Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is considered the father of the American literature, and the following quote is credited to him,
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”[i]
One of the saddest moments in the short life as an evangelist of this writer happened a couple of months ago, when a fellow worker told me “things does not work here in the way you are trying, you are very new in this work, believe me, it does not work that way, you will get tired very soon”. Several years ago, a former manager told this writer, after I applied to a better role, “you are applying too high, you will not get it”. A few days later, I got the job, and a year after I was promoted to a higher role.
Following with the thought of Mr. Twain, there are some people that instead of counseling and advising what they are really doing is discouraging and despising.
I remember my first day at MSOP, honestly, I think every former student of that school remembers that day. By the end of the day, the last class was “The Life of Christ” having brother Garland Elkins as the instructor. The syllabus was given at the beginning of the class, and the memory work for that day was Matthew 1:18-25. Many of us might think “well, it is the first day, we will not do the memory work”. That was a wrong thought. After the break, brother Elkins asked us to line up and start quoting the verses. I was so nervous and stressed that I was not able to say the passages. Read them over and over but did not get able to memorize them during that long hour. When the bell rang, I approached brother Elkins, apologized to him, and promised that I was not going to quit, that I was going to be able to quote the verses the next class. Since then, in every class we had with him, I was the first one in my line. Why did I do that? I was committed not only to brother Elkins, or all the other instructors, but with our Lord. I was blessed with such a great opportunity to dedicate two years (three years including the Missions one) of my life to study God’s word at the feet of such great and humble brethren, and I was not going to resign. God blessed me in so many ways that I cannot fail Him at that moment, and, certainly, I will not seek to fail Him now. Brother Elkins was not part of the “small people”, he was one of the great ones. I will forever be thankful for everything I learned from him, not only from the classes or his writings, but from his life of service to our Lord.
That is why the words spoken a few months ago by that brother hurt this writer. This brother has been serving our Lord for more than 20 years, he trains men to be preachers, he even trains young men to be prepared to serve our Lord in the future, and, did he attempt to discourage me? I hope and pray that was not his intention. I know I am new in the ministry and there is a lot to learn. I remember the words from brother Keith Mosher, “if you think the study is over because you are a graduate, you are wrong, this diploma is just a piece of paper, your study does not end here”. There is a lot of work to do and I am more than happy and thankful for this blessing and opportunity. The words of the apostle Paul came to my mind after what was said,
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13).
Brother Robert R. Taylor, Jr. wrote about the term “youth” in this passage,
The word youth here should not prompt us to think of Timothy as a boy or teen-ager. At the time Paul wrote this epistle Timothy had been his helper and co-laborer for at least twelve to fifteen years. If we were right in suggesting that Timothy was born around A.D. 25 or 30, and 30 A.D. is perhaps a closer date, then Timothy would have been at least thirty-five when this message was penned. Among the Romans and Greeks one’s youth extended till he was about forty to forty-four. It is hardly likely that Timothy was even this old. His mid-thirties would be more likely the approximate age at this time of the earnest evangelist.[ii]
Dear brethren, sadly, that is a very common mistake performed by many members of the Lord’s church, especially with some of those who have a leadership role in the congregation. The apostle Paul, just a few lines before the ones quoted told Timothy, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:6-7). The word translated as minister literally means servant, and what Timothy needs to remind the brethren is that the entire creation of God is good and must be received with thankfulness, sanctified by the word of God and by prayers (1 Timothy 4:4-5). The same apostle also penned, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). We must “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). If a brother or sister brings an idea or suggestion to the congregation, this one needs to be examined, proved, and after that give a reason of approval or rejection, not based in man’s opinion but rather in sound biblical doctrine. We must not be wise in our own conceits (Romans 12:16). Christ, through His authority, gave us several roles to fulfill a wonderful objective,
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
We have the most important work in this world, and this author is not referring to the preachers or evangelists solely, but to every Christian. As Timothy, we must set the example. We must go out and preach Christ to all the world (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16) as we are reminded that the power to save is in the Gospel, not in us (Romans 1:16). God is not pleased in divisions, but in unity (1 Corinthians 1:10, Ephesians 4:3-7). We are commanded to be all of one mind (1 Peter 3:8-9). We must speak the truth in love and grow up into Christ in all things (Ephesians 4:15). He is our master teacher.
The letters that Paul wrote to Timothy have many purposes, but, probably, one of the most important is the encouragement he is given to his son in the faith to keep up in doing the work of the Lord that he was performing in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:1-3). Do not dismay, keep it up, Timothy! Do not dismay, keep it up [put your name here]!
To a Christian, to serve God is not just a simple ambition, but a duty, and not just a duty, a duty of thankfulness (Colossians 3:17). Everything we do must be with the sole objective of pleasing, honoring, and glorifying God (Colossians 3:23). Despising a brother or sister in Christ does not help us to do any of those three actions.
Dear preacher friend, the next time we want to give a piece of advice to a brother or sister, let us think twice before saying it (James 1:19). The same goes to every member of the Lord’s body. Even better, let us kneel (if we can), meditate, and pray before doing so. Let us all be known as Barnabas, being exhorters instead of despisers. We are here to edify, not to destroy. A weak brother or sister could leave the faith and prefer life away from God because of “pieces of advice” such as the one mentioned above.
Every faithful Christian must be an example, not only to his or her brethren, but to all humanity. They are watching us. They do not think twice to point a mistake we could make. They will not hesitate to say, “Oh, wow, and he says that he is a Christian”, “Is that what they learn in that ‘church’?” That is exactly what Satan is seeking (2 Corinthians 2:11)! The words written by the same apostle to Titus help us on what we are discussing right now,
“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you [emphasis added, MR]” (Titus 2:6-8).
Let us work until Jesus comes, being His faithful servants, seeking not only for that crown of life that He promised, but for the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven, with Him. Let us encourage our brethren to keep up with the good works, to seek for that same goal that we have, to set the right example to this world so they can recognize and do what God commands, and, together we will be gathered home!
May God bless you richly today and always!
[ii] Robert R. Taylor, Jr., “Studies in First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon”, 1995, p.57.