“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”
(1 Timothy 4:12-15).
When the apostle Paul was training up his protégé Timothy in the disciplines of faith, he established a healthy standard. That standard wasn’t perfection; it was perseverance. He said, “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” ….. He wasn’t asking Timothy to try ~ but rather instructing him to train, to teach, and exhort others in the gospel ….
In the passage above, Paul included both personal and public practices as part of his training regimen for Timothy. This younger disciple was to make sure his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity were worthy of a follower of Jesus. His teaching and preaching were to be based on the Scriptures, including reading them aloud to congregations. And Timothy was also to be intentional about using his unique gifting as he ministered to others, even if they might be unloving . These would make a long and daunting to-do list if the expectation was perfection.
What Paul was basically instructing Timothy to do was to” practice” and “immerse” himself in these pursuits; he was calling him to be an example and have an attitude of endurance and perseverance. It’s a mindset Paul had stated earlier and was reinforcing for its significance: “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
(1 Timothy 4:7-8).
If we aim for perfection, we fall short. But if we persevere at making genuine progress, willing to let God work on us as long as it takes, good things happen. We won’t ever “arrive” at perfection this side of heaven, but we are growing and moving forward. We’re farther along than we were a year ago; and more than likely wiser than we were six months ago. God delights in such progress ….
Most people already know you aren’t perfect, so don’t waste time trying to prove otherwise. But they will pay attention when they see progress in your life. You will be amazed at the way God makes little adjustments in your character that can have a huge impact on others. However, in order for these good things to happen, you must persevere with Christ.
The authentic Christian life is often compared to a long race. Seeing the end of his own life, Paul told Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
How you run today reflects how much you have benefited from all the training you’ve received.
Even failure is part of God’s training plan. Like Timothy, you haven’t yet finished your race, so today is another opportunity to persevere. Following Jesus is the ultimate marathon, and the more you incorporate the reality of spiritual endurance in your life, and the more you press on to persevere, the more you will find yourself accelerating as you approach the finish line ….
In closing; I challenge you to ponder something: would you say you tend toward perfection or sloppiness? Regardless of your answer, what would genuine spiritual progress look like in your walk with Christ?
Let us pray ~
Lord, forgive the pendulum swings between perfectionism and sloppines in my life. Please forgive me when I leave You out of my attempts to live my life for You. Lord, I want to make more progress in the months to come, in whatever areas in my life that You want me to change. Reveal these areas to me. I long to listen for Your leading and take healthy steps, even when I do fall short. Help me not to accept discouragement in my shortcomings and with my growth, but to know and understand that You are sovereign in this lifetime of training in godliness. In Jesus’ name, Amen….
God is with us ….