By Pastor Glenn Pease
Somebody has to do the dirty work in life, and so all leaders need men who
are trouble shooters. George Washington needed one when Benedict Arnold betrayed the colonies and escaped to the British forces. Washington was angry and was determined to get him back. He choose Sargent Major John Champe for the secret and sensitive mission of deserting to the British and kidnapping Arnold. Only Washington and Colonel Lighthouse Harry knew of the plot. On Oct. 19, 1780 Champe deserted his company and fled. It was very risky in that he could have been shot by his own men.
The British accepted him and put him in the Loyalist Legion made up of other Americans who chose to be loyal to England in the war. Benedict Arnold was its leader. Everything seemed to be going smooth until the Loyalist Legion was ordered into battle in Virginia. Champe was from Virginia and he refused to fight his own people, and so he deserted again. Now he was a hunted man by both sides. He eventually got back to Washington's headquarters and explained the whole mess. Washington had no choice but to send him, his wife, and his four children to a hideout in the wilderness. When the war ended it was still not safe for him to return, for he was considered a traitor by both sides, and could easily have been murdered. He was moved to Kentucky, and it was not until long after his death that congress in 1847 voted Champe a promotion for, "One of the most courageous acts of the American Revolution."
As Champe was a champion who got little credit, so Titus was a Titan, that is a giant of the faith, in the revolutionary march of Christianity in the first century. Titus was a trouble shooter in the war to prevent traitors from dividing the forces of the church, and weakening their ability to win the world out of darkness into light. Like Champe, he does not get much recognition because his courageous acts of service are somewhat suppressed in the New Testament record. In spite of the fact that he was one of Paul's greatest friends and travelling companions, and in spite of the fact that he is the most successful trouble shooter in the New Testament, he is not even once referred to in the book of Acts. Some are convinced that Titus was Luke's brother, and family modesty kept Luke from recording the acts of his own brother. This, of course, is merely a theory.
Had he not played a major role in solving the problems of the church of Corinth we would hardly know who he was at all. The church at Corinth was in great distress. There was strong division and harsh criticism against Paul. The situation called for a trouble shooter with gifts of wisdom and tact. It was a delicate mission and Paul chose his friend Titus to tackle the job. He had earlier sent Timothy, but he was young and lacked experience, so he next chose Titus. He sent him with his first letter to the Corinthians, and he was able to calm the troubled waters and bring back to Paul a good report. Paul wrote II Cor. and sent Titus back with it. In that letter we learn most everything we know about Titus. Paul refers to him 8 times in that letter. Here is an example from II Cor. 2:12-13. "When I came to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia."
No where do we find the Apostle Paul so troubled and restless that he cannot stand still and preach the Gospel. He had to hear from Titus, and until he did he could not concentrate on his ministry. This is the only record we have of Paul failing to go through an open door. When he got to Macedonia he received one of the greatest blessings he ever recorded, for Titus was there, and he had good news that was desperately needed. We read in II Cor. 4:5-6, "For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn-fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast comforted us by the coming of Titus."
His coming was a great comfort because he had succeeded in getting the Corinthians to repent and change their attitudes, and become friendly with Paul again. Titus had been a successful trouble shooter, for that was his gift to be a peacemaker. The Speaker's Bible says of him, "He was much more a man of affairs than Timothy was. He settled many a quarrel, allayed many a trouble, averted many a split. He was the conciliator and peacemaker of the early church." He was able to do what others could not because it was his gift to be a trouble shooter. If everyone could do it there would be no need for those who are gifted trouble shooter. Paul wrote II Cor. in response to this good report, and it is as positive as I Cor. is negative.
Paul was so comforted by the coming of Titus that it has become a part of the language of comfort. James Smetham wrote to a friend to thank him for the letter he received which came at a time when he was depressed and in it he wrote, "Glad to get your friendly letter. It was like the coming of Titus. I think providence in these days often sends Titus by mail." George Ensor, the first English missionary to Japan said he baptized his first convert and gave him the name Titus. He said, "For God who comforts the downcast comforted me by the coming of Titus." It was discouraging work, and, like Paul, he was down, but then all was changed by the coming of this friend.
Oh, gift of God, my friend!
Who face has brought the Eternal nigh.
No sermon like thy life doth tend
To turn my gaze toward the sky.
All of us need the ministry and comfort of Titus. We need that friend who will come into our darkness with light. We need good news when all we hear is bad news, and that things seem to be getting worse. What a blessing to have the downward trend reversed, and hear that God is at work, and the good does triumph over the evil. May God grant us all the comfort of the coming of Titus, and may we all strive to be a Titus in bringing to others the good news of life's joyful realities.
Being a trouble shooter is not one of the gifts listed in the New Testament, but it is nevertheless a gift, and a needed one, for trouble is inevitable in a fallen world, and there is no such thing as working with people without trouble. Since the church is people oriented, there can be escape from trouble, and so the trouble shooter is a vital person in the army of the Lord. No where was this true than on the island of Crete. It was the largest island in the Mediterranean. It was 250 miles long and 50 miles wide. It was a big place to work, but it was as bad as it was big. It was not the kind of place a seminary student would want to take for his first church. Most veterans would even do anything to avoid getting assigned to such a place.
Paul had a lot of confidence in Titus to leave him there. He was the only one who could handle the job like this. There were Jews from Crete at Pentecost and they carried the Gospel back home, and that is likely how the church got started on this great island. The seed was sown and it was growing, but the weeds were thick. Paul visited the island and was impressed with the depravity of the people. In verse 12 he quotes one of their own poets named Epimenides who lived in 600B.C. He said of the Cretans that they are, "Always liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons." They were obviously something less than the creme of the crop. That was 600 years back from Paul's time and you would think there would be some progress, but in the next verse Paul says this testimony is true. Things have not changed at all, for they are a crude crowd held in contempt by all people.
Imagine going to a people with such a rotten reputation. Nobody but a tough-minded trouble shooter would have any business trying to organize a church in such a place. Titus did it, and the churches there to this day honor the name of Titus by naming their churches after him. He was buried in Crete for centuries before the Venetians carried his body away. The life an labors of Titus make it clear that the road may be rough, and the circumstances intolerable, and the odds overwhelmingly against you. But it is still possible to plant and grow the church of Christ in the worse possible settings. No place is hopeless if you have the right personal.
In 1850 as many as 30 thousand children were abandoned in New York City. Their immigrant parents died on the trip to America, or shortly after arriving. These children had no family or relatives, and nowhere to go. They lived in the streets and ate out of the garbage cans. It was a terrible problem and all people could do is say that it was a shame. But then Charles L. Brace a 26 year old pastor with the gift for trouble shooting got concerned. He started what came to be known as the orphan train. He rounded up hundreds of these stray orphans and put them on a train headed West. He announced in every town along the way that if anyone wanted a son or daughter they could have one. The response was overwhelming. People were grateful for the chance to have a child in their life. Pastor Brace kept this train rolling until 1929, and over 100 thousand children were given away. Two became governors; one a U. S. Congressman, and one a Supreme Court Justice. Over 50 became doctors and lawyers.
A hopeless situation was turned into a treasure of blessings for tens of thousands of families because of one gifted trouble shooter. Thank God for the trouble shooters who have turned burdens into blessings all through history. Not everyone can be like Titus, but the good news is, all of us can be trouble shooters in some ways. The book of Titus not only reveals to us the key trouble shooter of the New Testament, but it also reveals to us the key tool of the trouble shooter. The tool that can prevent most of the troubles that Christians can get into, and that tool is the virtue of self-control.
You will not find another part of the Bible where this virtue is emphasized like it is here in Titus. The two key Greek words for self-control are the dominant words in the council Paul gives to Titus. The elders are to be men who are self-controlled. All the people who are trouble makers in the first chapter are problems because of their lack of self-control. In chapter 2 self-control is repeated over and over. It is characterize the older men, the older women, the younger women, and the younger men. In other words, everybody in the church who is going to be part of the answer rather than part of the problem is going to have to develop the virtue of self-control.
It is a word with many synonyms and can be translated temperate, sober, or discreet. The word refers to the inner strength one has over ones self to not be at the mercy of what happens externally, but to be in control. The emotions and desires of life do not lead this person around by the nose as a slave. He or she is disciplined, and they have their life under control. The undisciplined life where a person is manipulated and controlled by his emotions and desires is the cause for the troubles of the world and of the church.
This virtue so pushed by Paul was recognized by great minds all through history to be the key to a civilized society. It was a classical virtue of the Greeks. Socrates and Aristotle stressed it, and so did the Greek Stoics and the Jewish Essenes. Everyone with intelligence knows that if man does not develop control of his appetites for sex and food and every other desire he will lose his superiority over the animal and descend to their level. Even non-Christians have recognized that self-control is vital to society to maintain morality and order.
In Greek mythology Phaethon was the son of Helios, the sun god. Every morning Helios emerged from the East in a golden chariot to ride across the skies and light up the world. The chariot itself was drawn by 8 dazzling white winged horses whose nostrils breathed forth flame. One day some of Phaethon's companions challenged his claim to divine parentage, and he came to Helios to seek proof. Helios assured his son he would grant him any wish. Phaethon requested that he be allowed to drive the sun chariot. Horrified by this request he begged his son to choose another way, for he knew he could not control the powerful horses. Phaethon was stubborn and held his father to his promise, and so with heavy heart he let his son take the reins the next morning.
Once under way the horses quickly sensed Phaethon's light and inexperienced hand on the reins, and they began to run amok across the skies. Sometimes going too low and scorching the earth, and sometimes too high leaving whole regions frozen. Finally in desperation Zeus was forced to hurl a thunder bolt at the chariot and Phaethon was destroyed.
The Greeks were saying by this story that control is essential to order in the universe and in life. When things get out of control there is security for anyone. You don't have to be a Christian to know this, but all Christians are called to practice control of their lives like no other people. It is not just for monks, nuns, and specialists in self-denial. It is for all Christians at all age levels. It is the very essence of Christian living, and it is that virtue that makes all of us trouble shooters in our own lives.
When something is universally valued then the Christian is all the more obligated to live for that value that all men will recognize and honor. Aristotle the Greek said, "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is victory over self." Seneca the Roman said, "To master one's self is the greatest mastery." Long before them Prov. 16:42 said, "A patient man is better than a warrior, and he who rules his temper, than he who takes a city." Heavenly and earthly wisdom agree that the real heroes of history, and the people most to be admired, are those who have lived lives which were governed by the virtue of self-control.
A man was walking through a super market with a screaming baby in the shopping cart. A woman near by noted that the man kept saying, "Keep calm Albert. Keep calm Albert." Finally in admiration for the man's patience she said to him, "Sir I must commend you for your patience with baby Albert." To which the man replied, "Madam, I am Albert." If you can't control the baby, then next best thing is to control yourself, and that was what he was working at, and that is what we are all to work at. If you can't control life and circumstances, you can still be victorious if you can control yourself and your reactions to the circumstances.
Paul stressed this in his letter to the Corinthians also. Christians need to approach life like a runner, or any other athlete, with a commitment to discipline their lives to bring them under control. In I Cor. 9:25-27 we read, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man beating the air." Paul brings his body under control so he is not a slave to it. Self-control puts you in charge of your body, and it serves you rather than you serving it.
In 1962 Jim Beatty became the first man to break the four minute mile indoors. He had to go through enormous sacrifice to get such control of his body. His, and the experience of others, is described like this: "Back of the feat of every man who has run the grueling sub-four-minute mile is the story of endless hours of Spartan training and of punishing discipline. With every agonized nerve in his body screaming for rest, the runner drives himself on. Like a jockey whipping his steed to close the gap as he nears the tape, the miler lashes his body to eke out its last ounce of energy and gain the coveted prize. He is discipline incarnate: The triumph of the spirit over the flesh."
This is what the Christian life is all about. It is about the triumph of the spirit over the flesh, and the issue of self-control. For Titus to be a successful trouble shooter on Crete he had to get Christians of all ages to develop this virtue. This is the challenge for every believer. In his letter to Timothy Paul describes the opposite of self-control. In II Tim. 3:1-4 he writes, "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
In Gal. 5 Paul describes the opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit, one of which is self-control. He writes, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like." The point is, the essence of the sinful nature is lack of self-control. The essence of the righteous nature is in the presence of self-control.
The difference between the trouble maker and the trouble shooter in this world is not that one has evil thoughts and sinful desires and the other does not. They are equal on that score. Christian people have every thought and every desire that enters the minds of non-Christians. There is no folly or fantasy that Satan uses to entice men that does not affect the believer in some way. The difference between the two is that one has the power to control his mind, body, and desires, while the other is under the control of them all.
Self- control is a fruit of the spirit and so it is from God, but the book of Titus clearly stresses that it has to be learned. Paul, over and over again, tells Titus you must teach the people to be self-controlled. It does not just happen because you become a Christian. Many Christians are poor Christians because they have not learned to be trained and disciplined just like an athlete. Paul was so into the importance of teaching this that when he got his chance to come before the governor Felix and defend the Christian faith we read what he spoke on in Acts 24:25: "As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come." Felix was impressed with Paul, and talked with him after, but he wanted to favor the Jews so he left Paul in prison.
Self-control was a part of Paul's fundamental teaching. The reason is obvious, for there can be no distinctive Christian life without it. The goals of the Christian life cannot be achieved without self-control. Titus could not get to first base in organizing the church on Crete unless he could develop a group of Christians with self-control. But with self-control the church can thrive in any environment, no matter how corrupt. They do not escape exposure to the corruption, nor do they escape temptation, but they are not victims, for by the power of self-control they can even use their temptation for the life that pleases God.
In verse 15 Paul says, "To the pure all things are pure but to those who are corrupted and do not believe nothing is pure." This is a paradox. A story about the great inventor Thomas Edison illustrates the point. The entrance to his property was a heavy clumsy gate and one of his friends wondered why a man of his standing would put up with this heavy thing, and suggested something more modern and easy to use. Edison looked at him with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Come with me. Let me show you something." He took him to the gate and showed him how it was geared into a pump and he said, "You see, every man who comes to see me and opens or shuts this gate automatically pumps a gallon of water into a tank on my roof." The visitor could be friend or foe, but all of them were expending energy that Edison had under his control for his purpose.
So it is in the life of a believer who has developed self-control. He can use all things for good. To the person without self-control lust is destructive of marriage, morality, family, and society. But to the pure even lust can be pure, for by self-control it is energy channeled into that which is God's will, and it enriches marriage and all of life. By the power of self-control all energy, even that which may be stimulated by lust, can be channeled into doing good.
The difference between a river and a flood is not just the amount of water and the energy. The difference is that the flood is out of control, but the river is channeled and can be used to produce power for a purpose. The flood is destructive because it cannot be controlled. Get all that same energy under control and it can be used for good. So the Christian in a very non-Christian
environment can be successfully righteous by the power of self-control. This