Theme: The Result of Godliness
In this week’s lessons, we see that godliness, rooted in a thorough understanding of biblical doctrine, is necessary for the Christian life.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Having talked about the Christian’s life, Paul now goes on to speak of the Christian’s work. In Timothy’s case, this had to do with his preaching, which is why Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, and to preaching and teaching. I think it’s right to apply that to our work, whatever it may be. If he was writing to someone who had a secular job, I’m sure he would say something like this: “Until I come, devote yourself to the job God’s given you to do.” It’s important to see that because one of the mistakes we make when we talk about godliness is to think that it has to do exclusively with what we do in church on Sunday, and not with what we do the rest of the week. Paul would be the first one to fight against that kind of inconsistent living.
When Paul wrote to the converts of his day, some of whom were slaves and some of whom were engaged in all the different kinds of business operations that they had in their time, just as we are, he always encouraged them to do a good job in the work God gave them to do. Paul wanted Christians to be a credit to their employer, and to bring honor to Jesus Christ, who is ultimately the one you serve. Part of the Christian’s calling to pursue godliness involves our work. This also means that godliness concerns not doing things. In terms of occupations, there are some that Christians should not take up. A man once came to Billy Graham and said to him, “Mr. Graham, I don’t want to become a Christian.”
Billy Graham asked, “Why not?”
“Well,” the man answered, “I’d have to give up my profession.”
“Well, what is your profession?” Graham inquired.
The man replied, “I’m a bartender.”
And Billy Graham said, “You’re absolutely right.”
There are some things you don’t want to do if you’re a Christian and ought not to do if you’re a Christian. But if you are a Christian and you’re doing a job that Jesus Christ has given you to do, as indeed you should regard the job, if you’re in any kind of profession that is honorable, then by all means you’re to serve Christ there. But if you can’t serve him there, then you don’t belong in that particular job.
The third thing here, that of diligence, is seen in verse 15, when Paul’s talking about some specifics of godliness. He talks about diligence in godliness—working hard at it, taking it seriously, not giving up, and doing your best. Many people need to hear that today because we are living in an age that is very half-hearted in so many things that it does. I think Paul would simply say that you can’t play at Christianity. If you’re going to go God’s way, you better give it your all because the most dangerous thing of all is to be caught halfway between.
There was a girl like that who came to Charles Haddon Spurgeon once. She wanted to be in the world and yet be a Christian at the same time. And he said, “Let me give you an illustration to show where I think you are. When you go out of here today after our conversation, you go out on the street and a bus will come along. It will be going off somewhere, and you’ll be getting on it. Now there’s one of two things you can do. You can stand there on the sidewalk, and not get on, and let it go by. Or you can get on and let it take you where it’s going. But the one thing you can’t do is stand there with one foot on the sidewalk and one foot in the bus because if the bus starts to move, I’ll be very mistaken if you don’t fall down in the middle of the street.”
Spurgeon continued, “Life is like that, where it has to do with obedience and service of Jesus Christ. You wish you could stand there in the world doing the world’s thing, and enjoying the pleasures of the world. Or you can get on the bus—the bus of salvation—and let the Lord Jesus Christ take you and do with you what he will, and put you in a place of service of his choosing. But the one thing you can’t do is stand in between. If you’re going to be godly, the thing to do is get on with the Lord Jesus Christ and go the whole way.”
I think Paul is suggesting that if we are diligent in our godly service of Christ, we have great encouragement as we do that because of what he says in verses 9 and 10: “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” What does he mean? He means that when we make this kind of commitment—when we try to be diligent in godliness, and determine to serve him and to put into practice these things that we know—we are not committing ourselves to one of the empty myths that has no meaning and will let us down at the end. But we are committing ourselves to the living and true God. That’s our hope as Christians. And the time is coming when we’ll stand before him and receive the reward of our labors. May it be the case that when we stand before our God, we do not hear him say, “Depart, from me” or, “Why have you done so poorly?” But rather, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.” May that be true of us, each one, and as a congregation, to the glory of Christ our Savior.
To what work does Paul tell Timothy to devote himself? Why is Timothy to focus on this and not on other aspects of pastoral ministry?
Why does it matter how we do our work?
We are told to be diligent in godliness. How is it possible to dabble in Christianity rather than being a true disciple of Christ?
Reflection: Are there times when you are like the girl in Spurgeon’s illustration? Do you sometimes find yourself having one foot in the company of the world and one foot in the company of Christ? Why is this an impossible position for a Christian?