If you're going to lead in God's work, you have to learn the taste of sacrifice, giving, stewardship.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? Yes, that little greeting establishes the fact that this is indeed your friend Bob Cook and I’m glad to be back with you. We’re looking at 1 Timothy, Chapter 3, you and I. Paul is talking about the qualifications, first of all for pastors, and then he got talking about deacons. And then he gets around to talking about the deacons’ wives, even, how about that? So, we’re right in the middle of the qualifications of the deacons.
“Be grave,” that means serious, “About the things of God, not double-tongued.” Don’t say one thing to one person and another to another. “Not given to much wine, better to be a teetotaler, not greedy for filthy lucre, love of money has brought many a person down, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” The divine tension between absolute faith, where you trust God for everything, and absolute responsibility, where you realize that you have to keep right with God through constant confession and cleansing through the blood of Jesus.
“Then,” said he, “Let these deacons, that is, also first be proved, then let them use the office of a deacon being found blameless.” “First proved,” now that goes to, it modifies verse six, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” “First proved,” what does that mean?
Well, it means that when a person is newly converted, you don’t thrust him into responsibility in the church right away. I’ve seen that happen different times at the local church level and it always results, at the very least, in some misunderstandings, and at the worst, in deep scar tissue being left in the heart of the young Christian because he or she isn’t really ready for that responsibility as yet.
First proved. How do you fulfill that admonition? You wanna think about that? Those of you who are engaged in leadership in the local church, how do you measure up to this verse, “Let the deacons first be proved, then let them use the office of a deacon.”
Well, I think it’s a matter of watching for growth in grace and into the Christian life and the dynamics of Christian walk, day by day with the Lord. And this involves the process of discipling. If you wanna see a person brought into responsibility at the local church level, then somebody needs to care about him or her enough to spend time with the individual to make sure that there is discernible growth in the things of the Lord.
For example, you wanna check on the prayer life, does the person really pray or does he or she just say prayers? Take time to pray with the individual, now this is something that you have to give time to because you can’t just say, “Well, let’s just have a word of prayer,” and whisper a few words in prayer in 30 seconds and go on your way, that doesn’t do it. But you set aside time to be with this person and you say, “Now, what ought we to pray about? What is there in your heart that we ought to pray about?” And you find out some of the areas of concern and then you talk to the Heavenly Father with this person about those matters and you lead the individual out into a life of effective praying. Would you take it upon yourself to do that with someone so that you can help him or her to start growing in Christian strength and ability?
Another area of discipling is a matter of the Word. To teach people how to feed on the Word of God. Teach them how to read the Bible so that it says something to them. Simple matter of chapter summary as practiced by many people is very helpful. Read the whole chapter, what is the subject of it? What’s the theme of it? What’s the key verse? And then what is the lesson that I can learn from it and what action should I take as a result of that lesson? This is a simple outline of chapter study. Teach your friend how to study portions of the Word of God like that. Always lead up to action. What is God asking me to do as a result of this passage that I have been studying?
Never be content, either in your own life or in the lives of those whom you’re discipling, never be content with just reading the Bible and talking about it, only stop when you have got to the place where God has said, “This is what I want you to do.” Action has to be taken if you’re going to walk with God. Walk with God, not just stand still with Him. There has to be action, there has to be obedience, there has to be a willingness to do what God says to do when you read it in His Word, when the Holy Spirit of God who indwells the believer, speaks to your heart and conscience about it.
First prayer, then the Word, then this matter of victory over temptation. Now, obviously, you and I aren’t going to pry into the other person’s private life. Every individual needs some privacy and some space of his own. We know that. At the same time, if you’re gonna be a friend to someone, you already know that there are some points of great need. Maybe he’s been a heavy smoker, maybe he’s been using alcohol or even drugs, maybe there’s been profanity, maybe he’s been apt to be a little wild and running around. Whatever it may be, there are points of testing and temptation in the person’s life.
And if the individual is going to be placed in a position of leadership and responsibility in the local church, then there has to be evidence that the power of God has started to operate in these areas where the individual is subject to temptation and weakness. Now, I say don’t pry, but if you’re a real friend and if you spend time with the individual, it isn’t gonna be long until you find out certain areas of real concern. And you can pray about that and you can talk about it and you can help the person to learn how to turn temptation over to the Lord. Paul says in Romans 6, “As you have yielded the members of your body servants to unrighteousness, even so,” same process, “Give up, yield, your members, servants to righteousness and the result will be holiness.” See, the process is the same, you think about a temptation, you think about it, mull over it, think about, “Shall I? Shall I not?” Pretty soon you collapse, you give up.
Now, it’s the same process but a different objective. When you’re placed under temptation, you think about it, but you bring it to Jesus, and you give up to Him. He’s the one that can handle it. “Because He hath suffered being tempted, He is able effectively to help those that are tempted,” the Bible tells us. And so you give up not to the temptation, but to the Savior and let Him handle it. You teach your friend this, this whole matter of, “Let them first be proved.” What does it mean? Prove that you can pray, prove that you can get something from the Word of God. Prove that when you talk about victory over sin, you’ve got it.
A young man came up to me in São Paulo, Brazil, many years ago at the close of a meeting, took me by the coat lapels and held me fast, so that my face was just inches from him. And his eyes blazing into mine, he said, “You say that Jesus can save from sin. Has He saved you from any sin?” I’ll tell you, you better be able to answer straight in a situation like that and I did.
And we prayed together. The upshot of that matter was that the next day he got in touch with one of our workers there in São Paulo and took him to an apartment that had been rented by a number of young men for the purposes of immorality. He went inside and he left a Gospel of John and some Gospel tracts around every place in all of the rooms. And then he went out and turned the key in the lock and he said, “Goodbye, hell.” That was the end of that. See, if you’re going to lead, you have to be able to say, “Yes, Jesus does save from sin.”
What else? Your friend that you’re trying to teach about leadership has to learn the value of sacrifice and giving. If you’re going to lead in God’s work, you have to learn the taste of sacrifice and giving and stewardship. Now, giving for a believer begins at the level of the local church, but it doesn’t stop there. You have all manner of other outreaches that God would lead you to invest in for eternity. You have the foreign missionary program probably of your church or of independent missionary societies. You have the vast field of Christian radio and television. You have all sorts of parachurch organizations that are seeking to win souls. And your friend, if you’re going to teach him or her anything about leadership in the local church, will have to learn that God gives you some substance in order that you might invest it in His work.
Tithing is a beginning. The Bible says, “Tithes and offerings.” “Tithing is a beginning, the believer is not obligated to the tithes under the Mosaic law.” I know that, I guess, and so do you. But it’s a beginning, it’s a scriptural beginning and you go on from there. Until, like RG LeTourneau, you were giving 90-some percent of all of your income to the Lord. He did that a good many years before he died. Now, you have to help people to learn this. They don’t learn it automatically. You have to lead them in it and that means you have to be engaged in sacrifice yourself, and in Biblical stewardship. You follow that? And then, if you’re going to be a leader in God’s work, somebody has to help you to learn how to win souls.
I often say that my years at Moody Bible Institute did two things for me. One was to get me started on the Word of God. What does the Bible say? Dr. James M Gray was president of the Institute when I was there, and he also taught some Bible courses and I recall his saying so often to his students, “Master what the Bible says, you’ll have very little difficulty with what it means.” And that was a start there for this 16-year-old who came straight out of high school into the Moody Bible Institute years ago.
The other emphasis that was made during those student days was that the winning of people to the Lord Jesus Christ- evangelism, world evangelism, is the supreme task of the church. The number one job of the church and of individual Christians within it, is to win others to the Lord Jesus Christ and then to nurture them in the Word. And I got that emphasis early on, in my student days, and then I was sent out on what we called assignments. We’d go out to street meetings and mission meetings, and jail meetings, and hospital meetings. All sorts of opportunities to share Christ with other people. And there were always people along with me who could help and encourage and show me how this was to be done. If you’re going to get somebody busy for the Lord, you have to be willing to spend time in helping him or her know how to win people to Christ. I’m confident that almost every Christian I have ever met is in favor of soul winning, but most of them didn’t know what to do or how to start.
It was of great value to me, many years ago, to get a string of Gospel verses, originated, I think by The Navigators. And six verses: Romans 3:23, the fact of sin; Romans 6:23, the penalty for sin; Hebrews 9:25, the penalty must be paid; Romans 5:8, Christ already paid the penalty; Ephesians 2:8 and 9, salvation, therefore, is a free gift; and John 1:12, you must receive the gift. You learn those verses, and you’re able to explain the Gospel and lead people to Christ. Well, we’ll get at some more of this the next time we get together.
Dear Father today, make us good people, make us the kind of people that help others to learn leadership in your work. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Till I meet you once again, by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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