To the extent we are called to leadership, we are called to ministry, even costly ministry. The greater the leadership, the greater is to be the ministry. The word minister is not a title of power but a designation of servanthood. —Francis Schaeffer, No Little People
Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom, which is worth more than a thousand worlds. But though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel—they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy. In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected—but even then it appears to me rather as a part of the gift entrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation which is properly my own. For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me! Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! and if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure Word of God as my refuge, how hard would I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter! What I call my best times, are when I can find my attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about; which indeed is not always, nor frequently, my case in prayer, and still seldom in reading the Scripture. My judgment embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them. But in the performance of them, I too often find them tasks; feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and am glad when they are finished. O what a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith! (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead me.) What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salvation is wholly of grace! Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again; that he ever lives to make intercession, and is able to save to the uttermost! But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of his people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and lack of spirituality which I feel—this makes me mourn. However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort—they are not inseparable, and perhaps, when together, the degree of the one is not often the just measure of the other. But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of his countenance—yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which he has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun! —John Newton, Works
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. —1 Timothy 4:12
Along with any verses in the Bible that mention fire, 1 Timothy 4:12 ranks high on the list of verses mangled by youth groups. But for a teen to spout off this verse is akin to a high school quarterback bringing an edited copy of a NFL contract to his coach saying, “Here are my terms.” Sure, there is some correspondence between the document and your reality, but you’re trying to put a kitty in a lion’s den. Timothy is a minister of the gospel, an apostolic delegate. Can you wear those tennies? Further, “youth” here refers to a man under forty in contrast to the older men Paul mentions in 5:1. Basically, by youth, Paul intends men who aren’t sage grandpas; men who don’t have enough salt in their pepper to be a respect magnet in the way that Paul was with all his gospel battle scars. Taking what we have in Acts, and our best guesses at when Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was probably in his mid thirties at this time.
Dear teen, I’m not scolding you as much as I’m wanting to take this sword from your hands so that the weight of it rests against my own big fat head. Hilt in hand, blade to my noggin. This isn’t suicide; this is surgery. Are there principles that a teen could glean from this field? Yep. But this food is meant for the “clergy,” young ministers to be more exact. All may get nourishment here, but ministers are to get full. Full on humility, which means empty of themselves. The gospel minister wants respect not because he is a big deal, but because the Word that he is to command and teach is (1 Timothy 4:11). See the connection between v. 11 and v. 12? The young godly pastor wants respect so that he won’t be hindrance to the ministry of the Word. He wants respect so that he isn’t a big deal.
If you quote this text in an attempt to garner some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, be you a seventeen year old who is on fire for Jesus, or a young pastor, you’ve demonstrated your stupidity and shown that you don’t know what you’re talkin’ bout. You’ve not only failed to understand the text, you’ve sinned against it. Rather than standing under the Word, you’re trying to stand over it and use it for unholy purposes and the seasoned saint is wise to warn, “Kid, put that thing down before you hurt yourself.” The Word of God is a holy sword. Woe to those who try to wield it for unholy purposes. You aren’t Arthur, and Excalibur is a butter knife by comparison. The Sword of the Spirit is for His glory, not
Timothy is to see to it that no one despises his youth, but how is he to do so? By setting an example. So when the arrogant lad demands, “Don’t look down on me for my youth!” it is good to lovingly and firmly respond, “It’s not because you’re young. It’s because your speech is often foolish or filthy, it’s because your conduct is erratic, it’s because your love is selfishly conditional as demonstrated by your demand for respect, it’s because your faith comes in spits and spurts, and it’s because any purity you do have clearly seems owing to lack of opportunity. You’re not respected for the same reason the fifty year old man who lives just like you isn’t—you’re not respectable.”
John Stott summarizes the point well, “People would not despise his youth if they could admire his example.” Young minister—self included, I know I’m pressing this blade most firmly to my own skin, trying to act like a man by shaving with it—if you don’t want to be looked down on for your age, live so that you are looked up to for your maturity in Christ. That’s a principle that will apply across the board, and that’s so, because in living this way, Timothy would be an example.
By grace, as I look at this text, I don’t see it as something my church needs to read. I get more cred than I should. They are a loving and generous people. As I read this I pray “God help me!” because I want them to be better than I am, and that means that I must be better than I am. God help me.
When the disciples come to Jesus and tell Him to send the crowds away, Jesus flips the table around on them and tells them to put food on it. Does Jesus really mean for them to feed the crowds? Absolutely, and they will. Their failure is that they come to Jesus seeking to be wise when they should come seeking a miracle. They come seeking to give an answer, instead of seeing the Answer. Do they think Jesus less concerned about the crowd’s need for food? Jesus is not only more compassionate, He is more capable. No sin of selfishness makes Him unwilling. No lack of power leaves Him unable. No lack of knowledge leaves Him in the dark.
The disciples think they have only five loaves and two fish. They have infinitely more than that, they have the Bread from heaven. John MacArthur writes, “They are like a person who stands in front of Niagara Falls and asks where he can get a drink.”
Jesus tells them to bring the bread, “to Me.” In all of this the disciples are active yet passive. They will distribute the bread, but Jesus does the miracle. Jesus means not only to be Bread for us, but to be Bread through us. Jesus means for His disciples to mediate the miracle. The task of ministry is impossible for us. We cannot regenerate. We cannot sanctify. We cannot create spiritual appetites. But as we obey, God mediates the miracle through us. We preach, God saves. Jesus is the Host and the Fare, we are waiters. The task is impossible for us, but we do not go it alone. The Great Commission is accompanied by the Great Promise; “I am with you always.”
Truly, he who writes this comment has often felt as if he had neither loaf or fish; and yet for some forty years and more he has been a full-handed waiter at the King’s great banquet. -C.H. Spurgeon