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Lift Week Seven: The Lift of Challenge | 1 Timothy 6: 17-21

Mary Ellen Ermis August 13, 2023 sermons, 1 Timothy, cityrise, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, houston, Kirby Follis, Lift,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Executive Pastor Kirby Follis on Sunday, August 13, 2023 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.

Good morning!  We wrap up our Lift series today with the Lift of Challenge from the end of 1 Timothy 6.  If you open your CityRise App and in the top left corner make sure you’re in the Bellaire campus, you can scroll down to “fill in notes” as an additional study tool OR choose the Bible there as well.  If you haven’t downloaded the CityRise App, you can visit cityrise.org/app now to download it.

As we conclude 1 Timothy, let me remind you of some context for this book.  This book as well as 2 Timothy and Titus are known as the Pastoral Epistles.  They were written to Timothy and Titus, two of Paul’s sons in the faith who were carrying out pastoral duties – Timothy at Ephesus and Titus on the island of Crete.  Other than Philemon, they are also the only Bible books written to individuals.  These books give us a window into the last years of Paul’s ministry because there were the last letters he would write.

These epistles give guidance to practical matters of the organization and life of the church.  Paul’s stated purpose for writing to Timothy is summed up in verse 14 and 15 of 1 Timothy 3…

1 Timothy 3:14b-15

I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

As you have already learned, this book gives instruction in matters of public worship (including specific notes for men and women), selection and qualifications for church leaders, notes on the pastor’s personal life and public ministry, confronting sin, how to handle money and more.  They are for Timothy’s benefit so he can lead the people of the church but also for the benefit of the church itself.

Our theme for today’s message is that leaders challenge those entrusted with talents to use them for what matters most.

Paul’s desire for Timothy, the Ephesians and us is to know that when we deploy God’s plan for His church through the proper perspective on and use of riches and talents while remaining devoted to the essentials of the faith, we will be effective for His Kingdom and our good stewardship and generosity will testify of Him.  In Paul’s final challenge to Timothy here, he gives him wise counsel concerning wealth, stewardship and generosity.  Let’s use the following guide for our study…

Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means…

  • Not Depending on What is Fleeting (v. 17)
  • Being Open-Handed and Investing in Eternity (vv. 18-19)
  • Guarding and Proclaiming Truth (vv. 20-21)

    I. Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means Not Depending on What is Fleeting (vs. 17)

1 Timothy 6:17

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

The two key themes represented in the 5 final verses of Paul’s challenge to Timothy regard handling treasure and handling truth.  Why is this learning important for all of us?  BECAUSE ALL Christ-followers are STEWARDS, and the Lord has charged us to protect and manage what He has given us.

The first two verses of this passage largely have to do with stewardship of material possessions or wealth.  I point out that ALL CHRIST-FOLLOWERS are stewards because I think it would be easy for some of us to check out when the verse starts with “command those who are RICH.”  Some of you are already saying, “I’m out!”

If we take this up 30,000 feet, as Christians, our devotion to God is lived out in worship and service.  We see this spelled out in…

Matthew 4:10b

Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

This command overlays everything we do including handling money, possessions and God’s truth.  1 Timothy builds on this theme throughout.  Earlier in this chapter, it deals with earthly treasures as it regards false teachers and the devastating outcome of pursuing and loving money.  In other words, he covered the topic from the perspective of those who DESIRE to be rich.  Same topic, different perspective – he now addresses those who are ALREADY RICH.  Just so we can see that we should all feel the impact of this teaching, let’s define…

Rich = having more than enough to gratify normal needs or desires

That’s most everyone in this room, isn’t it?  If you ever eat out or drink a $4 cup of coffee or go to a ballgame or drive through a fast food restaurant, you’re in this category.  Basically, if you have discretionary dollars, you are rich.  As a matter of fact, by comparison to the rest of the world, the large majority of Americans fit this definition.  So let me ask you – is it a sin to be rich?  Absolutely not!  Abraham, Job and Solomon were uber wealthy OT peeps and Lydia, Dorcas and Philemon were rich NT peeps and all of them were people of great faith and devotion to God.  Keep in mind that being rich is not necessarily an indicator of God’s blessing.  There are many poor godly people and many rich wicked people.

Timothy is charged to command those are rich in this present world to avoid a couple of serious pitfalls.  What Paul means by “this present world” is the here and now, this present age – those who are rich right now.  This also indicates that our wealth is temporary – it is related only to our time in this world and sets up a contrast that points to an eternal richness which should be our ultimate desire.

The first pitfall we have to avoid is being arrogant.  Conceit and haughtiness only serve as stumbling blocks for us and those around us.  Conceit induced by wealth is a façade of security that will not last.  This is affirmed in…

Proverbs 28:11

A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.

So what is the opposite of conceit?  It is humility.  It is exceedingly difficult to be rich AND humble.  It is exceedingly difficult to be rich and fully dependent on God.  Why?  Because we have all that we need and falsely believe we alone attained it.  The second and final pitfall mentioned in vs. 17 is the temptation to place our hope in these riches…to set them as the foundation for our happiness and future.  And it isn’t just the idea of fixing our hope on wealth – it is the contrast of doing that INSTEAD OF placing our hope full in God through Christ!  This is echoed throughout scripture…

Proverbs 11:28

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Proverbs 23:4-5

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Rather, Paul gives us the antidote in the end of this first verse…set your hopes on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  God’s provision is so much more than any earthly investment.  Let me show you a couple of places in scripture where God makes it clear He provides and we are to enjoy.

Psalm 50:10-12

10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills, 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine, 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

Everything is His and it costs Him nothing to richly supply us for His glory and our enjoyment.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

So God isn’t asking us to take a vow of poverty and he isn’t asking us not to work hard or even enjoy our work or His provision.  He is simply and clearly asking us to put Him first and trust in Him only and to put our wealth in perspective.  But He’s also asking us to put our wealth to work for His Kingdom by…

Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means…

  • Not Depending on What is Fleeting (v. 17)
  • Being Open-Handed and Investing in Eternity (vv. 18-19)
  • Guarding and Proclaiming Truth (vv. 20-21)

   II. Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means Being Open-Handed and Investing in Eternity (vv. 18-19)

1 Timothy 6:18-19

18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

David Guzik…”The most important reason why believers should tithe and give sacrificially to the Lord [is] not just because the church needs money to carry out its functions, but because we need to be givers.  It’s God’s way of guarding us against greed and trust in uncertain riches.”

So if God richly gives us all things to enjoy, what is our response?  This is where duty comes in – our duty as believers to use our resources to meet the needs of others.  This is where we begin to make the connection between good deeds and eternal life.  These good deeds do not save us, but good deeds should serve as evidence of our duty and overflowing gratitude to God for His gift of salvation.  As a result, we should be rich with our finances, our love, time and labor as well.

To do good is to do what is inherently and qualitatively good.  To make the lives of others better through our influence and generosity.  Secondly, we are to be rich in good works.  This is affirmed in…

1 John 3:17

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

This is a prescribed duty for a believer but it is a joy too.  Obedience to God is not a sentence – it is a life-giving act that brings us further in line with God’s will and increases the satisfaction we already have in Him.  Vs. 18 prescribes generosity.  What is that?  The heart of the word means “liberal” or ”bountiful.”  The indication is that the duty of the rich believer is to meet need beyond the minimum.  Paul in writing to Timothy reminds all believers that we are to provide for our families, widows, the leaders of the church and any other believer in need.  And not just minimally but to fully cover the need.

This requires an unselfish heart and our greatest model for this is God Himself.  We always say (because it is true) that God is the FIRST and MOST GENEROUS GIVER.  We are to act toward others with the same generosity that motivated God on our behalf.  Finally, vs. 18 says be ready to share.  At first glance, this might sound repetitive.  But, the root of this word is the same as the one for “fellowship.”  It has as part of its meaning, to be “beneficent.”  This embodies a “heart” of giving that is more than just a one and done detached gift.  It represents the care and concern that comes out of the life we have in common as believers.  And what is the outcome of this kind of living?  It is described in vs. 19.

In short, by properly handling treasure we build a good future foundation for ourselves.  Think about it – God’s economy is so interesting isn’t it?  By generously giving to others, we store up eternal good for ourselves.  The world is going to struggle with that one.  But God’s wisdom and plan is not worldly and doesn’t have to make sense to the secular culture.  Our dividends have a future payment date that is set by God Himself.  And if we can devalue earthly wealth, invest in others and live for God’s glory, we will reap those dividends in His time.

I love the phrase they may take hold of that which is truly life.  One, it reminds us that salvation is never forced upon anyone.  Those who desire must “grasp it” when it is offered to them through accepting Christ and surrendering to His Lordship. Life that is truly life is abundant, eternal life.  If we’ve grasped it in Christ, then we are to generously invest in the lives of others in hopes that we will all enjoy that life in eternity together.

There are two practical ways to position ourselves for this kind of living:  One, stop trying to fill the vacuum in our lives with things.  Commentator David McCasland writes…

David McCasland…”As we learn to thank God for what we have and freely share it with others, we stop trying to fill the spiritual vacuum in our heart with things.  And when we love Jesus more than money and possessions, we find that He is the greatest treasure of our lives.  We discover that knowing Him is the source of genuine satisfaction.”

The second practical way to battle discontentment and engender generosity is to stop comparing.  President Teddy Roosevelt is credited with the saying…

President Teddy Roosevelt…”Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Greed whispers in our ear that we would be happier with more money, more things, more power and the outcome of that is discontentment.  The opposite of greed is contentment and generosity.  When we pay more attention to what others have or how we believe their lives are going, we lose focus on what matters most, we allow the voice of greed and discontentment to rob us of joy and we put ourselves in a poor position to fulfill our duty as worshippers of God who should be living lives of devotion to Him.  This also erodes opportunity to invest well in eternal things.  Finally, the last two verses deal with guarding and proclaiming God’s truth.

Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means…

  • Not Depending on What is Fleeting (v. 17)
  • Being Open-Handed and Investing in Eternity (vv. 18-19)
  • Guarding and Proclaiming Truth (vv. 20-21)

  III. Godliness Regarding Treasure and Truth Means Guarding and Proclaiming Truth (vv. 20-21)

1 Timothy 6:20-21
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Basically, Paul is saying here “be careful where you get your info!”  As leaders and as believers, we are charged to discern and distinguish what comes from God (the deposit entrusted to you) and what comes from man (irreverent babble).  Guzik writes that Paul trusted Timothy but also knew how great the power of worldly seduction can be and how high the stakes are for getting this right.

The deposit that we and Timothy are to guard is the gospel which is comprised of the truth of God’s Word along with the spiritual gifts and material resources that He has entrusted to each of us.  We are commanded to steward it well which means guarding it but also faithfully sharing it.  In the same way we see in 1 Timothy 1:11 that God has committed the truth to Paul and Paul has committed it to Timothy, we are to faithfully impart it to others so they can do the same.  This is God’s plan for bringing life and light to all future generations.  Warren Wiersbe reminds us that “we are all stewards of the doctrines of faith, and God expects us to be faithful in sharing His Good News.”

In 1 Timothy 3:15 we were reminded by Paul that the church is “the pillar and support of the truth.”  We have received a legacy of truth from those who have gone before us and it is our responsibility to hand it down unadulterated to those generations to come after us.  This is likely the most important time in history for us to embrace this calling as it is widely thought in secular circles that there is no truth or that if there is, it cannot be known.  Or worse, that if there is truth, there is likely no religious truth.  Or even worse, there is truth but it is my truth and I am the determiner of it.

The church does many things well and is responsible for many things.  But there is likely no greater measure of a church than how it handles the Word of God.  That being said, then, the worst thing we can possibly do is misrepresent His truth, His Word to the world – to mishandle His revelation in a way that causes people to turn away from Him instead of turning to Him.  Pastor John MacArthur writes…

John MacArthur…”To fail to take God’s Word seriously, whether by careless interpretation or by careless living, is to fail to take God Himself seriously.  And if the church fails to take God seriously, why should the world?”

Paul himself had served in Ephesus for three years.  So it was no mystery to him how tempting it might be for Timothy or the Ephesian believers to compromise the Word of God.  It is not surprising then that his letter is full of exhortation to guard the truth as well as to live it out and proclaim it.  To disregard these exhortations and admonitions from Paul brings an outcome made clear in vs. 21 – to prioritize irreverent babble or to disregard God’s truth, is to set yourself up to swerve away from the faith.  To leave that which is the richest most abundant life one can know and to plan poorly for an eternity which God desperately wants us to share.  Let me close with 7 Key Components To Guarding the Truth from Pastor MacArthur.

We Can Guard the Truth:

  • Believing the Word of God – He who hears My word and believe Him who send Me, has eternal life (John 5:24)
  • Honoring the Word – I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12)
  • Loving the Word – O how I love Thy Law! (Psalm 119:97)
  • Obeying the Word – If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine (John 8:31)
  • Proclaiming the Word – Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2)
  • Defending the Word – Contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3)
  • Studying the Word – Handling accurately the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Church – we cannot lose our focus on the fundamentals.  The gospel is primary and shapes everything else.  It shapes the organization of the church and everything that we do.  It has changed each of us and our distinct calling is to keep it front and center that it may do the same for others.  The two primary ways we see that in today’s passage are in guarding God’s truth and sharing it freely while generously investing in the lives of others through fully meeting needs.

It is possible to be rich in this life and poor in the next.  That isn’t what I want and I don’t think it is what you want either.  God knows our tendency to trust in worldly riches instead of in Him, which is why He seeks to warn us about this danger repeatedly in His Word.  He wants nothing more than for us to establish ourselves in that which is most certain:  Himself.  Our great temptation is to worship the creature more than the creator; to treasure the gifts more than the Giver Himself.  But the Bible and Paul here in this letter to Timothy always point beyond the gifts themselves and to our need to set our hearts on the Giver of all good things.

Salvation, church membership, prayer.  Let’s pray.