The Call of God

I have always been fascinated by the bible passages where the call of God is given directly to His chosen servant. Let me give you a few examples.

Moses:

“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? He said, But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:10-12).

Joshua:

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-7).

Jeremiah:

“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Then I said, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth. But the Lord said to me, Do not say I am only a youth; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord. Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

Ezekiel:

“And he said to me, Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you. And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord God. And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Nor be dismayed by their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 2:1-7).

The First Disciples:

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22).

Paul:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (Acts 9:1-6).

Some Reflections……

The world looks for strategies and programs; God looks for a man.

A few years ago, I heard a sermon by John MacArthur on the prophet Jeremiah. In reference to the call of Jeremiah, MacArthur explained, “When there is a crisis, people look for a program. But God looks for a man.” Is it not true that we constantly look for some magical program to take our church to the next level? We think, if only we could find the right program or curriculum, our church would grow and thrive. But more than programs and strategic planning, God is looking for men and women of faith. When God says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God is looking for people like Isaiah who say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). First and foremost, there must be a willingness to obey the call of God.

The “call” is not based on the skills/abilities/gifts of the man.

Jesus didn’t pick the 12 disciples because they were the most gifted men he could find. They were just ordinary men with an extraordinary calling. I am sure they were skilled in their various trades and occupations, but no one would have suggested they would change the world. Yet in only a few decades, that’s exactly what happened. “The gospel….which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:23). How remarkable that this ordinary cast of characters took the gospel all over the known world in such a short time. What this demonstrates is the power of God. As Paul explains, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The “called” often feel weak and inadequate for the task at hand.

Moses thought he was a poor communicator (Exodus 4:10) and Jeremiah thought he was too young (Jeremiah 1:6). What is ironic is that God knew these men better than they knew themselves. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” he said to Jeremiah. God was aware of weaknesses they had no clue about, but none of that mattered. If God had truly called them as His chosen instruments, He would certainly equip them for the task at hand. We might also add that too much pride and confidence in one’s own abilities is actually a hindrance to fulfilling God’s plans. Pride has a tendency to produce self-reliance and not God-dependence. That’s why Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Faith and courage were required for the assignment.

It’s safe to say that Joshua never forgot God’s instructions to him, “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Joshua would face giants as he led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan. Their enemies would not simply hand over the land without a fight and therefore, strength and courage would be absolutely essential to victory. This is true for every man of God. I love how God tells Jeremiah, “But you, dress yourself for work; arise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them” (Jeremiah 1:17). In other words, it’s almost as if God is saying, “if you don’t trust me, I will humiliate you before the people.” Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Success was not always guaranteed.

Those of you who are familiar with the ministry of Jeremiah will know that it was not a great success. He was not a prophet who witnessed revival after revival in response to his preaching. But we also know that Jeremiah was faithful and obedient to God. Popularity was not something he enjoyed throughout his life, but he faithfully delivered the Word of God, so there is a sense in which he was successful. Think of all the missionaries around the world who have labored for years on end with few converts to show for their work. Does that mean they were failures? Of course not! The prophet of God is responsible to speak the words of God and then leave the results up to Him. “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear” (Ezekiel 2:7).

The guidebook for the man of God – the Word of God.

Every year, thousands of new books are published. In my personally library, I have well over 1000 books and have access to thousands more on the internet. Indeed, as King Solomon reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). What is amazing about this verse is that it was written 3000 years ago, long before the publishing industry flooded the world with books. But for the man of God, it is needful to master only one book – God’s book. As God told Joshua, “Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). Paul adds to this in saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In short, God’s Word is sufficient!

Those “called” could always count on the presence of God.

God told Moses, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). God told Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5). God told Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8). And just as the Spirit of God entered into Ezekiel (2:2), so too did Jesus give his disciples the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) before he left them.

Certainly, much more could be said, but as I close, let me leave you with the words of the great apostle, to his young apprentice Timothy. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:11-14).

 

What Is So Great About Being Weak?

2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

 

The Christian life offers many paradoxes, one of which is the paradox of weakness. The Bible tells us that being weak is actually a good thing. Ironically, we all want to be strong. We want to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and in virtually every other way. But if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit we are not. We struggle to keep things together on a daily basis. For the Christian, however, being weak is a good thing. Let me give you six reasons as to why weakness is not the bad thing we often think it to be.

 

  1. Being weak reminds us that we can’t take any of the credit. Remarkably, God chooses to use His people to accomplish His purposes. But anything of lasting value that is done in our lives only happens through God’s strength and power. Paul reminds some of his fellow believers of this reality in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Like the apostle Paul, when we are used of God, we can’t take any of the credit. We are just ordinary men and women, being used by a very gracious God.

 

  1. Being used of God also points the world to Christ. Obviously, this second reason compliments the first. God chooses to use His people to accomplish extraordinary things, not so they can take the credit, but so that God will gain the glory. God does this to point the world to Him. I am reminded of Acts 4:13, where we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were not impressive by the world’s standards. They were just ordinary fishermen. But having “been with Jesus,” they were a force to be reckoned with and people could not help but notice these “common men.”

 

  1. Being weak makes us long for heaven where we will be given new bodies. The Bible tells us, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). You don’t have to be a Christian to know that slowly (sometimes not so slowly) your body is breaking down. The older you get, the weaker you get. Yet again, this is a good thing because it makes us long for something more. For the Christian, that “something more” will one day be granted to us in the form a new glorified body.

 

  1. Being weak keeps us from making our bodies an idol. This is a big temptation, especially in our modern world where health and wellness are a huge focus. Safe to say that for many people, their body is their god. They are so focused and consumed with taking care of their bodies that little else matters. And granted that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). As Christians, we want to invest ourselves in “the life to come” over and above everything else.

 

  1. Being weak helps us keep things in perspective. Yet again, this complements the previous point. Paul writes, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). There is infinite value and worth in knowing Christ while any value that the world offers is continually diminishing. The reason why we need to keep things in perspective is because we are constantly being told just the opposite. When we remember our own weakness, however, investing in this world and the “glories” that are offered is not such a temptation. I will never be a “mover and a shaker” in this world and I am glad for that. Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). Jesus didn’t say it is impossible, but He did say it is hard. The reason is simple – strength and riches tempt us to keep investing in this world. Weakness, on the other hand, is a continual reminder to invest in the world to come.

 

  1. Being weak is a sign of our identifying with Christ. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Through His death on the cross, Christ humbled himself in the ultimate way. And now, Christ is inviting us to walk the Calvary road with Him by taking up our cross and following Him. In so doing, we are forsaking the way of the world, and embracing the way of weakness. The believer now lives “by faith in the Son of God” and daily relies upon His strength and not our own.

In summary, we can be content to be weak and satisfied to let Christ’s power flow through us. Turning once again to the apostle Paul, he writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Weaknesses and everything else that Paul experienced were actually for the good because it forced Him to trust His Savior. Do you have that perspective today, in your own life?

 

Thus, the reason why weakness is a good thing for the Christian is because it compels us to turn to Christ. It forces us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And it brings glory to God in extraordinary ways.

Not Ashamed

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

There is a gospel that is being preached today, but it is not the true gospel. It’s not that everything about this gospel is inaccurate, but it’s just not the “whole” gospel. And when you preach a half gospel, you are not really preaching the gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). This gospel offers a God who is loving, but not demanding; a God who gives “Your best life now,” a God who is simple, light, fun, engaging, and uplifting, but not the Lord of the universe; a God who can give a band-aid to any problem; but not the One who can truly transform your life. So the question that begs an answer is why has the Gospel been adjusted? The reason is that many churches and Christian leaders today are “ashamed of the gospel.”

We are very aware that the world finds the gospel offensive. Christianity makes exclusive claims even though we live in a very inclusive world. To claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from your sins is not a very attractive message in our post-modern world, but that’s what the Bible teaches. We are also aware that generally speaking, our churches are declining and do not hold the same influence they once held. So with an unpopular message and sagging attendance figures, church leaders have felt the pressure to adjust the message and adapt it to our changing world. Many churches reasoned that they had no other option – either we change or face extinction.

In my estimation church leaders have over-estimated the importance of the methods and means of communicating the gospel and underestimated the importance of the message itself. I am not suggesting methods and means are not important, but they are secondary to the message of the gospel. We have to remember that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in Jesus. If Jesus Christ is Lord of the world then that means He is also Lord of the Christian Church and we need to let Him do the work that only God can do. Our responsibility remains what it has always been – to preach the Word – to faithfully proclaim the gospel message, no matter how unpopular that message might be, and let God take care of the results.

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believed.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

The Shame of the Gospel

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

Let’s make an assumption here. The apostle Paul would not have said these words if he didn’t feel there was reason to be ashamed. If there were nothing shameful about the gospel, then it would be pointless to make such a statement. In all reality, the gospel will always be considered “shameful” by the world. Why do I say that?

1. The Gospel tells me I am a sinner.

No one wants to be told they are a sinner, but that’s what the Bible tells us (Romans 3). If we don’t understand that we are sinners who have broken God’s law, we will never come to see our need for Christ.

2. The Gospel tells us there is only one way to heaven.

Postmodernism has taught us quite the opposite – that there are many ways to heaven and many ways to God – you just have to pick your vehicle to heaven.

It’s tough to respond to that, isn’t it? I can remember sharing the gospel with a friend of mine several years ago. After I was done, he told me – “that’s great Dan that Christianity works for you, but it doesn’t work for me.” That kind of response is quite common today. To affirm the exclusivity of Christ does not sit well with most people.

3. The Gospel tells us that a man was and is God.

For 2000 years, scores of people have found it shameful to say that Jesus was God incarnate – God in the flesh.  But that’s what the Bible tells us – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). As Christians, we affirm that Jesus was fully God and fully man. It is precisely because of that that Jesus could be Redeemer.

4. The Gospel tells us that one day we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

This is another tough one for modern man to accept. We have come to believe that we are not accountable to anyone and no one has a right to judge us – even God. But the bible teaches that everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ where we will give an account for everything we have ever done. Our only hope will be the mediating work of Jesus Christ. If you can’t say the blood of Jesus has covered your sin, God will hold you to account.

5. The Gospel tells us that we can’t work our way to heaven.

It is only natural to think that we should be rewarded for our efforts. For example, if we have worked for many years at our job, we expect that eventually we should be rewarded with an adequate pension or retirement plan. We have paid our dues and now it’s only fair that we are rewarded accordingly. Once again, however, the Gospel message is opposed to such thinking.  No matter how hard we work and how much good we think we’ve done, it’s never enough (Isaiah 64:6). The only way we can be saved is by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and by trusting in the finished work of Christ. We must accept that the infinite merit of Christ is enough to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. And we must realize that our own performance could never be enough before that same just and holy God.

6. The Gospel teaches us that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God and that the strength of man is weakness to God.

We want to be seen as wise. We want to put our knowledge and learning on display. We want to be strong. We want to be successful. And on and on it goes. But the Bible teaches that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25) Sinful man does not want to admit that all his wisdom and understanding is foolishness to God. In our prideful hearts, we find that shameful.

7. The Gospel tells us that we need to repent of our sins and believe in Christ for our salvation.

Modern man would like to think he is autonomous – that we don’t need anyone, much less God. We’d like to sing along with Simon and Garfunkel, “I am a rock; I am an island.” So when we hear a message that demands humility and surrender, you can bet that that message will viewed as shameful and foolish and ultimately rejected. But the Gospel tells us that we need Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be saved from our sin. God made provision for our need through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So….. “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  (1 Cor. 1:18) We might as well accept that the world views the Gospel message as sheer foolish. However, if you are a true believer, you will glory in the message of the cross. You will glory and rejoice in the gift of God, which is eternal life (Romans 6:23). The solution is not to downplay the shame of the gospel, but to preach it faithfully and pray that God would own the eyes of the blind and rescue the souls of those who are perishing.

Are You Growing in Your Walk With the Lord?

In a few weeks, our son John will turn 1. The pace of his growth has been breathtaking, but especially of late. It seems like every week, he reaches a new milestone. It has been fascinating (and fun) for my wife and I to watch this remarkable growth, along with the growth of our twin daughters Anna and Elizabeth, who are fast approaching their third birthday.

More than once I have wondered; is it realistic to expect Christians to mature at the same pace as a growing child? After pondering this, my conclusion is yes. It is certainly possible, but it is not the norm. I believe it is possible for a Christian to rapidly grow in their walk with the Lord and their sanctification. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we encouraged to reach a certain level of maturity (whatever that might be) and then park yourself there until you die or until Jesus returns.

2 Peter 1:5-8 puts it this way: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are your and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What the apostle Peter is saying is that Christians should strive to grow in their walk with the Lord. If we are serious about following Christ, then our faith will result in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. This is a sanctifying work that God performs in our lives through the Holy Spirit. It is an act of grace that continually takes our faith to the next level. But we must understand that we have a role to play in all this, which is why Peter said, “make every effort to supplement your faith.”

The apostle Paul was also serious about growth and sanctification. In fact, he rebuked the Corinthians for their lack of progress in the faith. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is still jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

When we see a 6-month-old baby being nursed by his mother, we don’t think much of it. However, we would rightly be disturbed if that same baby grew into a teenager and was still on the breast. We would think to ourselves, when is that child going to grow up?  Sadly, many churches are populated by adult infants. They have attended church for decades, but they never heeded the inspired words of Peter. They are still on milk when the solid food of the Word is available to nourish them.

Another lamentable reality is the fact that we often have a hard time encouraging fellow believers to pursue Christ with abandon. When we see a brother or sister in the Lord who is not growing or maturing, we have a hard time challenging them. Perhaps one reason for that is we know what the bible says about judging. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) But we need to be careful that we don’t simply use this as an excuse not to challenge one another. God gave us brothers and sisters in the Lord that we might be responsible and accountable to one another. “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). If we truly love our Christian brothers and sisters, we are going to do everything we can to point them in the right direction. The right direction always involves moving closer to Christ and growing in maturity.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to take this time to examine your own life (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you growing closer to the Lord – every year, every month, every week, every day? If our son John stopped growing and maturing, you can bet my wife and I would be concerned. I hope and pray we will show the same concern for our own Christian maturity and sanctification.

Finding that “open door for the word.”

“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” (Colossians 4:3)

Every Christian is surrounded by non-Christians.  Whether it is next-door neighbors, co-workers, relatives, or friends, there are people in your life who are not following Jesus.  Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians who are unconcerned about this reality.  They are not burdened that people around them live without hope and have not embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We would do well to look at the evangelistic example of Paul and his heart for the lost.

As you will note from the verse quoted above, evangelism starts with prayer.  The apostle, as much as anyone, knew the power of prayer in converting the lost.  As skilled as he was in apologetics (check out Acts 17), Paul’s evangelism strategy was not limited to persuasion and strength of argument.  Above all, he relied on the power of prayer.  We too must pray for the lost souls around us.  If you don’t see results immediately, please don’t give up.  I have been praying for a friend of mine for over a decade and I believe that one day God will save him.  But we MUST persist in prayer.

When we are consistently praying for the lost souls around us, it goes without saying that we will also be looking for opportunities to “share” the gospel.  Part of our prayer will be that God would give us the opportunity to share the gospel.  That is exactly what Paul requested from the Colossian believers – an open door to declare Christ.  Friend, don’t be afraid to pray that prayer, just make sure you’re ready when God brings the opportunity your way (1 Peter 3:15).

I do understand that evangelism is not easy.  If it was easy, Paul would not have ended up in prison.  But we must realize that temporary suffering is well worth the price.  Remember that we not only have the greatest, most glorious news in the world (the gospel of Jesus Christ), but also the most powerful vehicle on earth (the Holy Spirit of God) to spread that news.  I want to encourage you to keep praying for your lost friends and then watch how God works and uses you in the process.

Teaching and Modeling in Ministry

In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, the apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and suffering that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra – which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” Having spent much time with Paul, Timothy knew he was the real deal.  Time and time again, the Lord rescued and sustained Paul and no doubt Timothy as well. For years, Timothy watched as Paul modeled a life of faith and the power of God over every obstacle.

The point I want to make is that effective teachers will “practice what they preach” and inspire students through their life and example. Good teaching can only go so far. However, good teaching coupled with a godly example will be much more effective. In 1 Corinthians 4:16-17, Paul writes, “I urge you then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Paul knew that sending Timothy was the same as going himself. Having observed Paul over and over, Timothy was essentially a duplicate of his mentor. He knew the man. He knew his ways. He knew His Lord. We might say that teaching and modeling go hand in hand. Paul writes later on in 1 Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The only reason Paul could say with credibility “imitate me” is because he was following Christ. If a Christian leader or teacher is not following Christ, how can he expect that of his students?

Paul’s instructions for Titus were much the same. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). Paul makes sure to mention the core pastoral component of teaching, but it is stated in tandem with being “a model of good works.” The teacher’s credibility to teach and lead always correlates to his life and example. Paul lived and modeled a gospel-centered life and expected Titus and Timothy to do the same. If you are a pastor or a Christian leader, let’s remember that God expects the same of us today.

“The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon-makers but men-makers, and saint-makers. Only he who has made himself a man and a saint is well trained for this business. God does not need great talents, great learning, or great preachers, but great men in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God. He needs men who are always preaching holy sermons in the pulpit, and living holy lives out of it. These can mold a great generation for God.” E.M. Bounds