Age is no barrier in Paul’s eyes. As I was SOAPing this morning, I reflected on how the Apostle Paul spoke words of life, to a much younger Timothy, encouraging and strengthening him.
When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him not to let his relatively young age be a barrier to his leadership. He wrote:
“Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.”1 Timothy 4:12
Timothy was young to be in the position of spiritual authority that he was. In fact Paul had instructed Timothy to command and teach certain things to the people, many of whom would have been older than him.
So instead of Timothy being crippled by a lack of confidence and permission, and potentially being intimidated by older people, Paul told Timothy to just get on with it and in doing so to be careful about his speech, his conduct, his purity, and the love and faithfulness he exhibited. In this way he would be an example for other believers to follow.
Authority has nothing to do with seniority, and spiritual maturity does not necessarily come with age.
As a leader of “more mature years”, I want to give young people a chance to lead. There are a few things that I can do to help this happen.
Here are 10 ways we can help younger leaders:
1. Spot the potential in them. And focus on this rather than on the lack; where they don’t measure up.
2. Encourage them. This means to give them the courage to step out and have a go and to take risks.
3. Show them what to do, and how to do it, not forgetting the “why”, so that they have something to imitate.
4. Trust them. They may get it wrong at times, but it’s important to trust them as people more than to just trust them if they get it right.
5. Test them with increasing responsibilities rather than just throw them off the deep end to see if they sink or swim.
6. Debrief them to talk about how they went, how they experienced things, what worked and what didn’t work.
7. Correct them in a way that builds them up rather than tears them down.
8. Mentor them so that we freely pass on what we have, to build them up. This includes speaking into the things Paul mentioned. i.e. to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.
9. Love them, want the best for them and want them to succeed.
10. Pray for them, that the Holy Spirit will work in them and through them and be with them always.
By the way, being young is a relative thing. Timothy was most likely in his 30s when Paul wrote to him, but in that context anyone under 40 was regarded as young. So to Paul who was much older, Timothy would have been a young man.
My encouragement is twofold. First, to all the young people, you could be a Timothy who God wants to use mightily. Are you open to this, and if so are you taking steps to position yourselves to grow in this way. Are you seeking out and listening to the Paul’s in your life who will give encouragement and permission, and speak words of life and hope into you?
Secondly, to all the not so your people, are there young men and women who you can encourage and speak words of hope and life into as Paul did to Timothy? The greatest legacy that we can pass on will be in the lives of those who we lead to Christ and help grow in Him.
If there was just one thing that you could do to help grow in your faith and spiritual health, what would it be?
I think that we all realise that there are a bunch of things that we need to do to be spiritually healthy. Things like gathering together regularly, prayer, worship, acts of service, practising generosity and sharing our faith. It’s a bit like following a recipe for making a cake, we need all the ingredients if the cake is to turn out well, and without a key in
But there is one thing that surveys have found is more than anything the key to seeing us growing spiritually in a healthy way, and time after time the bible backs this up. So what is that one thing that we need to do?
A survey of the spiritual health of over 250,000 people in over 1,000 different churches concluded:
“Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on scripture. If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives”. (Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth by Hawkins, Greg L. and Parkinson, Cally (Aug 12, 2011))
Another survey of over 70,000 North Americans confirmed this conclusion:
…spiritually and behaviourally speaking, we found that nothing comes close to having the bible’s impact on the spiritual lives of those who engage it….Our lives are dramatically different when we’re engaged with scripture four or more times a week. (Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change. by Cole, Arnie and Ross, Michael (May 1, 2012)
The Bible agrees, saying it like this:
“Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.” Acts 20:32 (The Message)
The surveys and the Bible itself point to engaging on a daily basis with what the Bible says as being a critical key to your spiritual growth and health. By engaging, we mean a little more than just reading the Bible.
We mean reading it, but then taking the time to reflect on what it is saying and how to then apply it to your life.
One great way to do this is by finding a scripture and journalling on it. We call it SOAPing, because we find a Scripture and write it out, Write out an Observation as to what it is saying to me, write out an Application about how I will apply this in my life, and then write a short Prayer of committal and asking for the Holy Spirit to help me to live out what I have journaled on.
So how can we help you to grow in your faith?
Starting 1 June, we will be holding a 30 day challenge to help encourage you to engage with God’s Word in a way that will be potentially life changing for you. We will be providing thoughts, articles and people’s stories to help inspire and motivate you to engage in scripture, meditating on it in a way that will help you to grow.
In addition, we want to provide the opportunity for some to enrol in a bible study course through a top Bible College that is a leader in distance theological education by offering some study scholarships.
So, why not join together with others throughout A2A and sign up for the 30 Day Challenge and engage with Scripture throughout the month of June?
I’m deeply in awe of two ordinary people who have impacted our world as a result of surrendering themselves to an extraordinary God. William and Catherine Booth were ordinary people who God used in extraordinary ways.
William was left fatherless at an early age and as a teenager had to work incredibly long hours for a boss who drove him like a slave.
Catherine was a sickly kid; too sick to go to school.
Soon after he came to faith at age 15, William was inspired by an American evangelist to step out of his comfort zone. Naturally timid, he finally stepped out to read the Bible and talk to people in the street. Although he was ridiculed and even had bricks thrown at him, William did not get discourage but kept on doing what he knew he was called to do. Courageously he wrote in his diary “God shall have all there is of William Booth.” And from that day on, he showed that he meant what he wrote.
Working in a shop from early morning until 8 p.m of an evening, the he would hurry to prayer meetings which would last until 10 p.m. Sometimes after this he would call on the sick and dying. It’s said that he made hundreds of hospital calls before he was twenty years of age.
He also also did much street preaching late at night during these years, and at seventeen he was made a local preacher by the Wesleyan Methodists. Really, he was doing the work of minister before he was made a minister.
Catherine on the other hand was born into a well to do family. She was a sickly child, with her frequent illnesses robbing her of the education that she would otherwise have received. It was in the days well before television, internet and Facebook were there for us to escape to. And so, she read the Bible.
By the time she was 12 years old, she had read the Bible cover to cover 8 times!
William and Catherine are best known for starting the Salvation army, which started as a result of a ministry to the poor that they started at age 36.
Over his 60 years in ministry, it’s estimated that William Booth preached 60,000 sermons (20 a week) and travelled over 5 million miles. And that was in an era before modern transport!
At the time of William’s death, the “Army” had 21,203 officers with 8,972 societies and were working in 58 countries preaching the Gospel in 34 languages.The impact of their work is felt and seen worldwide even today, just over 100 years since William passed to eternity. What a legacy he and Catherine have left!
William never lost that full devotion to God that he wrote in his journal as a teenager. Late in life King Edward vii asked William what his recreations were. He replied, “Sir, some men have a passion for art, fame and gold. I have a passion for souls.”
His constant cry was “GO FOR SOULS, and go for the worst!”. And that’s what he did. He went to the places where the people who didn’t know Jesus were. He ministered to their very real needs and all the time he preached the gospel.
William and Catherine frequently endured opposition, mainly from other Christians, but this didn’t stop them doing what God called them to do.
Other leaders in the denomination were envious of William’s success. They wanted him to stop the evangelistic work and to focus full time on the churches he was given to oversee. But William’s heart was for reaching those outside the church.
One day, in church the realisation hit him “Why am I here, with this crowded chapel of people who want to hear the message? Why am I not outside, bringing the message of God to those who don’t want it?”
In the end William and Catherine had to leave the movement to be faithful to the evangelistic call God had given him. This was a heartbreaking time for both Catherine and William. But through times like this their courage was tested and strengthened and their resolve was formed.
Catherine was also forced to overcome her fears as a result of her convictions. At that time, it was unheard of for women to speak in adult meetings, but she became known as the woman preacher and became famous for her own gospel campaigns where she drew huge crowds. But it took a step of courage and conviction for this to happen.
One day in church as William was concluding his sermon, Catherine got up and walked slowly down the aisle to where he stood.
“What is it my dear?” William whispered to her.
“William I desire to speak”
William said “My dear wife wishes to speak.” Then he sat down.
Catherine began “I dare say that many of you have been looking on me as a very devoted woman, but I have been disobeying God. I am convinced that women have the right and duty to speak up, yes, even to preach. I have struggled with this a long time, but I’ll struggle with it no longer.”
William then quickly responded “Tonight my wife will be the preacher!”
And so Catherine’s ministry as a preacher began.
When asked for the secret of his success, William Booth said:
“I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities. But from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of all Jesus Christ could do with them, on that day I made up my mind that God would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.”
Could you ever imagine God using you like He used William or Catherine Booth?
Of course the call of God and the magnitude of our direct ministry is different for each one of us with different people being given different degrees of grace. But we are all recipients of God’s grace and we are called to use what God gives us for God’s glory and the expansion of His kingdom.
William once said that the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.
No matter whether you are young or old, male or female, healthy or sick, God wants to use you. Perhaps you may have the courage to say “God, you can have all of me. I surrender totally to you. Take me and use me however you will”.
God can use a person like that!
No one had never seen anything like it before. It was exactly what the world needs, a community of people who were there because of Jesus, were devoted to God and through whom the Holy Spirit worked powerfully. No wonder they were filled with awe and those around them stood up and took notice!
The church age had begun. It was Jesus’ body come in new form to fill the earth and bring His good news to every living soul. It wasn’t an organisation that was given this task, nor was it a gathering that happened once a week. Rather it was people who had experienced a spiritual renewal as a result of the redemptive work of Jesus and who were united as brothers and sisters by the same Spirit, with a common cause.
They were to be God’s people on the face of this earth, living as His people, loving Him and one another and taking the good news to those who weren’t His people.
God had seeded this first church with the DNA that would define His perfect bride. It was a DNA that reflected the collective DNA of His disciples; those who would follow Jesus.
These disciples were passionate about their new found faith. They were self motivated and totally devoted to the things that would feed their GROWTH.
They were supernaturally natural, displaying the power of God in their daily lives as they used the GIFTS that the Holy Spirit had given them to powerfully love and minister to others.
They were outrageously generous, giving to any who had need as they displayed the sacrificial GENEROSITY that they had learnt from Jesus.
And they knew that they needed each other. They needed to be in proximity with each other to love and be loved, to learn and to teach, to encourage and be encouraged, to minister to the needs of others and to be ministered to, to be one body. And so they couldn’t stop GATHERING together in both small and large gatherings.
As God worked powerfully amongst them, bringing wholeness to their souls, they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising Him. They took their joy and praise with them as they engaged with others in the broader community, and so enjoyed their favour.
And being carriers of God’s GRACE wherever they went, it’s no wonder that many were being saved and added to their number every day, becoming spiritually reborn followers of Jesus who in turn became addicted to the things that would help them grow in their faith and walk with Jesus.
It’s a beautiful picture that Acts 2:42-47 paints of that first church that ushered in the church age.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
This is a snapshot, a blueprint for what God always intended church to be; a bunch of people forgiven by Jesus and following Him as they seek to develop through their commitment to GROWTH, in how they use their GIFTS to love an minister to others, in the way that they display outrageously GENEROSITY, in how they are devoted to regular GATHERINGS with each other, and become irrepressible carriers of God’s GRACE to others.
This is church as God intended. Church isn’t an institution. Its not a worship service. Its not a building. It’s a bunch of people who follow Jesus coming together in obedience to His commands to be His body, the body with which He will reach out with His love and cover the earth. It’s the body that will see even greater things happen than Jesus did when He walked the earth. It’s the body that we are called to be part of and to love.
It’s also the body that will astound not only people throughout the earth but the principalities and powers with it’s wisdom all the time displaying a love for all in a way that is just not natural. It’s supernatural.
We are not defined by where we meet, what we are called, the programs that we run what name we are know by, or even how we worship. Instead we are defined by Him and by following Him.
This is Christ’s body, His living and dynamic body, to which followers of Jesus are called to be a part.
Jesus extends an invitation to all to Follow Him and to become a part of His dynamic body through which He extends His love and wisdom to the world!
How will you respond to His call?
Most of us probably know something about the age old battle in the Garden of Eden between good and evil the consequences of which are still being felt today.
God had provided for Adam and Eve saying… “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Get 2:16,17 (ESV)
God gave them virtually no boundaries about what they could eat. They were permitted to eat anything, except the fruit of just one tree. It was a simple boundary, and God expected Adam and Eve to obey Him.
But then the devil came along in the form of a serpent.
His one goal was to get Adam and Eve to disobey God. And so he presented a dilemma in the garden, requiring Adam and Eve to make a choice to obey God, or to gain the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
And so “…the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4,5 (ESV)
Satan promoted the lie that knowledge of good and evil would make them like God, and that this was better than obedience. Perhaps God had put down that boundary simply because he wanted to provide Adam and Eve with the opportunity to be obedient to what He had asked them.
And so there in the Garden, the battle lines were drawn. Obedience to the command of God or the tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The thirst for knowledge drew Adam and Eve away from obedience. It was so tempting, and it was easier than obedience.
Gaining knowledge just requires a certain amount of intelligence, but obedience requires faith. That’s because obedience requires us to trust God, even when we feel like doing something else.
We know that knowledge is essential to obedience, but “knowledge without obedience seems to be the fruit that the church and many who call themselves Christian continue to eat.” (as D. L. Watson and P. D. Watson say in Contagious Disciple Making, p67)
And so the church and it’s members have often defaulted to basing discipleship around gaining knowledge rather than applying our knowledge through obedience.
As a result churches have gathered attenders hungry to be fed, rather than disciples keen to follow.
God gave Adam and Eve a simple test; to be obedient to what He asked them. They failed that test and so sin entered the world.
By His grace, God offers us forgiveness, to wipe the slate of our sin clean and give us a fresh start. And then He calls us to follow Him living life as a disciple of His; one where we are willingly obedient to His commands.
That’s the kind of loving relationship God wants with us. As Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey my commands” John 14:15. Obedience is God’s love language, and so the way that we disciple people must be to lead them into relationship with Him where we are all lovingly obedient to His commands.
Knowledge and the gaining of more knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is of no value at all if we are not first obedient to what He asks.
The fruit of knowledge should always be obedient application. And that was the problem in the Garden of Eden, where obedience and knowledge became competing alternatives.
The quest for us today is be disciples who make disciples, by aligning our knowledge of God and His commands, in harmony with the way that we live them out, applying them to our lives in obedience to Him.
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