Introduction. Read 1Tim6v11to16, 20and21.

Paul concludes his first letter to Timothy with a series of imperatives. There are six in all: pursue, promote, persevere, perform, praise and prioritise. These are all characteristics of the man of God - a title Paul gives to Timothy. It must have made Timothy square his shoulders and take a deep breath to be included with the greats, with men like Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah and Elisha.

Paul charged Timothy to:

(1) Pursue virtue.

What do men and women pursue in Britain? Knowledge, skill, success, relationships and entertainment are all thought to be worthy goals. They may well be considered desirable objectives by the Christian. Surely Bible knowledge, communications skills, church growth, Christian friendships and lively, exciting services are all to be sort after.

Paul tells Timothy to pursue virtue. Not enough is made of virtue notwithstanding Jesus' teaching on the subject. Paul does not leave it at this but specifies particular virtues to pursue. I wonder how often and for how long we consciously try to cultivate the virtues Paul lists. There is:

  • Righteousness. The righteous man gives both God and men their due. He gives to God his worship and service and does unto others as he would be done by.

  • Godliness. A godly man's conduct is becoming in God's eyes. Some people bring the best out of us. We refrain from vulgarity, suggestive remarks, ultra-critical comments and boastfulness in their company.

    An awareness of God's presence brings out the best in a godly man. He rarely forgets that his life unfolds in view of an ever watchful God. Sadly many of us often forget that God is witness to every aspect of our lives.

  • Faith or fidelity. A faithful Christian is loyal to God in all the different circumstances of life. We are not God's fair weather friends but steadfast in times of trouble - not only in times of plenty but also times of want - not only in success but also in failure. We can sing:

            Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
            But trust him for his grace;
            Behind a frowning providence
            He hides a smiling face.

  • Love. This great virtue makes sacrifices for the sake of others. It seeks to give and not to gain. It is the quality possessed by the father of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan and by Jesus at Calvary.

  • Endurance. The man who endures shows constancy under trial. He has the ability to triumph in adversity. No English cricketer had this trait more than Brian Close who withstood a barrage of bouncers by the hostile West Indies fast bowlers without flinching. In the Old Testament it is the quality that allowed Joseph to become Prime Minister of Egypt and Nehemiah to build the wall of Jerusalem. Endurance is the courage that continues in hard places.

  • Gentleness. This is not a word that really describes the virtue Paul is thinking of. The true gentleman always conducts himself in a way appropriate to the circumstances. Nobody displayed this better than Jesus. He was not angry or disgusted with the woman taken in adultery but he was angry with those Pharisees who exploited vulnerable widows. At his trial Jesus was very abrupt with the Chief Priest who should have known better but patient with Pilate who had some excuse for his ignorance.

    A gentleman knows how to enjoy himself at a wedding feast and how to chat to a worldly, flirtatious woman at the well. He will have nothing to do with a wicked king like Herod but enjoy tea with a little tax collector called Zacchaeus. Jesus preached a wonderful Sermon on the Mount and made time to bless the little children brought to him by their mothers.

(2) Promote the Faith.

Paul tells Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. It is not easy to promote the Christian faith because of the opposition of three great enemies: the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Paul anticipated the battle Christians face when he wrote to the Ephesians, Put on the full armour of God so that you can make your stand against the devil's schemes. Eph6v11. See Exposition on Eph6v10to24.

Not so long ago it was time again for me to circulate the village I worship in with the chapel newssheet. I don't find the pamphlet too difficult to write but when it comes to its distribution around the village it is a different matter. The World's indifference and apathy is a powerful deterrent. I have been distributing the newssheet three times a year for 13 years without any response whatsoever. Then there is the Flesh. I suffer from spinal stenosis and so every 100 to 200 yards I have to stop and rest on my shooting stick. I say to myself as the pain increases, "This is the last time I am going to put myself through this." The Devil produces in me a profound disinclination to leave my house and get on with the task. I have to remind myself of what Jesus suffered for me on the cross to overcome my reluctance to engage in a modest attempt to reach unbelievers with the gospel.

There are many parts of the world where Christians are brutally persecuted. It requires great courage to maintain a witness and to promote the saving power of Jesus. In much of the Middle East and Africa Christianity is not for cissies.

(3) Persevere in belief.

Paul instructs Timothy, Take hold of eternal life to which you were called when you made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Timothy took hold of eternal life when he believed in Jesus. This was something he testified too at his baptism before many witnesses. In order to finally enter into eternal life at the second coming of Jesus he needed to persevere in belief - to hold on to his faith in Jesus. This does not happen automatically as many Calvinists claim when they parrot: 'Once saved always saved.'

Many today are like Demas, Paul's associate, who forsook Jesus for love of the world. Numerous young people who have made a commitment to Jesus seem to drift effortlessly away from a safe mooring in him onto the perilous waters of the World. Their allegiance to Jesus falters, fades and finishes. Jesus told of such in his Parable of the Sower. The seed that fell among thorns was like those who make a Christian profession only to have it overwhelmed by the cares, worries and pleasures of this world.

It is hard to understand people's carelessness over their eternal well being. Think of the urgency and commitment of paramedics called out to a life and death situation. Tremendous effort is expended to preserve life and yet men and women are so indifferent, casual and unconcerned about their life beyond the grave. They don't seem to care whether they live after death or not.

Jesus said: Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mt24v13. Paul did not take his salvation for granted. He wrote to the Philippians: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil3v12to14.

(4) Perform his duty.

Paul urges Timothy: In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made a good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not easy to be certain what Paul meant by 'keep this command'. One really has to know in order to make sense of the passage. It is likely that the apostle is referring to all the instructions he gave to Timothy - instructions about love of money, slavery, elders, widows, deacons, prayer, worship and controversies. Paul wanted Timothy to do his duty and follow instructions. He wished him to carry out his instructions well without omissions and imperfections. (Faults and failings).

Every Christian has instructions from Jesus on (a) How to live as subjects in his kingdom and (b) How to witness as his disciples.

We are to live:

  • Humbly. "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mt11v28and29. It is easy to overlook that Christ's rest is dependent upon sharing his humility which is a lot easier said than done. The genuinely humble person does not fret about recognition, advancement, status or success. The true humility rests content on being of some service to God and man.

  • With forgiveness as our priority. Jesus taught us to pray: "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." Mt6v12. It is amazing that Christians who are so heavily dependent upon God's grace are often so reluctant to extend grace to others. What would our prospects be like if God harboured grudges? How would we fare if God made us pay for every time we let him down. When we repeat the Lord's Prayer we are asking God to forgive us as we forgive others.

  • Without hypocrisy. Jesus said to the Pharisees: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye. ..... You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Mt7v1to5.

    Jesus found something particularly offensive about hypocrisy. He lambasted the Pharisees for pretending to be righteous. He castigated them as whited sepulchres - lovely on the outside but full of filth and corruption within.

    Sadly hypocrisy and the critical spirit remain cardinal sins of Christians. We must never, never forget how far short we fall of the example set us by Jesus.

  • Harmoniously. Jesus in his final prayer for his disciples besought his Father: "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you love me." Jn17v23.

    It is nothing short of scandalous that there should be in excess of 30, 000 different Protestant denominations. It amazes me that Christians can find 30, 000 different ways to differ from one another to such an extent that they have to separate themselves from pre-existing churches. Disunity among Christians flagrantly disregards the settled will of Christ.

We are to witness by obeying the Great Commission: Making disciples of Jesus, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey Jesus.

It is not for us to pick and choose from these instructions! If we are genuine Christian soldiers we have to obey the orders of the great Captain of our salvation.

Paul provides three incentives to follow instructions:

(a) We live our lives in the sight of the author of life and the one upon whom our future depends. God does not sleep, his attention does not wander and his interest in us does not falter. Everything we do, say and think is known to God.

(b) We should remember when we find it hard to witness that Jesus had it harder. In the midst of rejection, humiliation and pain Jesus made a good confession before Pilate. He challenged the Roman Governor by his exemplary conduct and his confident assertion of divinity. In the difficult episodes of life let us say to ourselves: "I stand with Christ."

(c) Jesus is coming again. At his second coming Jesus will reward those who have been faithful to him. Paul looked forward to the victor's crown he would receive on that day. Peter told the elders to whom he wrote that if they proved good shepherds of the flock: When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1Pet5v4.

(5) Praise God for his greatness.

Paul includes in the closing sentences of his letter a lovely doxology: God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever.

We need to have in mind on many more occasions than we do just how great our God is.

Paul revelled in God's greatness. In his letter to the Romans he wrote: If God is for us, who can be against us? Rm8v31.

The psalmists revelled in God's greatness: For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Ps95v3to5.

Christian hymn writers revel in God's greatness:

            Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
            In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
            Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
            Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

(6) Prioritise what matters.

Paul does not want Timothy to waste his time on: Godless chatter and the opposing of ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. v20.

Whenever the media tried to tackle Billy Graham on controversial subjects he fell back on the assertion that his task was to tell men and women that God loved them and had made provision for their forgiveness through the saving work of his own dear Son. This was a tactic of which Paul would have approved.

Today, some clergy prefer dragging politics, sport, sociology and psychology into their sermons to proclaiming Christ and him crucified.

Paul told Timothy to guard what had been entrusted to his care - it was a depository - a treasure trove of riches. He should concentrate on preaching Christ - the Christ about whom his grandmother and mother had taught him - the Christ whom Paul everywhere proclaimed and exalted.

Timothy should preach: submission to Jesus, belief in Jesus, obedience to Jesus and confidence in Jesus.

            O Christ, in Thee my soul has found,
            And found in Thee alone,
            The peace, the joy I sought so long,
            The bliss till now unknown.

            Now none but Christ can satisfy,
            None other name for me;
            There's love, and life, and lasting joy
            Lord Jesus, found in Thee.