paul tells us when we “take great pains with these”, and are “absorbed in them”, our “progress will be evident to all”.
Too many times I have been guilty of not practicing due diligence when it comes to giving my relationship with God the time and attention it deserves. Discipline is not my strong suit. Yet Paul advises us to, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (vs. 4:7-8)
We need to pay close attention to make sure we are becoming disciplined for the purpose of godliness. Why? Because godliness transforms our lives into ones God intends for us to have. Lives of love, peace, joy, and fulfillment. “For it is this we labor and strive, because we fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (vs. 4:10) And what better attraction could there be for the lost then seeing a follower of Jesus leading a godly life to its fullest.