The Preaching Gift Must Be Exercised With Love, Power and Self Control

2 TimFor the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’ (2 Timothy 1:7)

Make no mistake: we rely entirely on the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, we know that without the Spirit of God we cannot be saved. On the other, we realise that without the Spirit of God we cannot be used. God gave us the Spirit, and that the Spirit, in turn, has granted the preacher a triad of graces.

First, the Spirit has firstly blessed us with the grace of power. This is outstandingly good news. For few things are more needed in ministry than power.  Substantial energy  – more than most parishioners realise – is needed for a man to pray and preach and pastor faithfully. Regular ministry is rigorous. It quickly depletes even a Samson’s strength. To aim, as he does, at seeing sinners repent and saints grow, the preacher shoots for the highest goals possible.  But in who’s strength does he do so? The preacher aims for the moon with a pee-shooter if he ministers with the strength of his arm alone. We must therefore hear the wise words of Hudson Taylor: “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.”

In the next place, the Spirit blesses the preacher with the grace of love.  Ours is not just a ministry of labour; it is a labour of love. The fruitful minister is to firstly love God, and then (in no particular order) he must love the Word, the church, the lost, the prayer-hour, the weak, the dying, the prodigal, the elder brother, the wife and family God has given him. The demands on a pastor’s love are legion. The pastor’s well will quickly run dry unless he draws his water from the well of the Holy Spirit. In practical terms, our daily prayer must Philippians 1:9-11: that our love will increase more and more – along with discernment – producing the fruit of a righteous life to the glory of God.

Finally, Paul reminds the preacher that we are blessed with the grace of self-control. Self-control means to be sober-minded, exercising good, sensible judgement in all areas of life. One of the greatest challenges in the pressures of pastoral ministry is simply “keeping one’s head.” When others are losing the plot, the pastor must still control  his mind, will and tongue.  This, needless to say, is easier said than done! But here again we rely upon the help of the Spirit.  It is through the Spirit God gave us that the we bear the fruit of self control. Contrary to the ideas of some, the Spirit-filled minister will not be fanatical, erratic and unstable. When the storm rages around him, he is a picture of calm and control.

Are you encouraged yet? This trio of graces are available to us through the Spirit!


The Gift Of A Herald Must Be Fanned Into Flame

2 Tim“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (1 Timothy 1:6)

Timothy possessed a gift that was always in danger of dimming and dying. To prevent this – this gradual chill towards extinction – his spiritual charisma needed to be fanned into flame.

Whatever this gift was, it enabled Timothy to fulfill his duties as a servant of the word. But having a gift is one thing. Maintaining it, developing it and using it is quite another.

How many a gospel-minister ‘loses his heat’ over the decades. Had we met him at the dawn of his ministry, we would have met a Blaze, a Ministerial Inferno. What the man lacked in finesse, he more than made up for by his sheer zeal.  He was “on fire”,  they said – and not wrongly – for that is precisely what he was. He was a preacher whose gift was in the full, ferocious flame of good use.

Meet the same man – well, not quite the same man – two decades on. What do you see? Sadly, a cooled, pathetic ember of his former self. What the man has gained in knowledge and experience he has lost in passion. Moreover his preaching, which once was mighty in its handling of the Scriptures, has become weak, tired and shoddy. The explanations that once were so clear, the applications that once were so pointed, the illustrations that once were so vivid, have been replaced by stock evangelical generalities and a few vague ideas. His sermons are like one poorly reheated meal after another.

Dig beneath the surface, you will soon uncover some reasons why. The man has stopped studying, or at least studying long. He has stopped learning. He has stopped reading books. He has stopped attending conferences. He has stopped caring.  He has, by neglect, failed to keep his gifts in good order.

Paul did not want Timothy to suffer such a horrible end to his ministry. The Apostle desires that the last stage of Timothy’s ministry should be as strong as the first.  He must therefore fan his gift in to flame, presumably by using it constantly and with the utmost devotion. His next sermon should always be his best; at least, he should desire it to be so.  He is to preach the Word, not languidly, like the sleepy embers of a fire, but with the full vigour of the Holy Spirit.

A question for you, fellow-preacher. What could you do – today or this week – that would help fan your gift into flame?

The Preacher’s Gift Comes From God

2 TimFor this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”  (2 Tim 1:6).

Straight after his sermon one Sunday, C.H Spurgeon was met by an excited woman.  “Oh, Mr. Spurgeon”, she beamed, “that sermon was wonderful.” “Yes, madam,” Spurgeon replied, “so the devil whispered in my ear as I came down the steps of the pulpit.”

Pride is probably the pulpit’s greatest peril. There is no preacher – great or small, lauded or unknown – who will ever be a stranger to pulpit pride.

To any thinking man this pride could almost seem reasonable. The bare fact that a church elevates me to its pulpit outright implies some recognition of giftedness. If one were to reflect on this, things could get quite heady, rather quickly.  In the privacy of our hearts Pride could start to strut. Pride might start to boast about my ‘communication skills’, my ‘handling of the Word’, or my ‘passion in the pulpit’.  That Boastful Lout would grin broadly about how I – the preacher – am the MVP (the Most Valuable Part) of the local church body.

Pride, however, is a liar. Pride tells half truths, never the whole truth. It is true that the preacher has a gift. But the question Pride forgets to ask is, ‘Who’s gift is it?’ Is the gift actually yours, Preacher? It belongs to you – yes; but who gave the gift to you in the first place? Is your gift inherent, self-generated, part and parcel of your being? Or is your gift – like Timothy’s – nothing less than the “gift of God.”

That phrase changes everything. If our gift is of God there can hardly be a moment’s boasting on our part. Pride must be replaced with praise, and haughtiness with humility. My gift is only borrowed – an ability God has loaned me for the glory of His name.

God will never share His glory with another; He certainly won’t share it with any preacher. So less boasting! Less fishing for compliments. Less proud pangs when we receive a pleasantry about our preaching. Turn your pride into praise and your arrogance into adoration.

Your gift is from God – to Him be all the glory!

We Proclaim A Message That Holds Out The Promise Of Life

2 Tim‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Tim 1:1)

There are over 7 billion communicators in the world. Amongst that colossal crowd, there are many who could be fairly branded excellent communicators. Some such orators are so verbally persuasive that they are paid ‘top dollar’ to speak on conference platforms. The eloquence of others elevates them to the top of the corporate ladder, where the clear, charismatic communicator reigns supreme.

Let’s be painfully frank. Some of these communicators are more articulate than us. Their voices are richer, their minds sharper, their jokes wittier, their stories punchier. In the queue to deliver our culture’s epitome of all speeches, the TED talk, we may stand far behind them in the line.  What these loquacious communicators cannot do, however, is deliver a better message than us. This is not to knock some of the good things they are saying, of course.  Solutions to poverty, poor leadership, or a broken environment – these are not things to be sniffed at.  But the Gospel Minister has something exceedingly greater to offer the world.

Life.

Not just a better life or a longer life, but life itself.  Life for a world both dead and dying. Life for the soul (now) and life for the body (later). Life for the spiritually dead and physically dead. Life for every-day and life for eternity! The gospel, Paul reminds Timothy, holds out a promise of life. Whenever Paul or Timothy preached the evangelion, they held out this guarantee to the world: ‘There is life available, for your body and soul, if you will repent and believe in the death-defeating death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ Any preacher who preaches the gospel truly holds out that same promise.

I can think few greater reasons to keep on preaching. My preaching could be better. Always.  But my message couldn’t be better. Never.

I get to preach “LIFE.”

 

Timothy Truths For Preachers

2 TimThe Bible is the best place to learn about preaching.  Other books on preaching can be good, of course. But whatever Scripture says on preaching is definitive. Its like drinking from the spring itself.

One portion of Holy writ that has much to say about preaching is Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Written “in the shadow of the scaffold”, it is notable that Paul should so relentlessly focus on Timothy’s preaching. In my recent studies of this letter, I unearthed 25 truths about preachers from 2 Timothy.

1. The herald proclaims a message that holds out the promise of life  (2 Tim 1:1).

2. The preacher’s gift comes from God (2 Tim 1:6).

3. The gift of a herald must be fanned into flame (2 Tim 1:6): that is,  stirred up by constant use.

4.  The preaching gift must be exercised with love, power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).

5. A gospel minister must not be ashamed to testify about the Lord (2 Tim 1:8).

6. The gospel must not simply be preached, but suffered for if necessary (2 Tim 1:9).

7.  What the man of God proclaims is a gospel of salvation, holiness, grace and life (2 Tim 1:9-10).

8.  The gospel can be, and must be, both heralded and taught (2 Tim 1:11).

9. There is a pattern of sound teaching against which every sermon can be measured (2 Tim 1:13).

10. We are not just to preach the truth; we are to preach ‘with faith and love’ (2 Tim 1:13).

11. The gospel doesn’t just need to be preached, it needs to be guarded (2 Tim 1:14).

12. The preacher will inevitably endure some suffering, but God’s Word is not chained (2 Tim 2:9).

13. The preacher should correctly handle the word like an unashamed workman (2 Tim 2:15).

14. The life of the preacher matters; he must be fleeing sin and pursuing righteousness (2:22).

15. The herald must continue with the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14), knowing the dependable character of the Scriptures (God breathed – 3:16).

16. The servant of the Word must learn to wield this sword in different ways: Scripture can be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

17. The man of God is charged to preach the Word in the very presence of God and Christ (2 Tim 4:1).

18. The second appearing of Christ should always be an event  in the herald’s view (2 Tim 4:1).

19. The preacher is called to preach the Word – and nothing else (2 Tim 4:2).

20. Proclamation is to continue regardless of whether the climate is favorable (2 Tim 4:2).

21.  A preaching ministry requires not only passion but patience (2 Tim 4:2).

22. The herald of the gospel should expect ‘competition’ in the form of other communicators conveying contrary messages (2 Tim 4:3).

23. There is a great reward in store for the preacher; but not mainly for his faithful preaching: he will be rewarded if he has longed for the appearing of Christ (2 Tim 4:8).

24. Preachers need friends (2 Tim 4:9, 4:11).

25.  We never stand alone when testifying to Christ; the Lord stands by the preacher’s side and gives him strength (2 Tim 4:17)