The Verbs of 1 Timothy 6 Feed

Pursue--1 Timothy 6:11-21

“. . . pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” -- I Timothy 6:11 (NLT) 

What are you running from? What are you chasing after in your life? Maybe lots of things come to mind or maybe nothing comes to mind. Chances are, you are doing one or the other, either running or chasing…or you are going nowhere.

Inactivity doesn’t appear to have been an option for young Timothy. In verse 11, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to both “flee” and to “pursue”. It is important to note that Timothy was urged to “flee” from pride, lust, greed, glory and power and yet in the same breath Paul told him to “pursue” things like righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. In many ways Paul’s exhortations seem obvious. Why would Timothy do otherwise? However, it seems we are all inclined to do just the opposite of what we should do.

Again, I have to ask, “What are you chasing?” We all love chase scenes in movies and on TV. With every stride the excitement builds as the chase scene winds its way into buildings, up staircases, out windows, over ledges, through doorways, under bridges and around corners.  The pursuit ultimately culminates at the end of a dark alley in a crash of trash cans as the pursuer tackles and apprehends the pursued. 

There are things in life from which we should flee and there are things in life that we should pursue. We must be careful not to confuse the two. As a leader in the church at Ephesus, Timothy was called to confront the all too tempting issues of riches, pride, lust, power, security and popularity. He was called upon to “flee” from these things, and so are we, yet these are the things that secular culture holds up as elements of the “good life.” We must be careful to pursue the right things.

Be brutally honest with yourself. What are you pursing? Make a list.

Compare your list of pursuits to the Apostle Paul’s list for Timothy. The contrast between what to “flee” and what to pursue is vivid. Paul’s list of pursuits deals with both the body and the soul. There are some things that a person of God should be going after.

The first is “righteousness.” Paul isn’t talking about a self-centered, pious righteousness but rather he is talking about the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness that finds its meaning, value and purpose in the love and grace of God. Nothing can be done to earn this righteousness.  It comes from the Father and supersedes any position or popularity that the world esteems. It is about being “right” in the right way and for the right reasons. All security and stability for living is realized in the righteousness that is found in Christ. Pursue it, look for it, and focus upon it. It is life.

The second is a “godly life.” This is the place of a pure heart. Don’t let anything keep you from seeing God. Lust, greed, selfish ambition, and a host of other “inclinations” will serve to keep you from seeing God clearly. Run from that junk and go after God. If you seek him, you will find him.

The third is faith. Eugene Peterson says that faith is the result of combining imagination with participation. We become too fixated on the reality of earthly things.  There is something more to this life and it is realized in God.  Spend some time reading in the Bible about the God who created all things, who wants relationship with humankind and who in love offered up the life of Jesus on the cross that we might have eternal life.  Faith comes from hearing and reading the Word of God.  Use your imagination as you read about a God who is ever reaching out to you with love and grace, who dwells within your heart and empowers you to live through the Holy Spirit.  Enter into that love.  Participate in the grace of God in your life and pursue faith.
Finally, Paul tells Timothy to pursue love, perseverance and gentleness.  In the church at Ephesus Timothy is dealing with people--people who are living and acting selfishly, ignorantly, rudely, irrationally, greedily and immorally.  For the most part, the people are deceived by the enemy and by the false teachers among them who are wrong at every point.  Does this sound anything like your life?  How is Timothy supposed to respond to this?  How are we to respond to the world around us?  We are to:

Love--Remember God loved you and loves you, therefore we must respond in love towards others.  It doesn't matter who they are or what they are doing.  We must not hate nor despise.  We must love. 

Persevere--Hang in there.  Keep loving them.  Don't give up. Stand up for what is right but do it in the right way.  Don't wash your hands of those that are deceived and that stubbornly continue in their ways.  Don't throw in the towel.  Keep on pressing in on them with love.  Don't quit.  God didn't give up on you--don't you give up on them.

Gentleness—When in doubt, be gentle.  Even when seemingly justified, nothing hurts worse and is misunderstood more than harshness.  Don't get sucked into foolish arguments--even when you are right.  There is another way and it is the Jesus way.  It is the way of gentleness.
Paul's directives to Timothy aren't easy.  Our natural responses to people, situations and life aren't always the best responses. The things that we are to pursue don't come naturally.  Instead, it seems as if they are ever trying to elude us.  We must pursue them.  Go after righteousness, godliness and faith and as you do, live a life of love.  Even in the midst of frustration don’t quit, but rather deal with others gently and lovingly.  Enjoy the chase.  As you pursue the things of God you might be surprised to find in the end you have apprehended life.   

Run--1 Timothy 6:11-21

New_image “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things.”
--1 Timothy 6:11 (NLT)

Running from things—Is that a sign of weakness or is it a sign of wisdom?  Americans have trouble with the idea of running from things.  A good example of this mentality is realized in the popular USA Independence Day T-Shirt that displays a picture of the American flag and reads, “These colors don’t run.”  As an American, it is ingrained in me to not run from things, but what do I do as a “man of God”?  (Side note—the phrase, “man of God” is genderless in the original language so....ladies, you are not off the hook, this scripture applies to you too.)

In verse 11 Paul exhorts Timothy to run from “evil things”.  In fact, he is telling Timothy to run from the many things that he mentioned earlier in the letter.  As we consider Paul’s words to Timothy, it is important that we understand the context of his letter and that we know specifically the “evil things” from which Timothy is to “run”.

The letter of 1 Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul to his friend Timothy, the leader at the church in Ephesus.  The church was a young church and in Paul’s absence had been infiltrated by false teachers.  Timothy was sent to lead the church through this challenging situation.  Paul wrote the letter to encourage Timothy and to advise him on how to confront the difficult issues in the church.

Specifically, in chapter 6, Paul instructs Timothy on how to deal with those in the church that are focused solely upon making money and who are perverting the message of the gospel.  The false teachers have come into the church preaching a message of compromise—proclaiming a cheap grace of “ease and happiness” in contrast to Paul’s preaching of commitment to Christ and love of others.  Their debates, arguing and quibbling over Paul’s words were gaining them attention and stirring up dissention within the church and all the while they were garnering support—specifically, financial support (which is by design).  The religion of the false teachers was focused upon the gaining of wealth and living a life of ease, luxury and extravagance.

In light of all this Paul says to Timothy—run.  In other words Paul says, “Don’t get sucked into the black hole of arguing and debating and don’t for a second be deceived by the myth of popularity and the allure of money.”  Specifically, Paul says, “. . . you Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things.”  It is important to note that prior to his exhortation to “run,” Paul, in a very few words, gives the reason that Timothy should run.  He should run because he is “a man of God.”

“A man [person] of God” is an important descriptor used here by Paul.  Timothy was a follower of Jesus Christ.  His life was set aside for noble purposes—to be used as an instrument for God.  His life was not his own it was bought at the high price of the precious blood of Jesus upon the cross.  Timothy was “a man of God” but he was also a human being and humans are susceptible to temptation.

“. . . run from all these evil things.”  Evil things lead to evil thoughts which lead to temptation.  You and I know exactly what Paul was talking about.  Timothy was very possibly wrestling with the temptations and trappings that emanate from power and money.  In light of the enticing evil that Timothy was up against, Paul doesn’t mince any words.  He instructs Timothy to “run.”

There is evil that we are to fight and there is evil that we are to run from.  Timothy was facing the kind that we are to run from.  The people of God are to run from the evil things that lead to temptation and sin. 

Run from this evil like you would run from:

  • an approaching tsunami
  • a collapsing building 
  • a crazed shooter in a shopping mall 

To stand still in the face of these types of situations would mean certain death. 

Do you have a temptation that is difficult to resist?  Are you feeling the weight of evil things and wicked thoughts as they press in on you?  Take Paul’s advice and run.  The smart thing to do is to remove yourself from the temptation and run from anything that might produce sin in your life.

Running from evil is not cowardly, it is courageous.  Running from temptation that could lead to sin is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of wisdom.  Just like Timothy, you are a child of God, bought with a price and filled with the Holy Spirit to be used of God for His glory.  The evil of sin and its consequences will only serve to trip you up and stand in the way of your service unto God.

Heed Paul’s instructions—when faced with temptation, remember who you are and whose you are and……Run.

The Verbs of Paul's Final Instructions

I have spent the last couple of weeks reading through the book of First Timothy in the New Testament.  I need to read through it again.  The Apostle Paul’s two thousand year old words of encouragement and instruction to Timothy, the young pastor at Ephesus, are some of the same words that I have needed to hear in my heart and life this past week.  It is amazing how the Holy Spirit does that.

I spent the bulk of my devotional time last week reading and rereading the last few verses of chapter six in First Timothy.  The subheading in that section of my Bible labels the Apostle’s comments as “Paul’s Final Instructions.”  Verses 11 through 21 of First Timothy chapter 6 are some of Paul’s last words to his friend Timothy, the church, the world and . . . to you and to me. 

Last words are important.

I noticed in my reading that Paul’s last words in verses 11 through 21 are not only words of wisdom and direction but they are also words of action.  Specifically, Paul leaves Timothy with nine verbs—

  • Run
  • Pursue
  • Fight
  • Hold
  • Obey
  • Teach
  • Tell
  • Guard
  • Avoid

Throughout the New Testament the words of Paul ring out in foundational Biblical truths and upon his words sound theologies have been built and traditional creeds constructed.  In Paul’s last words we see a call to action. Over the past week I have become convinced that these words of action are relevant to my life as one who serves as a leader in the church and ultimately as one who is a follower of Jesus Christ.

Last words are important—especially the Apostle Paul’s last words.  Over the next nine Sundays I will endeavor to post thoughts and reflections on the nine verbs that Paul uses in his final instructions to his friend, protégé and fellow preacher, Timothy.

I invite you to join me in a study of and meditation upon the Biblical passage of First Timothy 6:11-21.  I hope that this will be a time of growth for all of us as we consider the Word of God together and meditate upon its message throughout the week.

Here is the scripture passage:

I Timothy 6:11-21 (NLT)

11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

May God’s grace be with you all.

Scripture taken from © Copyright 1995-2008