Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do You Know the One NT Figure Mentioned in the Book of Hebrews?

That was how Sinclair Ferguson started chapter 45 of his wonderful mediation on the Christian life, In Christ Alone.

Do you know?

I didn't either. But Sinclair gave 5 clues, by the third I was relatively sure. It is Timothy. In his meditation on Timothy's life and ministry based on one passing statement in Hebrews 13, Ferguson provides some helpful insights on pastoral leadership and Christian discipleship. I pray it stirs, encourages, instructs, helps, challenges and strengthens you as it did me.

(By the way, need a photographer? Check out Lukas VanDyke. Bro got skills)
The reference to Timothy helps to illustrate a theme that runs through Hebrews 13--the characteristics of true leaders and the attitude we are to develop and maintain with respect to them: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith" (Heb. 13:7, ESV); "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:17, ESV).

In his relationship with Paul, Timothy exemplified the disposition of a follower: he remembered him, observed the fruit of his faith, and imitated it. He submitted gladly to Paul's leadership, thankful for his spiritual father and for Paul's willingness to take spiritual responsibility for him and to mentor him. This was why--in words that Hebrews echoes (Heb. 13:17)--for Paul the leader to see Timothy his disciple was to be "filled with joy" (2 Tim. 1:4).

It is thus that true leaders are generally formed and developed. When leaders have never been led--not merely at the formal level, but in the sense of a heart devotion and heart submission to wise and caring leadership--they are not usually well-equipped to lead others. They may even expect a submission they have never been willing to experience themselves. "After all, I was destined for leadership, not discipleship!" they may foolishly, and often disastrously, think.

Because this is the calling of leaders--so beautifully illustrated in Timothy--it is also the reason the author of Hebrews can call us to "obey" and "submit" to them. Thus, their leadership will not be a burden ("not with groaning," as the ESV expressively translates it), but a joy (Heb. 13:17).

What if all leaders in the church were like you? Are you a walking version of the letter to the Hebrews?

Have you shown heart submission to the leadership of others? Are you prepared to suffer for others, to go through trials? Perhaps you are a ruling elder. When things get tough, rough, and sore, do you simply complain, or perhaps tend to pull back a little and look to the teaching elder/pastor as though to say, "The rough ones are for you to handle?"

Most of us are church members, not church leaders. Are you a joy or a burden? What a telling question! How sad when we count--of all things--argumentativeness, a domineering spirit, an angular personality, or an ongoing motif of cynicism about other believers as grace. Have we no idea that we make our leaders groan rather than rejoice? Should we not make this one of the questions for church membership: "Will you seek to be a source of joy to your leaders?"

Timothy is a model for both disciples and leaders. He was the latter because he had learned to be the former. And once we have been both, we, too, become living letters, versions of the great letter to the Hebrews, those in whom the Lord is "working... what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:21). And amen!


Jamie Duguid said...

I was going to guess Jesus.

LouLove said...

Leave it to Sinclair. Timely words for a sometimes tired leader

Thanks Bro.

Philip said...

And what a great example Timothy was of Christ who leads his flock perfectly, even as he perfectly submits to the will of the Father!