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Step Into!, Part 1

From the series The Book of 1 Timothy

On a scale of one to ten, how emotionally intelligent are you? In this program, Chip continues his series called “The Book of 1st Timothy.” Don’t miss the next vital lesson that Paul taught Timothy – that focused on how to engage people in a godly manner, and the ways we can best handle tough conversations.

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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.