“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
(1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV)
In 1 Timothy 6:11, the term “man of God” carries a specific emphasis. It underlines the special role of Timothy (in this instance) as a man called of God into His service. And in that role, the person in leadership and the person preaching the Word, is to be an example in life, not just in word.
So, it is appropriate to look with more detail into this exemplary life of the called servant of the Lord. Ultimately such a life is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work and power. Here, the Apostle has much to say to his son in the ministry about the kind of life he should lead.
Our discussion will not be comprehensive, but it is representative of what the Apostle presents as the type of life that any “man of God” should live. 1 Timothy 6:9-16 is our Scripture text. And these points and insights are borrowed and adapted from one of my father’s chapters in Anointed Expository Preaching.
One of the key words in this passage is the word, “flee.” This indicates an intentional total separation from what is to be “fled.” When we see real spiritual danger to our souls, we need to “flee,” seeking the spiritual protection of the Lord. We are not talking about avoiding the work of “First Responders” which is so needed in our day of crisis after crisis. First Responders move into danger to save lives. The Apostle is talking about knowing when to separate yourself from damaging sinful influences or practices.
The leader, the preacher is to flee any unsound teachings or unwholesome words, or proponents of such. There is to be no corruption of the life or the message that the leader/preacher represents. Those teachers who need to be avoided are known by their corruption, their conceit, and their contentiousness. The leader/preacher is to flee false teaching and teachers. Timothy is told to withdraw himself from false teachers described in some detail in 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
This appeal of the Apostle reminds me of the “withdrawal” or separation of the ‘blessed man” in Psalm One. This man “did not “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful.” The blessed man is known by his separation from sinful or wicked people in terms of their influence on his own life. This must be true of the leader/preacher.
There is another vice that must be avoided and that is the love of money. This is stressed a little earlier in this chapter in 1 Timothy 6, verses 9 and 10. Actually, this vice is one that can be a characteristic of corrupt teachers.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness,….”
The temptations and destructive force related to money must be guarded against. Money can attract our attention and can influence just about every area of our lives. We can lust for money and specifically more money. We can do this secretly or openly. The Apostle Paul made a strong claim in his address to the Ephesian elders that he was not motivated by money or gain (Acts 20:33). May that be our testimony as well. Money can become a focus of desire, and therefore a distraction leading possibly to the destruction of one’s testimony and ministry.
The result of the “serving of money” can be a ‘lostness’ that ruins the life of God’s servant. This emphasis of the Apostle Paul must be declared in a day with so much false teaching related to prosperity and wealth. The preacher is as susceptible as anyone to the negative impact of the desire for money. Flee before it is too late!
But there is certainly a positive side to this instruction that needs to be stated as well. So, we consider next:
1 Timothy 6:11 spells out a constant pursuit that is to be a lifetime priority for the man of God and the leader called of God.
The man of God is to pursue “righteousness and godliness.”
The Man of God is to pursue “faith and love.”
The Man of God is to pursue “Patience and gentleness.”
It is important to stress that the Apostle is contrasting a fleeing with a pursuing. This flight and this pursuit ought to be clearly seen in the life of the man of God. The preacher will be calling others to flee things and to follow after, so these priorities need to be seen in the life of the preacher.
This list of virtues in 1 Timothy reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit,”…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Also, the Apostle Peter presents a similar but not identical list of characteristics addressing all believers in 2 Peter 1:5-7:
“…. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
How does one “pursue” these qualities or characteristics? It is good to remember that these characteristics are the work of God on our lives, the fruit of the Spirit indwelling and working in our lives. At the same time, we have a specific role. It is pursuing the Lord Himself and His work in our lives. Through repentance and prayer, through submitting to His Word, through daily dependence and obedience, through worship, through “iron sharpening iron” fellowship, through service, and through “sowing to the Spirit” we will grow in grace and these attributes that are pleasing to the Lord.
In the end, one way of describing the exemplary leader in the light of these attributes is as follows:
The Exemplary Leader is separated (unto the Lord) - unto righteousness and godliness
The Exemplary Leader is satisfied (in the Lord) – by faith and through love
The Exemplary Leader is submissive (to the Lord) – seen in patience and gentleness
Here 1 Timothy 6:12-14 is our guide. There is a battle to be fought. There is a fight to be won. There is a constant struggle (from victory to victory) for the man of God. This fight involves the temptation to deny our Confession; “….the good confession” (6:12). This may sound unthinkable, and yet it needs to be stated as an aspect of the fight of faith. We may know someone or a number of people who have in one way or another lost faith, or given up the faith. This can be a departure from the central truths of the faith, even if there seems to be a continued faith in something. For instance, one can lose faith in the gospel or Word of God itself. On the other hand, there can be a personal loss of faith even though there is not a specific doctrine that has outwardly been denied. In this case, a person is not really living a life of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is not serving the Lord. The clear “good confession” of faith has changed in a significant and personal way. Instead of growing in grace, knowledge and faith – the opposite has taken place. Of course, sadly there can be outright public denial of the faith and confession that once seemed to be held firmly. This is a serious matter for the leader especially, and can have such a harmful impact on those influenced by this leader.
There is also the temptation to abandon our Commission; “…. Keep this commandment without spot” (6:14). This directive seems to refer to Timothy’s charge to minister faithfully as a man of God. Through some type of serious failure or simple weariness, the man of God can give up the fight. In other words, whatever ministry the man of God was called to – has now been abandoned. This is sad, and very hurtful to the body of Christ. I am not talking about a rest, or a time of renewal and refreshment that may be needed due to the battle. The injured needs to be healed, helped, and strengthened for the task ahead. Our focus here is the temptation to just give up and to choose, for whatever reason, to stop serving God as He should be served. Through disobedience and a “desertion of heart” one turns their back on what they know they are called to do. Again we are not talking about a new phase of life with less or different ministry, we are talking about an abandonment of the commission, the calling, the ministry, the “ordination” received. The temptation to do this must be fought.
It must be fought through a daily abandonment to the Lord. There needs to be a daily surrender to the Lord. There must be a daily dependence on the Lord. There should also be the encouragement of like-minded and like-hearted brethren who encourage and strengthen one another along the way.
If you are greatly discouraged right now, don’t isolate yourself, please, from God and everyone else. People used mightily of God have gone through deep waters. There can be all sorts of reasons for inner discouragement, and God knows them all! It has often been said that after a discouraging Sunday of ministry, do not write a letter of resignation on Monday. Lay your concerns before the Lord. Re-affirm His love for you. Make sure you get ample sleep and nourishment. Seek out wise counsel from a trusted friend or source. Seek the help you need. Real ministry is hard, it just is. Reading a letter like 2 Timothy can give a fresh and honest picture of what the servant of the Lord can expect. That is why Timothy is exhorted to be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1)
Yes, the call to be a leader comes with God’s enabling grace and the knowledge of His love. God’s grace is not the emphasis right here in this passage of Scripture, but it is the clear teaching of the Scriptures. God is able! He is able to keep us from stumbling (Jude 24-25). He is able to strengthen you to serve and to be an exemplary leader. May our progress (not perfection) “be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). If we keep going forward by grace and the power of the Spirit, we are heading in the right direction.