We can either heed the warning of the “do not enter” or “danger” sign and stay on this side of safety or we can ignore the warnings and walk into a potentially dangerous situation. The sign has a very clear purpose and is pretty much universal in its message across the world. With that being said, I know that there are a number of people out there that see this sign and ask the question, “how dangerous is it?” For them it sparks a certain amount of curiosity and interest, questioning that of what lies beyond the warning.
“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” (2 Peter 3:17). Peter is closing his second letter with this warning, so it makes sense that he writes to us in his letters in a way that alerts us of some potentially “dangerous” situations. The most notable of these warnings is the influence of the false prophets and teachers that have been working their way into the lives of the people and the church. Over and over through his letters we are told that we will suffer because of our faith in Jesus, a warning and notice that our suffering for doing good is commendable before God. As we continue our reading through the text we are also warned of the enemy (the devil) who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 peter 5:8).
As leaders today we can fall prey to theses dangerous situations. Peter describes for us, the means by which the false prophets work, secretly introducing destructive heresies that are contrary to the sound doctrine we are growing in. Often times there is no danger sign shouting out to us to stop. Peter reminds us to grow not only in our faith through knowledge, but in goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. When we build these qualities into our faith, into our leadership we will not stumble, we will see the warning signs against the teachings of false doctrine, we will stand strong in suffering, and we will see the devil prowling around us (standing on guard). We may hear these warnings, we might see the signs, it is up to us to heed them even when our curiosity, our broken human condition of self and pride try to prevail.
Have you ever tried to wear a pair of shoes that didn’t fit properly? If they are too small your toes get a throbbing, aching pain in them from being jammed (no pun intended) together. If the shoes are too big, they will constantly rub on the back of your heel eventually causing you to get a blister. When it comes to shoes there is nothing better than a comfortable snug-fitting pair to keep your toes and heels intact.
The pastoral letters of First and Second Timothy hold a wealth of information for the training and encouragement of leaders today. Paul was writing to Timothy, his protégé, passing down instructions on how church leaders were to be shaped. 2 Timothy 4:5 offers up some heavy hitting instructions for Timothy and for us, “But you [Timothy, Steve, insert your name here], keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”. A part of Paul’s charge to Timothy here was “to do the work of an evangelist”. Is this who you are? An evangelist? I have devoted a considerable amount of time over the past couple of years to understanding God’s call on my life. When I consider my gifting, my abilities, I don’t “fit the shoe” in the role of evangelist. So how can I take this verse, this charge, and apply it to my life? I appreciate Eugene Petersons translation of this verse in the Message, it reads, “keep the message alive”. You or I may not be called to be an evangelist but we are called to be witnesses, men and women that live a life that honors God and reflects his love and compassion to those around us.
We only have to read a few verses into the book of John to understand that he was a “witness to the light”, A witness who testified to “the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14b) You or I may not be the person who is called to “go and tell” (the evangelist), it may be that we are the ones to say “come and see” (the witness). Please don’t get me wrong and think that I am dismissing the role of the evangelist like I would a pair of old worn out shoes. The role of the evangelist is critical in the advancement of the kingdom of God. What I am saying is, if the “shoe doesn’t fit” find a pair that does (discover the gifts that God has given you) and do everything you can to “keep the message alive”. Let your life reflect God’s love, be a witness to the Good news of Jesus Christ, be the one who says, “come and see”, this is what the Lord has done for me.
Some of the key ingredients to growing a “perfect” tomato is providing consistent water, temperature and just the right amount of daylight. According to Google there are 6,840,000 references to “growing perfect tomatoes”, that’s a lot of information to pick and choose from. I have tried to grow tomatoes over the years in varying ways that produced somewhat undesirable results. I am going to attempt another batch this year and the one advantage I have over the others years is an automatic watering system to provide consistent nourishment.
The apostle Paul talks about being “nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed” (1 Tim 4:6). He is writing a letter to Timothy, giving him direction through his letter so that if in his absence He, (Timothy) will know how the people should conduct themselves in the church. With instructions on proper worship and qualifications for overseers and deacons we have quite a list of requirements to live up to as leaders in the church. There are some high expectations to which we are called as leader in the church. In each and every one of us there is a goodness that God has created, it is a goodness that needs consistent nourishment, a source of sustenance that is found in the truth of His word. In order for the goodness to produce new fruit in His kingdom we must give ourselves fully to God, “we have to put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” (1 Tim 4:10)
I don’t know of any “automatic system” that will feed or provide the nourishment of God’s word into our lives. The writer of Hebrews describes the need to be nourished by the “solid food” (teachings of righteousness), the same truths of the faith and teaching that Paul writes about here in 1 Timothy. As mature believers, as leaders, we have to be disciplined in our time being nourished by the word. This means spending time in the word, reading and meditating on its truths, living by its example, encouraging others, training ourselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14) and faithfully teaching others. The word of God provides us the life giving nourishment necessary for growth, health and conditioning to be his leaders in the church today.