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From the series The Book of 1 Timothy

On a scale of one to ten, how emotionally intelligent are you? In this message, Chip continues his series called “The Book of 1st Timothy.” Hear how we can engage people and handle tough conflicts, in a healthy, God-honoring way.

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Message Transcript

Coaching tip number five from the apostle Paul as he gives us some life coaching as he talked to that young man, Timothy, is that no amount of gift or brains can make up for a lack of emotional intelligence.

One of the dangers of getting really clear, getting very focused, focusing, saying, “This is what God wants me to do,” is you can, like, run over people on the journey. You can be insensitive to what is going on around you. You can do the very right thing in the very wrong way or at the wrong time. And you can actually blow up what God wants to do.

I have so many illustrations of how I’ve done this, I don’t know where to begin, but I was a young pastor in the southern part of the country. And so, we started a little Good News club at our house. And so there was Black kids and Hispanic kids and white kids and my two. It was very, very exciting. Pretty soon this little Good News club is almost as big as the church. And so, I thought, It behooves me to pile all of them in a van or two and take them out to our Wednesday night service of six people who usually showed up.

And so, my wife who is not a great disciplinarian of our own kids has, like, twelve kids of multi-colors in the next room creating unbelievable chaos as I’m the new pastor teaching these six people on Wednesday night. I got a call the next couple days telling me that this is really not what we are looking for in our church.

And in my zeal to be heard instead of to hear, in my zeal to make sure they understood instead of to start with understanding, I made all the assumptions that this biased, prejudiced, racial small town in the South that really, you know…? So, how could they and these kids, no one cares about them, but I care about them.

Was there racism? Yes. Was there bias? Yes. Had I built any trust? No. Was I arrogant and zealous? Yes. Did I assume that all the problem was the color of the kids instead of the fact that we could hear them bouncing off the walls in the next room? Yes.

And I’ll never forget sitting in my driveway, he became a mentor and then to this day is a father figure. We have been close, we talk or text every week for the last thirty-nine years. And he sat in the driveway with me and listened and he said, “Chip, I know you haven’t lived in this part of the country and I want you to know that you’re right. There certainly is bias and racism and prejudice.

He said, “But, you know, sometimes you can win a battle and lose the war.” He said, “These people don’t know you, they don’t trust you, and if I can say it in the nicest way possible, how you went about trying to solve that problem created as much or more problems than the one you wanted to solve. Young man, I am so for you. And there’s such a bright future here. But you’ve got to understand, there’s a nuance and there’s a way to introduce the right things at the right time when there’s trust built. You don’t know these people.

I have many more stories of where I’ve blown it, but I’m just going to let you sit on maybe a couple of your own.

Because what the apostle Paul is going to now say to Timothy is, okay, I said you’ve got to step up, right? Okay, okay. Paul, I’m in! I’m in. Okay. But then you’ve got to kneel down. You’ve got to step down. You’ve got to pray. Okay. Long-term, you’ve got to develop character. Timothy, what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to, and it can’t be about just preaching messages. You’ve got to develop leaders. The two things that every pastor needs to know that you can never delegate is the teaching of God’s Word, you’re responsible for that. And you have to develop leaders. Everything else…

And then he says, by the way, you’ve got to set an example. You’ve got to live this out. You’ve got to be godly. And then in chapter 5, he is basically going to say, “You know, Timothy, you are young and there’s a way to relate to people that is going to allow this to be successful, because like every church, I’ve gotten some reports, some of the older people are a little concerned about you. It seems like there have been a couple accusations about some false teachers, but also some elders. And what I want to do is I want to help you learn how to relate in the right way to all the kind of different people.”

So, if you’ll open up to 1 Timothy chapter 5, let’s continue Paul’s coaching to Timothy and then we’ll talk about the application to us. First, he’s going to, the first two verses, he’s going to say, “Look, Timothy, in general, here’s how to relate to everybody in the Church. “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, [“Amen!” laughter] “…but rather appeal to him as a father, and to the younger men as brothers, to the older women as mothers, and to the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Do you hear what he’s saying?

He says, “Timothy, there are people that are older, there are men that you’re going to do life with, there are the older women and they have needs and this is how you respect them. Be very careful at your age, the younger women, make sure you deal with them as sisters, not objects. And in all purity. And there are some older men that, hey, there are issues that you need to deal with. Don’t harshly rebuke them. That’s not how you build a relationship. That’s not how you address difficult issues.

The early Church was very hands-on. The apostles were serving food and bread and got overwhelmed and then they assigned a leadership team, later many would think, are called deacons. So, now, in this church, it’s not just that you have preaching and teaching and discipling. There’s a lot of really practical issues about, well, how do you handle the money? And where are all the needs? And so, one of the big ones was, “What do we do with widows? I mean, we are getting overwhelmed. We don’t have enough money. Who is a widow? Who is a legitimate widow?”

Here’s what I want you to get. Think through: What is this older man saying to this younger man about a number of delicate situations. Because there’s principles embedded about how to deal with some tricky stuff.

And so, he, verse 3, “Honor,” notice the word, “honor widows,” and then, “who are actually widows; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to show proper respect for their own family and to give back compensation to their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God.”

So, honor widows that are really widows. Now, notice that little phrase, “Who are actually widows.” What does that require? Discernment. Hm. Evaluation. Make sure the responsibility goes to the right people, so now you’ve got a set of circumstances where I need to talk to someone’s kids or grandkids and say, “I know, I know your father or grandfather died. But the way the Church needs to work is you all need to take responsibility for that. That’s not a Church issue.”

“Give these instructions as well so they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied,” are you ready for it? “…the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

So, now he’s setting down some guidelines. A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”

So, apparently, as things were developing, it was, “We just can’t help everybody with any need. There are actual people…” Some think this might even be the birth of people who determined after their husband had died, “I’m going to commit myself and be in full-time Christian work,” if you will. I’m sure that some sort of teaching over the years probably this is where nuns and this idea that I’m going to be devoted to God, because as you follow the text, notice what he says.

“But refuse to register younger widows, for when they feel physical desires, alienating them from Christ, they will want to get married, thereby incurring condemnation, because they have ignored their previous pledge.”

I think we think of a widow as just someone who lost their husband. It seems like there’s a category of these widows who say, “You know what? In light of the ministry, I want to be fully devoted and I’m going to make some sort of vow along those lines.”

“At the same time, they also learn to be idle,” speaking of those that are young and don’t put them on the list too soon. Again, think of the principles. Discernment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, thinking for the future.

And then he goes on to say, “As they go around from house to house; not merely idle, but they also become gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger women to get married, to have children, manage their households, and give the enemy no opportunity for reproach; for some have already turned away to follow Satan.”

If you want to have some fun in 1 Timothy, read through it very fast and every time it says, “Drifted away,” “fallen away,” “turned away,” go through it and underline that in some color. Then if you want to have a little bit more fun, read through it again very, very quickly. And any time it has anything to do with godliness, values, character, underline that in another color.

And what you’ll see is the themes through this book are very, very clear. And over through all the book what he’s going to say is, “Timothy, the big objective in life is this is the path. And what you want to do is lead a group of people in such a way where how we live and what we say and what we do makes the gospel attractive. Let’s make sure we keep first things first.”
“If any woman,” verse 16, “who is a believer has dependent widows, she must first assist them and the Church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are actually widows.

And then, when a person is an elder, when a person is given this entrustment and responsibility, notice what he says. The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while it’s threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.’”

So, make sure there is real respect to these people called to lead. And he kind of pulls out this proverb from, you know, about the ox and makes and application. And then he says, “Be careful.” “Do not accept and accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” You’ve got to be really careful that you really listen to complaints, but you also have to be equally careful that you don’t assume just because someone registers a complaint or makes an accusation that it’s true.

And then I love the balance of Scripture. “Then those who continue in sin,” in other words, two or three witnesses said, “This elder is sleeping with so-and-so.” Or, “This elder is pilfering the money.” Or, “This elder is acting this way at church, but man, you should see him out in the marketplace.” And so, two or three witnesses are saying, “No, this is true.”

“Those who continue in sin,” speaking of elders, “rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” Think of emotional intelligence. “Timothy, be tender and sensitive with older men. Don’t rebuke them. Timothy, with mothers, be tender and sensitive. Timothy, by the way, if people can take care of their own households and they are trying to mooch off the Church,” it’s tough love. Right?

If, hey, someone makes an accusation against someone, listen, two or three witnesses, be discerning, get the facts. And by the way, if it’s really true, go public. Share it, make – right? So, he’s giving them this balancing of: How do you do relationships in such a way that…? Again, twice we have heard about being above reproach.

“I solemnly exhort you,” now Paul is going to go into his tough love, “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles,” how? “…without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”

How would you like to be getting this letter? Anybody who has been in leadership you realize, you know, you have people who are popular in the group, people that aren’t popular, people that everyone kind of likes and respects and people that other people don’t respect. You have people who are wealthier and people that aren’t so wealthy. You have always sort of the, kind of, one or two people that kind of extra grace required. You have people that really power up. And they have roles and responsibilities. And so, as a leader, how do you execute what is the right thing to do at the right time in the right way, in all those relationships.

And then if you didn’t get the message, I mean, could the bar get any higher? “I solemnly exhort you.” Where? “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” And he pulls out all the stops. “And all the chosen angels.” I mean, Tim is going, “Ooh.” These principles that I have laid out about relationships, you do them without bias and you do them without partiality. You don’t let, just because people have money or power or influence or gave to buy this or buy that or they intimidate people. It’s not what leaders do, Timothy.”

Then he gives him some warnings. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too quickly and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” You know, when you’re overwhelmed in a job and you just, I mean, it’s just hard to breathe and you can’t do it all? If you have ever been in this situation as an employer or a supervisor and you need to hire someone, when you are desperate, it is the absolute worst time to hire someone, because no matter what you tell yourself, you will settle.

And you’ll hire someone that is a quick fix, you get him in, and here’s what I can tell you. The wrong person in a role, whether it’s in a church, a ministry, or a company, the wrong person is way worse than no one at all. And so, what he’s saying is, “Don’t try and bail yourself out by finding someone and sticking him in the spot,” and then he’s going to say why.

I like verse 23. I’m not even sure why it’s in here other than, you know what? I’ve been pretty hard on you, let me just give you a little personal encouragement, right? “Timothy, don’t go on drinking only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach, and your frequent ailments.” Then he goes back, “The sins of some people are quite evident, going on before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.”

Timothy, you’ve got to be really careful who you put in leadership. Because here’s the deal, some people you put in leadership, they mess up and everyone knows they mess up.

But some people go to their grave. Some of the greatest Christian leaders in our whole generation who, in recent times, revelations about their sexual indiscretions and – that have rocked and in this particular case, not the United States, globally.
“Do not lay hands upon anyone too quickly and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” You know, when you’re overwhelmed in a job and you just, I mean, it’s just hard to breathe and you can’t do it all? It is the absolute worst time to hire someone, because no matter what you tell yourself, you will settle.

And you’ll hire someone that is a quick fix, you get him in, and here’s what I can tell you. The wrong person in a role, whether it’s in a church, a ministry, or a company, the wrong person is way worse than no one at all.

Then he goes back, “The sins of some people are quite evident, going on before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.”

Timothy, you’ve got to be really careful who you put in leadership. Because here’s the deal, some people you put in leadership, they mess up and everyone knows they mess up.

But some people go to their grave and we don’t find out about the damage or what has happened until later, but it’s devastating. And without mentioning any names, I think you can all think of some of, some of the greatest Christian leaders in our whole generation who, in recent times, revelations about their sexual indiscretions and – that have rocked and in this particular case, not the United States, globally.

And what I can tell you is, for reasons God only knows, I have been in three church ministries in my life. I got to help plant a church, so I guess four. And every one of those three, I followed someone who fell morally. I will tell you something, you can’t fathom or grasp how long the ripples that people who, “I can’t trust God. I can’t believe in God anymore. I believed in that person. If he did that…”

A weak man in a weak moment under the right circumstances beginning with me and everyone in this room and anyone who ever watches this, you can fall. I mean, if David – man, I read the Scriptures, man, if David can fall, who can’t?

And, see, that’s what Paul is trying to help Timothy learn. And so, the coaching nuggets here are, “Maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”
I want you to start thinking about relationships. Start with your wife if you’re married. Close friends. If you have children. Leadership in the church. Relationships in a small group. Work relationships, friendships – I want you to start thinking of: God, is there anyone or anything that You need me to adjust, You need me to be more emotionally intelligent, and to do it without bias?

The response is, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man. Appeal to him as father, to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters in all purity.”

And what I can say to you is doing that without bias has been a big journey for me. Powerful people intimidate us. Rich, rich people can intimidate you. People that don’t look like you, who don’t act like you, who don’t believe like you, who vote for a different party than you, who have more tattoos than you, whose hair looks differently than you, whose color of their skin is different from you, who comes from a different background than you – all those thing can cause us to unconsciously have a lens or a bias because we have grown up in a world that is different than their world and it takes emotional intelligence, guided by the Spirit of God.

And it goes back to – I don’t know if you know St. Francis’ prayer. It’s such a great prayer. He asks God to, “Grant me to be an agent of Your blessing to people.” And then one of the great lines is, he says, “I ask that I might seek to love rather than to be loved. To understand rather than to be understood.” And empathy is the very first thing that we all need in every problem relationship. It changes everything.

You might jot this in your notes. This has been so helpful. Everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to them. And if you can realize that then you don’t demonize them and, “They are terrible and they are wrong and they have done this.” Now, I may totally disagree, they may be wrong, but it makes sense to them.

From the information they have and the way they were brought up and their belief system and their worldview, doing x, y, or z really makes sense to them. If you can back that up and try to figure out why it makes sense to them and build a bridge of relationship, then there’s hope. But casting grenades at one another, it’s not faring too well.

Here’s what, the coaching I think the Lord gives us through the apostle Paul. Here’s the underlying issue. Circle it if you will: Wisdom. The concept of wisdom, it’s a Hebrew concept. And wisdom isn’t intellect. Wisdom is skill. In fact, in the Old Testament when the word is used of building the Temple, it uses this word for wisdom for the guy that has the ability to do artwork and building and Proverbs uses wisdom to say it’s knowing the right thing to do in the right way for the reason. Wisdom with knowledge and understanding, and how to apply that.

What Paul is trying to say is: This is the wisdom you need in relationships. The underlying question for me and for you is: Am I willing to address the relational challenges in my home, work, and church?

I’m just going to go on record: The average man is not willing to address the relational challenges in your home. You just figure out how to deal with it. Your silo, her silo, the kids will be like that, I guess things will – some other time. I don’t know any man that over some time doesn’t have conflict in communication, conflict in your sex life, conflict with in-laws, conflict with money, and I’ve struggled with all of them. And I can tell you that at different seasons in my life, I didn’t want to face them, so I buried them.

And so, what you learn to do is when there’s something that needs to be addressed, it’s easier to turn on ESPN, it’s easier to drink a couple beers, it’s easier to go in the garage and get a workout. Anything but talk about the issue that really, “Honey, you know what? I went away to this retreat and God spoke to me about our relationship and I have sensed, over time…I’d like to talk about that.”

Or maybe it’s a son that is grown. Maybe it’s someone you haven’t forgiven. Maybe it’s a boss that did you in. Maybe it’s someone in your small group that - I have had pastors tell me, “I’m watching people with twenty years of deep relationship in our church split and, I mean, not talk to each other. I have families in our churches that don’t – younger generation and older generation – are not communicating over all these secondary issues. What you need is wisdom. And God will show you.

The action required is, I call it: Stepping Into. It’s – of all the things that’s hard, I think, for us as men, it’s stepping into relational messy stuff. If you’re older, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Why would my younger son who loves Jesus be so adamantly opposed to my political view of things?” Ask him and seek to understand and really listen.

“Why would, why would my father who loves God and cares about God, how in the world could he vote for so-and-so or support this when all these other issues are combined with it?” Ask him.

I would encourage you to memorize verse 1 and 2 until it’s both in your heart and in your hands of practicing. This is how I’m going to deal with older men. This is how I’m going to deal with younger men. I’m not going to be superior and I’m not going to feel inferior. This is how I’m going to view my brothers. This is how I am going to treat, I’m going to think of the various women in my life that are younger as sisters in Christ.

If you’re going to step into a delicate relational issue, you need to get outside help. It might be an older man, it could be a pastor, it might be a counselor. Just someone that, you know, you know them and whoever it is knows them and…

And then I would say you have to develop a plan and then a time to act.

If you walk out of here going, “You know, I’ve got to address this with one of my kids. I need to address this with a guy I used to work with. I need to address this with that pastor or one of the leaders of that church that we left over x, y, or z.”

Dude, write it down and say, “By this date, I will address that.” Good intentions accomplish nothing. And then when the emotion comes up like, Oh man, I don’t know how to do that, then just admit that. God, I don’t know how to do that. Or, are you ready for this one? At least I’m going to just share. God, I’m afraid to do that. Man, I’m afraid to do that. I mean, what if this – I mean, it’s not good now, but it could be a lot worse, right?

If you are willing, get someone who will help you develop the plan and show you how to do it. There’s a book, I don’t know the author, my son had me read it. it’s called Critical [CRUCIAL] Conversations. It’s very short, but it really talks about: How do you not put off having that conversation that are the most critical? And how to do it in a positive way. Everything from what to do, how to do it, when to do it, in what environment, and how to set it up. Super book.

The unspoken need is to develop personal courage. You need to be emotionally intelligent, but my experience is most of us are fairly smart enough to know what we really need to do. My observation is we don’t have the courage to do it.

I can remember early on the courage to go to marriage counseling, because our marriage was in real trouble. Just recently, I had a situation with someone that is really, really close to me. And I didn’t know how to handle it and I took, you know, I’m a pastor and, gosh, my background is in theology and psychology. I’ve got a few tools in my bag. And I got stuck.

I called a guy from Southern California, I said, “John, I’m really stuck. Could you tell me of someone in my area? He’s got to be really good and really biblical, because I don’t want a bunch of psycho-babble. But I’m stuck and I don’t know what to do.” He said, “Yeah, I’ve got a guy. Man, man.” I drove up to the Milpitas area and sat down with him for an hour, had a couple, three sessions on Zoom.

I’ve got news for you. If I had a compound fracture, I wouldn’t go, “Oh, I’ve got this. I’ve got this.” You know? A real man can handle a compound fracture. If I don’t know how to handle something in a relationship, I’m going to go to a good doctor and ask for help. Can I encourage you? Do whatever it takes.

Here’s how. First, know the truth. Joshua 1:9, some of you know, right? “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you,” right? “…wherever you go.” You don’t have to be afraid.

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

I’ve got to know the truth. God has got someone to help me with this. Living the truth is Matthew 7 and it’s a classic passage of, “Do not judge lest you be judged,” and I want to make one point. Be careful that when you are addressing a relational challenge, that you don’t sit in the position of, “I’ve got the truth and I just need to get this person to see the truth.” That’s a non-starter.

What you have is a perspective of the truth that is your lens that has developed over time. In fact, this was such an area of arrogance in my life that God pointed out so painfully in some of my leadership years where I had to admit where I was – it was a failure of leadership.

I unconsciously thought that my perspective was the perspective. And so, I wrote out on a card when I have to talk to someone about something that I think might be hard, I literally have memorized, here’s my first line. “I sense that we need to talk about something and what I would like to share with you is this. I have a perspective. I’m not telling you it’s the truth, I’m not telling you it’s reality. I’m telling you it’s my current perspective of this situation, that I think we need to get on the table and talk about. So, I need to hear because this event happened,” or, “this conversation happened and from my lens, this is the way it looks. Help me understand if that’s accurate or inaccurate.”

And what that does is that gives the person a chance to say, “No, you don’t understand.” And we can disagree. But the moment, if you’re going to talk to someone – you’re right, they are wrong, and they need to get with the program, you might be right. But they, that attitude will kill any opportunity for building a bridge.

And then you have to do it gently, Galatians 6:1 and 2. “Brethren, even if someone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual,” the idea is mature, “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourselves so that you will not be tempted, bear one another’s burdens and therefore fulfill the law of Christ.” We so need each other.

And then finally, just hands on, Proverbs 27:17, in terms of sharing the truth. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other words, I – when I have gotten around, I have some people in my life that are really good at speaking the truth in love. And especially early on, I want people to like me so much, I was pretty good at speaking about the love, but not so much about the truth.

And then as I matured a little bit, I got pretty good at speaking the truth, but not very much in love. And so, what I found is getting around people that are good at that has helped me get better at it and get more comfortable. And here’s what I can tell you. What you really fear is going to happen that keeps you from doing it, rarely happens. On occasion it does. But it’s the fear of the blowup that will keep you – genuine – we talked about godliness. Genuine maturity, here’s the mark of it.

Ephesians chapter 4:11 to 13 says God gave gifted leaders to the church to equip the saints to do the work of ministry until we all become mature in Christ. And then he says, “Here’s the litmus test of whether you’re mature in Christ.” One is doctrinal and the other is relational.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine, by craftiness and deceitful scheming.” In other words, so, if you’re mature, you know the truth versus the lie. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects into Him who is the head.”

And then it talks about the real goal, “By that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part that causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Redemption, restoration, reconciliation. That’s what Jesus offers us in our relationships.