GIVE THYSELF WHOLLY TO THEM

“Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”
I Timothy 4:15

Paul’s advice to his beloved son in the faith provides counsel equally beneficial to us. Apparently, Timothy had some struggles with feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, which most of us can identify with. In a few verses prior to our text, Paul said, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers” (I Timothy 4:12). We can assume that Paul wrote these words to help Timothy, either because he was being looked down upon because of his youthfulness, or maybe because Timothy feared that it might happen. He follows with words admonishing Timothy to “give attendance” to the Word of God, both in reading and teaching (I Timothy 4:13). Paul then reminds Timothy that God had gifted and equipped him for the ministry (I Timothy 4:14).

Then we come to the words of our text. If Timothy would “meditate upon these things” and give himself “wholly to them,” then his profiting would “appear to all.” The word “profiting” refers to his spiritual advancement or progress. If Timothy would give himself to being the right kind of example, studying and preaching the Word, and using the gifts that God gave him, it would become obvious to others that God had His hand on the young man of God. We can be certain these principles can apply to our lives as well, and will produce the same results.

We need to give ourselves “wholly” to the principles of God’s Word. The obvious implication is that it is possible not to give ourselves “wholly” to these matters. The word “wholly” means “completely or fully, not casually or complacently.” If we want to see consistent spiritual growth and advancement, we must take these matters seriously. We should “meditate,” devoting time to thinking through and personalizing the commands and promises of Scripture. Too often we fail to hide God’s truth in our hearts. The more we meditate on God’s Word, and His promises to equip us to do His will, the more faith will fill our hearts that we can serve Him ably.

The answer to feelings of inadequacy or inferiority is not to quit, be intimidated, or promote ourselves in fleshly energy. The answer is to give ourselves wholly to the things of God. As we do so, it will be evident to us, as well as to others, that God is working in our lives.

BACKSLIDERS IN HEART

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”
Proverbs 14:14

Our text points out the fruit of two different persons and paths of life. One is referred to as a “backslider in heart,” and the other is “a good man.” Their hearts are different, their journeys are different, and their end will likewise be different.

Backsliding is an interesting word or concept. It means just what it says. It is to turn back, in this case, to turn back from obeying or following the Lord. This is the person who has withdrawn from his place of devotion or service. The word implies a gradual turning back. It does not occur immediately. Backsliding usually occurs a little at a time, over a period of time. Small concessions and compromises lead to greater departures from the will of God. Of course, some people completely backslide and turn from the straight and narrow because they never really embraced the Gospel and the Savior. However, there is a tendency in all of us to follow the Lord from a greater distance than we should.

Genuine Christians can slide back from the place they once were in their spiritual lives. They might not love the Lord as they once did, or earnestly pray, as was their habit before. Examples of such are Peter, Jonah, and John Mark. One difference in a real Christian and an imposter is, when the Christian sins, the Lord deals with him because he is God’s child. He will repent and get right, or God will severely chasten him.

Our verse also tells us the place that backsliding begins; it begins in the “heart.” Backsliding does not begin in behavior that is unacceptable or attitudes that are ungodly, it begins in the heart. Therefore, the way to avoid serious backsliding in our actions is to personally judge the drifting in our hearts. It is better to repent when you don’t love the public worship of the Lord as you should, rather than waiting until you completely forsake the assembling with the saints. If we can recognize the tendency to compromise in our hearts, we can avoid serious falling in our walk, which damages our testimony.

This Scripture tells us what to expect from the condition of our hearts and the paths that we take. The backslider will be “filled with his own ways” and “a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The backslider will experience grief and punishment, while the obedient man shall be filled with peace and reward.

SERVING THE LORD AS FAMILIES

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14, 15

Joshua gathered the people together just before his death for some final words of advice and warning. He rehearsed to the Israelites how the Lord had called and led this people, eventually bringing them back into Canaan. He then challenged them to fear the Lord and serve Him, while turning away from the gods of the world. This man of God who had so faithfully served his people called them to make a decision on that day, whether to serve God or serve idols.

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” This is a choice every person needs to make. It is a real friend who encourages us to serve the Lord and live our lives for Him. We are all going to serve someone. We will either serve the Lord by living for Him and obeying His Word, or we will serve the devil by living for self and following the idols of this world. Make that your choice for today, every day, and forever. Joshua then gave us his own words of resolve, saying “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua had lived for God as few others, faithfully serving the Lord. But in his final days, he also expressed his intention that his family serve the Lord.

The decision to live for God is an individual decision. We cannot make that choice for any other person, including the people that are the closest to us, the members of our family. However, though we cannot decide for them, we certainly want to influence them to choose Christ as Savior and give their lives to serving Him.

Every family is in need of consistent godly leadership. Too many people neglect the importance of serving the Lord as families. Having homes that are simply religious or have a form of godliness will not suffice. Children need to see that their parents love the Lord and serve Him sincerely. Families especially need to see husbands and fathers who can say, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

JESUS TOLD THEM AGAIN

“Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.”
John 8:21

Why did Jesus repeat Himself to those who heard Him? “Then said Jesus again unto them.” We would think that Jesus would never have to re-teach the lessons He had taught. Surely His listeners would pay very close attention to everything He said, hanging on every word. How could they forget the things they heard from the great
Messiah? Yet, our text tells us that Jesus told them “again.” He went over it with them another time. He repeated His plans to “go my way.” It is interesting that, even though the gospels record that Jesus reiterated His purpose to die a cruel death and then rise again, the disciples were not expecting either. They were slow to believe when they heard the news of His resurrection.

Repetition is a key part of teaching and learning. This is common knowledge to all who work with the education of children. The memorization of Scripture is enhanced by repetition. On this subject, Paul said, “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” (Philippians 3:1). He said that it was safe to repeat truthful information. One could make the case that it is unsafe not to repeat the truth. It is beneficial for us to be reminded. For one thing, we all have a tendency to forget. We have forgotten important information. We even forget Bible verses that we have memorized and spiritual commitments we have made. Being reminded is good for us.

Sometimes we do not remember things because we do not listen as carefully as we should, or we fail to take learning seriously. Most people will admit they have to work at being good listeners and battle with distractions. Another reason that repetition is necessary is because error has a way of eroding our convictions of truth. If we hear false teaching often enough, it can weaken our position – especially if the truth is not being rehearsed to us.

Jesus told them “again” because they needed it; it was good for them. Because these things are true, we should appreciate the fact that our teachers care enough about our learning that they occasionally repeat sound doctrine for our benefit. It is not because they have nothing new to share. Repetition is essential in the process of learning. Because this is true, we need to remind others of the truths of the Word of God.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

“But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.”
Judges 1:6, 7

As a young person, I was not familiar with the phrase, “WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.” But it is commonly used in this part of the country. The meaning is simple. Things that we say or do have a tendency to return to us. If we mistreat others, we might expect to be mistreated in a similar way. Adonibezek felt that he experienced this very thing. He was the king of Bezek, his name meaning “lord of Bezek.”

In our text, the Israelites were given a great victory over the Canaanites and Perizzites and killed ten thousand of them in Bezek. When they captured Adonibezek, they “cut off his thumbs and his great toes.” He would be unable to run and unable to fight. Adonibezek acknowledged that he had treated his enemies the same way: “Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.”

Adonibezek was a ruthless and powerful king. There is no reason to believe that he had any knowledge of the true God. He had apparently been responsible for conquering seventy rival kings. But, he was able to make the connection between the way he was treated and the way he treated others; “God hath requited me.” He felt that his sinful behavior was being punished.

Although the cliche’, “WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND,” is not found in the Bible, similar principles are in the Scripture. Leviticus 24:20 says, “Breach for breach,
eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.” Offenders were to be punished with the identical injury they had inflicted. Jesus teaches us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). We should be careful to treat others the way we want to be treated. Otherwise, it may come back to us again. Sometimes, “WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.”

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
Revelation 2:10

These words were spoken to the church in Smyrna. They were encouraged to, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.” The church would endure great suffering. Some would be imprisoned. Our Lord exhorted the members of this persecuted church with a direct charge to be “faithful unto death.” No matter what comes, be faithful. What a tremendous challenge, but also what a great promise to this body of believers.

As always, we can see that this is a message needed in our churches today. It is easier for us to be faithful when things are going well and blessings are obvious. It is another thing, indeed, to be faithful when we are tested and tried and are facing great difficulty. And yet, our wonderful Savior urges us to be faithful in all circumstances. We are to remain faithful to Jesus, faithful to our duties, and faithful to His Word even if it costs us dearly.

Thank God for the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was faithful to His Father and His mission. He was faithful all the way to the cruel cross. Nothing could keep Him from presenting Himself as the sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was “faithful unto death.”

This reminds us of the faithful soldiers of Christ who have stood strong for the doctrines of the Word of God, and who have stood against error and compromise. Facing great adversity and persecution, many thousands have been “faithful unto death.” We, too, are called to be “faithful unto death.” This command includes a promise. The fact that we are required to be “faithful unto death” means it is possible. God would not expect something of us that we could not satisfy. Because He orders it, we can know that He will strengthen and enable us to fulfill it.

It is safe to assume that there are those who are convinced that the command to be “faithful unto death” is unreasonable and impossible. However, they are wrong. We can be faithful to our Lord, His Word, our responsibilities, and our church until He comes for us or death calls us home. And when that happens, He has promised us “a crown of life.” We can be assured that our faithfulness will be rewarded.

ONLY A POT OF OIL

“And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.”
II Kings 4:2

The woman in our text had recently lost her husband. He had been a prophet serving under the ministry of Elisha. After his death, creditors came to her, demanding payment for outstanding debts. She had no money to pay them. In her distress, this widow cried out to Elisha. He asked her, “what hast thou in the house?” The only thing she had was a pot of oil. Elisha instructed her to gather all the empty vessels she could borrow and to begin to pour the oil into the vessels. She did as she was told and filled all the vessels with the miraculous provision. Elisha then told her to sell all the oil, pay her debt, and live on the remainder.

This great miracle began with the man of God encouraging the needy woman to give what she had, even if it were ONLY A POT OF OIL. Here is a great principle for us to
apply. The first thing Elisha had this needy woman do was find what she had at her disposal and give it. Her words were, “Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.” This was a great lesson for her and for us as well. We may not think that we have enough, but we should give what we have.

Truthfully, none of us have all that we need. Most of us live with the sense that we do not have the resources we need to accomplish what God wants us to do. Sometimes, it would seem much easier if we had more to give. If only we had more wisdom, or more money, or more personality, or more intelligence, we could serve God and men in a more capable way. There are a great many who look at their apparent lack of resources, esteeming them to be of little value, and thus feel incapable or inadequate to meet the challenges of ministry. God is not so much interested in what we do not have, but in what we do have.

Elisha wisely helped this woman remove her focus from what she lacked to that which she possessed. She would take what she had and invest it. When she did so, God began to work mightily. What do we have to give to God? It may not seem to be all that much, but if we will give it to God, He will take it and use it. Like the lad with the fishes and loaves, when we give our lunch to Jesus, He can bless it and multiply it, even if it is ONLY A POT OF OIL.

WE ARE ONLY MEN

“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”
Acts 14:14, 15

Paul and Barnabas were preaching and ministering in Lystra when the Lord healed a man who had been crippled all of his life. Seeing what had been done, the people cried out, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men” (Acts 14:11). Barnabas, they called Jupiter, and Paul, they called Mercurius. Our text gives us the response of God’s servants to such improper behavior. They cried out saying, “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you.”

Why is it that men have a tendency to want to deify mortal men? Thank God for faithful servants of the Lord, but they are not to be worshipped. Of course, the citizens of Lystra were an idolatrous and superstitious people. Our Scripture records that Paul had preached to them that they “should turn from these vanities unto the living God.” Paul had been trying to teach them to turn from their idols, but they wanted to call him a god when they saw the miracle performed in the crippled man.

We should respect and honor godly, spiritual leaders, but we need to always remember that they are only men. Many Christians have stumbled seriously in their spiritual walk because they saw some pastor or leader make a mistake. We want our leaders to be sincere and godly, but perfect they will not be, because they are only men. We pray for them to give us good advice and counsel, but their advice is not infallible because they are only men.

There is another important thing to notice in the great account of this healing and the response to it. Paul and Barnabas quickly and decisively refused to allow the people to think of them more highly than they should. There is something very wrong with men who will receive the worship of those who follow them. Again, it is proper for people to respect and honor their spiritual leaders, and to go to them for advice, but to allow them to give men the praise that is due to God is wrong. As leaders, our goal is not for people to rely completely on us, but to learn to rely upon the Lord.

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE THAT WAIT

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

This verse has been a source of great comfort and strength to many of us. Isaiah speaks to the heart of those who have become weary in their walk. He begins the context a few verses earlier with the words, “the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isaiah 40:28). God has never been weak and faint, nor has He ever known exhaustion. The prophet continues, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29). God, who is never weary, can give strength to the weak. Isaiah 40:30 says, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary.” There is no such thing as a person who is strong enough in his or her own ability, or in such good condition that he can avoid weariness and fatigue. All of us need God’s help and power, and God wants to give us strength when we are weak.

How is it that we can draw upon God’s endless strength? “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.” God promises to strengthen us as we wait upon Him. When we come to God in our weakness and wait upon Him in prayer, He exchanges His strength for our weariness. How often we are reminded of this simple truth: God wants us to depend upon Him. It is so important to learn this vital principle. Our Lord wants us to look to Him first as the Source of our strength, our wisdom, our power, our compassion, etc.

Because we are weak and weary does not mean we are useless. It only means that we need Him to strengthen us. One can only wonder how many people have given up on
some Christian venture because they saw themselves as being too weak to continue. Or, how many have been discouraged to the point of quitting because they felt too powerless or faint to complete some project. The answer is not in quitting, but rather in waiting on the Lord.

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE THAT WAIT. God promises to reward the person who waits upon Him. He enables us with the ability to “mount up with wings as eagles…run, and not be weary; . . . walk, and not faint.” When you feel too faint to continue, don’t quit! Take some time to “wait upon the LORD.”

SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS

“Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.”
Luke 8:35

The man we find “sitting at the feet of Jesus” was one of the most demonically controlled cases of the New Testament. According to the Word of God, he wore no clothes, lived in the tombs, and could not be bound with chains and fetters. Many devils possessed him. Jesus brought freedom to the enslaved man, driving the devils from him. When the people of the city came to see what was done to the man, they found him “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.” What a difference Jesus makes!

There are several important lessons that can be drawn from our text. We see, first of all, the transformation that occurs at conversion. Everyone’s testimony of salvation will not be identical, and obviously, few will be as dramatic and noticeable as this one. However, regardless of the age or background of the new convert, he will be made a new creature in Christ. This uncontrollable man was sitting peaceably at Jesus’ feet. An immoral man who could not be kept clothed was properly attired. One who was tormented and demented in his thinking was now “in his right mind.” Salvation changes a person. It changes his values, his conduct, and his thinking. People who are saved act differently because they think differently.

This man not only demonstrates the fruit of conversion; he also illustrates the position of discipleship. When a person is saved, he will want to be near Jesus and he will desire to learn of Him. When a person who claims salvation has no interest in spiritual things, his testimony is suspect. We see no evidence in the text that this man was taught the importance of being near Jesus or learning from Him. Rather, it was the natural response of a gratefully redeemed man. As the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, our lives will be spent sitting at His feet.

Finally, this man models for us the place of security and stability. A Christian is strongest and safest when he stays close to the Lord and continues to grow in His grace. When a child of God does not take the time to love and worship the Lord, and learn the doctrines of His grace, he will be more vulnerable to Satan’s snares.