I Timothy 6:11-16
This morning we will complete the series of messages on I Timothy. I trust that there have been things we have learned that have been an encouragement to you and have helped you walk faithfully in Christ. As we come to the last passage, we notice that it is written personally to Timothy. When Paul says in I Timothy 6:11, “But you, man of God…” he is specifically writing to Timothy. Does this mean that it isn’t for us?
The term “man of God” is used in other places in the Bible to refer to leaders. It is used of Moses in I Chronicles 23:14, of David in Nehemiah 12:24 and of others and so it would not be a stretch to apply this to Christian leaders. But as we examine these truths, we discover that they are quite wonderful and relevant to us as well. So this passage was written first of all to Timothy but can also be applied to Christian leaders and to all of us. Let us read the passage.
A few weeks ago, we heard about a friend who was waiting for the bus to take him to another city. He got to the bus depot on time and got his ticket for the bus, but then sat down in the waiting area and wasn’t paying attention to the time and missed his bus. It wasn’t too serious, but not paying attention cost him an hour and a half wait for the next bus.
When I was in Bible school, I had stayed up too late several nights in a row. During an afternoon Hebrews class, I had a hard time staying awake and finally put my head on the desk. When I woke up, everyone had left the room and I was alone. It wasn’t too serious, but my lack of attention and carelessness cost me some embarrassment and possibly a few marks.
When we are careless and don’t pay attention, often it isn’t that serious, but other times, like when we are driving, inattention can have very serious consequences. What about in our walk with the Lord? Can we afford to fail to pay attention? Can we be careless in our attentiveness to God and our relationship to Him?
We sometimes hear the phrase “due diligence.” It means that in a particular matter we need to be careful and pay close attention. For example, it is used in the area of workplace health and safety. One document on this topic that I found said that, “due diligence means that employers shall take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace. This duty also applies to situations that are not addressed elsewhere in the occupational health and safety legislation.
To exercise due diligence, an employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate corrective action to prevent accidents or injuries arising from these hazards.”
Due diligence is also spoken of in making purchases. One document talking about making investments said, “Every seller knows certain things that they definitely don't want you to discover. The question is: Are you going to learn their secrets before or after you buy? Due diligence is the way to discover everything before you buy.”
Does due diligence have anything to say about our Christian life?
Dwight L. Moody writes, “When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought the old things had passed away, that all things had become new, and that my old corrupt nature, the old life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army--that there was a battle on hand.”
One year when Carla and I were in Jasper National Park, we had driven up Mount Edith Cavel and enjoyed the amazing view. It is a long switchback road about 10 km up the mountain. We had our bicycles along, but I had no desire to cycle up the mountain. However, I thought it would be great fun to cycle down the mountain. I would not have to put in much effort, only keep my hands on the brakes and enjoy the ride. I did, in fact, cycle about half way down and it was fun!
Sometimes we wish that the Christian life was like that, that it was all an easy ride downhill, but it is not. We have tremendous struggles in many areas. We have struggles with ourselves. We fight with temptations, with discouragement and with all kinds of inner battles. We struggle with others trying to maintain good relationships, finding that some are hard to keep, some people drain us, others oppose us and others cause us to be afraid of them. On top of that, we are doing battle with the enemy. Satan is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. How are we going to stand up against his constant onslaughts? Although we wish it were easier, the Bible is quite clear that the Christian life will be a struggle. That is the reason why it is imperative that we take due diligence.
The importance of due diligence is emphasized in this passage by the fact that four different words call for it. In verse 11 it says, “flee from all this and pursue…,” verse 12 says, “fight the good fight…,” and “take hold of…” and then verses 13,14 say, “I charge you to keep this commandment without spot or blame…” Whenever we have something repeated in the Bible, it means that we should take it very seriously.
Let us take a look at the individual commands which call us to due diligence in our Christian life.
The first words are a pair in which we are called to “flee from all this” and at the same time to “pursue” something else. It seems unusual to put flight and pursuit in the same sentence. About the only example of flight and pursuit that I can think of is in a game of prisoner’s base, which we have sometimes played in young people’s or at camp. In that game, it is possible to be chased by someone and at the same time to be chasing someone else. In our Christian life, however, this is always happening. There are always things that we need to be fleeing from. The words “all this” most logically refer to what has just been spoken of in verses 9-10 where Paul talked about the love of money and all the trouble it can bring. Now he says, flee from that trouble and instead pursue those things that are more fitting for a child of God. I think that if our life focus becomes running towards something, we will soon find that the things we are running away from are so far in the distance that they will become a non-issue. Let us exercise due diligence to flee from that which harms and to pursue that which builds up.
The next words, “fight the good fight” also relate to due diligence. The Greek word is “ἀγωνίζου” which sounds like our word "agony." This phrase is not so much about a military battle as it is about an athletic contest. There are many passages in Paul’s writings which use the imagery of an athletic contest. Just as an athlete trains and is diligent in preparation and is alert and ready for action throughout the contest, so we as Christians must be diligent in being alert, recognizing the fight that we are in for our very souls. It is interesting that in II Timothy 4:7, which is written later, Paul says “I have fought the good fight.” Will we be able to say that when we come near to the end of our life?
The next word is also in verse 12 and calls us to “take hold of.” Once again it is a word calling us to due diligence. The word makes me think of being careful to grasp, to hold tight on to something lest it slip from our hands. I have sometimes been playing hockey and some aggressive player has come and used his stick to knock my stick out of my hands. Evidently I wasn’t holding on very tightly and I had to get down and pick it up again. That is the imagery that comes to my mind when I hear this word, that we must deliberately and firmly grasp onto that which we have received.
The last word calling us to due diligence is found in verses 13,14, where Paul actually issues a solemn charge to Timothy, and to us. He not only requests, encourages or suggests, but actually charges Timothy to “keep this commandment without spot or blame.” The word “charge,” in Greek, was often used for military orders. This was a serious call and to be taken seriously. Obedience without blemish or blame is certainly a call to due diligence.
So as we read this passage of Scripture we read a serious call to due diligence.
We also need to take note of the direction in which our due diligence should go. In verse 11 we are told to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” Righteousness is doing what is right. One writer describes it as integrity. Godliness is “the sort of conduct that honours God.” Faith could be a reference to one of several things. It could be the content of the faith – in other words right doctrine. It could also refer to the confidence in God that we know as trust or it could be faithfulness which is the confidence in God that acts. The later is a good interpretation for it reminds us that when we trust God it must make a difference in our life and we need to be diligent in this. Love is so frequently described in the Bible that it is unquestionably a critical part of Christian living. Endurance recognizes that the Christian life is not a cake walk, but is a battle and sometimes it isn’t anything but endurance that will see us through. Gentleness reminds us of the gracious, generous attitude with which we are called to relate to others. These are not glamorous things, but they are the steady, right things which will be in us and growing in us if we are concerned with due diligence. They are the focus of our due diligence.
Duke Winser notes that “In the movie Karate Kid, young Daniel asks Mister Miagi to teach him karate. Miagi agrees under one condition: Daniel must submit totally to his instruction and never question his methods. Daniel shows up the next day eager to learn. To his chagrin, Mister Miagi has him paint a fence. Miagi demonstrates the precise motion for the job: up and down, up and down. Daniel takes days to finish the job.
Next, Miagi has him scrub the deck using a prescribed stroke. Again the job takes days. Daniel wonders, What does this have to do with karate? but he says nothing. Next, Miagi tells Daniel to wash and wax three weather-beaten cars and again prescribes the motion. Finally, Daniel reaches his limit: "I thought you were going to teach me karate, but all you have done is have me do your unwanted chores!"
Daniel has broken Miagi's one condition, and the old man's face pulses with anger. "I have been teaching you karate! Defend yourself!" Miagi thrusts his arm at Daniel, who instinctively defends himself with an arm motion exactly like that used in one of his chores. Miagi unleashes a vicious kick, and again Daniel averts the blow with a motion used in his chores. After Daniel successfully defends himself from several more blows, Miagi simply walks away, leaving Daniel to discover what the master had known all along: skill comes from repeating the correct but seemingly mundane actions. The same is true of godliness.
Are we sometimes less than diligent in our faith life? Do we rest on God’s grace so much that we become careless and forget that we are in a battle? I wish to personally encourage each one of you in the struggles you face, in the life you are living to exercise due diligence.
When I began, I described due diligence as it applies to several every day situations. Why does a buyer want to exercise due diligence? One writer says, “Due diligence is the way to discover everything before you buy. Once you close the deal it's too late! There's little or nothing that can be done about it. The consequences can be enormous.” The motivation for due diligence in workplace safety is described by another writer. "Due diligence" is important as a legal defence for a person charged under occupational health and safety legislation. If charged, a defendant may be found not guilty if he or she can prove that due diligence was exercised.” So in these areas of life due diligence is important as a defence against negative consequences. This importance motivates those involved to exercise it. What motivation is there for due diligence in our Christian walk?
In verse 12, we have been invited to “take hold of…eternal life…” What a powerful motivation for due diligence that is! Why should we care about the way in which we are living our Christian life? We should care because we are the recipients of eternal life! I enjoy watching shows about extreme sports like climbing Mount Everest or running class 6 rapids in a kayak. I have heard people who do this say that it is in the face of death that they feel most alive. This seems to me to be a very selfish and “this worldly” perspective. They seem to think that since this life is all there is, you might as well enjoy it fully, for your own fulfillment and go out in a blaze of glory.
How different for us because we have eternal life and are called to due diligence in this life because we are anticipating eternal life. Jesus was willing to suffer and die because of the “joy set before him.” He had an eternal mindset. Many missionaries have not considered the sacrifices of self which they have made a great cost at all because they had their minds on eternity. The evidence of how we spend our money and our time would suggest that often our lives are focused on this life and not on the eternal life we have received.
This is also important because the eternal life which we are inheriting is not a life that is only for when we die or when Jesus returns. When it says “take hold of eternal life,” it implies that it is a possession we have now. Eternal life, life in God, life that will last forever, has already begun. That is the track we are set upon and because we are, we are called to due diligence.
But how did we come to possess this eternal life? We often put a great deal of emphasis on our choice of God. There is no question that we receive eternal life because we have faith in God and have accepted Jesus as the one who saves us from sin. But let us not forget that we have eternal life because of the call of God. He sent Jesus, He provided the way of salvation, He calls us to Himself. In this passage we are once again reminded of this call. We have eternal life because it is to this we have been called. To be called is to be chosen. To be chosen is to be special to God, which we are because the Bible says that we were loved while we were still enemies.
It is important to exercise due diligence because we are His called and chosen children. Being a called people moves us to due diligence as a response to the love and work of God on our behalf.
In speaking to Timothy, Paul encourages due diligence by reminding him of the commitment he had made “in the presence of many witnesses.” Whether this was the testimony he spoke in his baptism, a commitment he declared at some other function while in the presence of the body of believers or perhaps a commitment he made when he was commissioned to leadership we don’t know, but somewhere along the way, Timothy had publicly declared that he committed himself to Christ. The public nature of that covenant reinforced the need to keep it. It is as if he was saying to Timothy – “you made a commitment, we all heard you, remember to keep what we all heard you promise.” It is evident that Paul thinks that reminding Timothy of past public commitments will motivate him to due diligence.
Sometimes I wonder how well such a motivator to due diligence works today. When we remind people of the vows they have made in baptism or in a testimony after they have changed their mind, it doesn’t seem to have much impact. It seems as if people think they have a right to change their mind and should not be thought less of if they do. That is sad and takes away the importance of public commitments made at times like baptism, child dedication or even marriage. Can we somehow renew the importance of publicly made commitments? Paul thinks it is important and calls for it as a motivator to due diligence.
If we are not willing to take seriously the covenants we make in the presence of others, we are reminded in verse 13 that there is another audience. What an encouraging and positive reminder this is. We are called to due diligence because God is the one “who gives life to everything.” So, let us be diligent in our faith walk because God sees and knows the covenants we have made, the fears in our heart, the struggles we face. But God is also the one who gives life to everything and as the one who gives life, he has given us life, has given us eternal life, has given us abundant life and will sustain us in this life. What a blessing, what a hope!
Not only this, but we are also called to due diligence because we do so in the sight of Jesus Christ “who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession.” This phrase helps us remember that Jesus did not exercise due diligence on a day when there was a picnic at the park. He made the good confession in the presence of opposition so fierce that he was on trial for his very life. He declared his allegiance to God’s plan and purpose knowing full well that it would result in his death. We should exercise due diligence because Christ understands our struggles. We should exercise due diligence because Jesus gave His life so that we could have life.
As we recognize that our life is lived in the presence of God who gives life and of Christ who gave His life, we are moved to due diligence.
Some of you will probably think that I am crazy, but listen to my logic. When I have a small cavity in my teeth fixed, I ask the dentist not to put in freezing. My logic is that knowing that the drilling only lasts a very short time, I can handle it for a short time. In fact, I prefer a short time of suffering to the drooling, frozen feeling that lasts all day when you have freezing.
I see a similar logic at work in the encouragement we receive in verses 14,15 where we are called to keep the commandment “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time.” Due diligence is required because there is a struggle. But it will not last forever. There will be an end to the struggle. When Jesus comes back again, God will take us to his eternal home and we will be at rest.
When will that happen? We do not know the answer to that question, but it is in the hands of God who will bring it about in his own time.
Who is this God in whose hands our life, our struggle, and the timing of our hope resides? The answer to that question is found in the doxology in the last two verses. He is the God who is the blessed one, the one who as King of kings and Lord of lords has the power and authority to make it happen. He is God immortal, that is, the one whom death cannot touch. He is above all things and the one whom no one can see. He is the one who is pure and transcendent, but whom we will see because the one who is in the bosom of the Father has revealed Him.
As we remember that there will be an end to the struggle and that both the struggle and the end are in the hands of our all powerful and loving Father, we are encouraged to due diligence.
There is a person who is facing serious surgery. He needs to exercise due diligence in believing God because He is the blessed and only ruler.
There is a person who is tired of obedience because it seems to be making her unhappy. She needs to exercise due diligence to righteousness because she will inherit eternal life.
There is a person who struggles with her angry feelings against a person who has hurt her. She needs to exercise due diligence in love because she has been loved by the one who has given her life.
There is a person who questions the commitment he has made because all he has believed seems a little hard to believe. He needs to exercise due diligence because of the hope of seeing the one who lives in unapproachable light.
What is your story? Be encouraged to keep on. Focus on God who is over all and who calls us to due diligence.