Unashamed Workmen

From longer message on 2 Timothy 2:14-18, here

Leaders, listen up! And everyone else listen in to what God says to them, because he is telling them how to lead you, and therefore he is telling you how you should be led.

The lesson is: commit yourself to being a good workman. There are three parts to it:

  • Present yourself to God as one approved
  • Be a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed
  • Correctly handle the word of truth

Now what do those mean? We instinctively understand what an approved workman is, don't we? You look down the local directory for a plumber or an electrician and the adverts have badges and standard kitemarks. Maybe some have pictures of work already done or testimonials. Approved means doing good work not bad work. Approved means working with integrity and honesty to produce the required result. Its fleshed out in these other two statements – be a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed by doing the job correctly.

We've all seen TV programmes about cowboy builders. They do the wrong thing in the wrong way to produce the wrong result and they fleece people. They are wolves in sheep's clothing who leave people in ruin. They should be ashamed of themselves. It is tragic when you get a cowboy working on your house. It is much worse when you get one in leadership in God's church.

How do you distinguish? God's leaders do God's work in God's way to produce God's fruit. And then there is no shame, but honour. We don't take shortcuts, we don't refuse to tell people the hard things, we don't refuse to correct from the word when it might not be well received. We don't offer placebos, we don't minimise the cost of discipleship while playing up all the goodies. We don't sensationalise. We pray. We stick like glue to apostolic biblical doctrine even when we think we could get a bigger crowd if we don't. We assiduously avoid any deceitful means or stitching up deals in back rooms. And we never do it for personal financial reasons. We take ourselves in had constantly and live observed lives and ministries before each other, before you and before God.

And we correctly handle the word of truth. What does that mean? It means that we do everything we can to ensure that the church is built strongly on the word of God and that everyone here is becoming mature in the word of God. It means we teach it correctly so you get built up. But its more than just accuracy because Paul contrasts it with people who are quarrelling and chattering about truth. Leaders are not to be quarrellers or chatterers about truth, we are to be bastions and statesmen of the truth when other people are trying to twist it. The word for "correctly handled" means cutting it straight, like building a straight roman road that is easy to follow. The word for wandering away in v18 is "straying from the target." Getting out of line with the straight road of truth.

Now why is it necessary for Paul to tell this to Timothy and other leaders? And to us? It is because some people were teaching wrongly in the church. Some were giving up. Timothy was being overcome with timidity in the face of the world. "Leaders," says Paul "don't give in – lead from the Word." And this congregation needs to hear God say that to leaders because they are going to lead and teach you from the word of God, and when they do that you must follow, or disobey God. So you need to know they are closely following.

Do you know there are some things in the Bible that lots of Christian leaders find difficult to teach about. Money is one. When you teach about money someone always thinks the minister wants a pay rise. And leadership is the other. Saying with Paul "follow me as I follow Christ" is very difficult, especially in this individualistic age. Christian leadership is word-of-truth leadership. The Bible says in Heb13:17 "obey your leaders and submit to their authority." Why should I submit? Heb. 13:7 because they spoke the word of God to you. Doesn't mean they are perfect. Doesn't mean they never get it wrong. Doesn't mean you have to do everything they say. But the basic principle is that when they are leading from the word of God you do have to do what they say. Fundamentally it isn't them who is leading at that point, its God.