“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” – 1 Timothy 4:13-14
Timothy was an interesting character in the New Testament church. He was the youngest pastor recorded and thus, the letters addressed to him that later became the books of first and second Timothy are great sources of instruction for those who are either young in the faith or feel a call toward ministry. Timothy was Paul’s disciple, so in these books we get a glimpse of the process of Timothy being raised up to one day take Paul’s place. At the end of the second book we see Timothy’s progress and growth as (after much instruction and discipleship) he is promoted from Pastor to Evangelist, and we can assume that he later attained Apostleship as well, seeing as he was being trained to carry Paul’s mantle.
These books attest to the importance of discipleship, instruction, encouragement, and correction from spiritual elders and authorities (those more mature spiritually, not physically) even after (if not especially after) one is already moving in the things of God. It also exposes that physical maturity and spiritual maturity don’t always coincide when Paul told Timothy not to let any man despise his youth but be an example to others through the character brought forth by his spiritual maturity, even to those who were physically older then he, yet spiritually younger.
There is so much to be gleaned from the books of Timothy yet I find the above mentioned passage to be one of those that we should remind ourselves of often. Paul had spent much of this chapter warning Timothy of the devil’s tactics against the church. He then concludes this warning with instruction on how to avoid falling victim to these tactics. In essence he says, don’t get comfortable and let your guard down. Things may seem to be going good at the moment but as soon as we start to relax and slack up on seeking, growing, spending time with, and being used by God; the devil will slip in with deceit, discord, and destruction.
To avoid this, a simple instruction was given. “Until I return to check on you, (meaning to avoid deception we must be willing to be corrected and overseen by others that may see what we do not), give audience to reading (make time reading scripture your full priority and when you do, give it your full attention), to exhortation, and doctrine ( to preaching, teaching, and words that either refresh and encourage or instruct and correct by exhorting one to Christian values and faith… Yes even preachers and teachers need to hear lots of preaching and teaching). You can’t expect to pour out on others unless you take the time to be filled up yourself, less you run dry and become weak and easy prey for the enemy of our faith.
Now here is where it gets really interesting and a little convicting for most of us. It continues to say, “neglect not the gift that is in you“. We all know that God places spiritual gifts (more then one) in each of us for the benefit of his people and kingdom. Yet too often we neglect to use them. Some may be gifted in preaching or teaching, some in prayer, some in healing, or prophecy, wisdom for council, dreams, or faith for miracles, however a closer examination of the word reveals the source of those gifts and the reality of what we are neglecting when we fail to move in the gifts that God has given us.
The word that was translated to “gift” in this passage, in the original Greek text, was “chárisma“. Yes, it is where we derive the modern word of the same spelling, “charisma“, however our modern understanding of the word (though related) is not true to it’s Greek origins. The word “chárisma” literally means God’s grace, which is His power, His Spirit influencing you to both live Holy in Godly character, warning you of wrong spirits and doctrines, and empowering you to overcome the enemy with Divine power from God which are manifested in the above mentioned gifts. Put quite simply, God’s grace is His favor or adoption which allows His Spirit and power to dwell in you and through you, coming out of you as gifts. Not of us, but of Him through us.
You see, when we neglect the gifts that God has placed in us we are neglecting Him in us, for the gifts are only a manifestation of His grace. Therefor we must submit to His every leading and trust Him unwaveringly, that we not hinder or neglect to allow His power to manifest through us at every opportunity. This is why the more humble we are, the more Grace/Power/Gifts we receive. The less we trust our own will, understanding, and power, (which is humility) the more we trust (or have faith in) God’s will, understanding, and power (which is His Grace).
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:6-7
“Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” – 1 Timothy 4:15-16