Timothy: A Conscientious Plodder 9/5/99

I Thessalonians 3:1-3

Jesus Christ has had a loyal legion of followers on every continent in every age. The Bible chronicles the experiences of some of the first century stalwarts. Our distance from them diminishes their flaws and dramatizes their favorable qualities. However, in every age loyalist have had one thing in common and Paul was the penman who penned the announcement of it when he wrote: “We told you when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation…” (I Thessalonians 3: 4).

We are blessed and made bold by their example in the face of deprivation, destitution, distress, disaster, and difficulty. They were plodders. They looked neither to the right nor the left but kept on course. Theirs was a long obedience in the same direction.

Jesus said, “If any man will come after me let him take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). What a purpose giving invitation this is. It frees one of boredom and relieves one of monotony.

Our identity with Christ is noted in the word translated “follow.” It means to walk so closely behind that when the person leading removes his foot from one spot the following person puts his foot in that spot. In that proximity there is room for only one cross. Christ said we are to take up our cross and follow Him. If there is room for only one cross and we are to take up our cross that means the cross Christ carried is our cross.

It is not unreasonable to envision Christ struggling under the cross and physically plodding along on His way to Calvary. When we follow Him we become members of the “Society of Plodders.” What a wonderful fraternal order it is.

One of my favorite plodders of a more modern era is George Washington Carver. He was born a slave near Diamond Grove, Missouri. As an infant he along with his mother were stolen by a band of night raiders. It is said his master bought him back in exchange for a horse. He plodded along paying his way through college at Iowa State College by doing janitorial work, taking in laundry, and cooking.

He started a collection of fungus that grew to over 20,000. This earned him national fame. He came to Tuskegee University in Alabama in 1896. His discoveries were numerous.

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God tell me the mystery of the universe,’ but God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And He told me.”

During his illustrious career this slave child made more than 300 products from the peanut. More than 118 products from the sweet potato and 75 from pecans.

In 1916 this plodder was named a Fellow in the Royal Society of Arts in London, an honor given few Americans.

In 1951 the George Washington Carver Monument was established on 210 acres of Missouri farm land in his honor. By the time of his death some 18 schools had been named in his honor. He was a productive plodder.

Contemporary sports figures are dramatic examples of plodders. Lance Armstrong overcame cancer’s death sentence to win the world of cycling’s most grueling contest, the Tour de France. He said, “I am responsible to tell my story. To encourage others to fight on.” He plodded the often debilitating path of cancer.

Jim Abbot was born without a right hand. Courageously he concentrated on his left and minimized the absence of a right hand. He overcame his limitation to become quarterback of his high school football team. He excelled in baseball batting 427.

In Korea he was a pitcher on the U.S. Gold Medal baseball team.

He broke into the major leagues with the Angels in 1989. He pitched in 263 major league games. In 1991 he was 18 – 11 with an ERA of 2.89. Most remarkably of all while pitching with the New York Yankees this one armed phenomenon pitched a no- hitter.

He said, “My career wasn’t always great, but it was wonderful.” What a productive plodder!

Plodders know toward what they are plodding. They have an objective, goal, or gateway. Create an environment that keeps yours before you.

Strategically placed post-it notes can be used as self-reminders. Post them on your refrigerator, in your bedroom, at your place of play, work, or business.

Record your statement of calling or goals on cassette tape and replay it for yourself often.

Put them on the screen saver of your computer.

Isaac Newton was asked how he discovered the law of gravity and replied, “By thinking about it all the time.”

What are the spiritual goals toward which you are plodding. State them, record them, and repeat them to achieve them.

For examples of traits of a conscientious plodder turn to your New Testament. Timothy is tracked in his faith from his childhood. From him we can learn additional traits of a plodder.

Timothy was evidently reared in a single parent home. His mother and grandmother are identified but no reference is made to his dad (II Timothy 1: 5). Both his mom, Eunice, and grandmother Lois were followers of Christ who served as his maternal mentors.

From infancy they taught him Scripture (II Timothy 3: 15).

Scripture is a curriculum for a course of a joyous life well lived. That is true because it comes from God.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (II Timothy 3: 16).

Meaning, “Every single part of the whole is given by God.” I have studied textual criticism, form criticism, and higher criticism, which as most often taught are designed to destroy one’s confidence in Scripture. It only confirmed my confidence in it as God’s Word.

A perfect God would have had no problem giving us a perfect Bible. Every single part of it is given “by inspiration of God.” This means “every single part of the whole is breathed out by God.” As we exhale breath from our lungs so every part of the Bible proceeded from the mind of God.

If you want a faith that keeps on keeping on “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2:15).

HEAR God’s Word, READ God’S Word, STUDY God’s Word,

MEMORIZE God’ Word, MEDITATE on God’s Word, DO God’s Word.

Establish a personal program of daily Bible study. Set aside a time and place to go through this regimen.

Inevitably you will miss a day. If so don’t quit. If you miss a meal do you give up eating all together? No, you look all the more forward to the next one and resume. Do the same in Bible study.

Note the advantages of studying Scripture.

It is “profitable for doctrine,” that is it deals with forwardness.

It is affords “reproof,” meaning it relates to falsehoods.

It is suited for “correction.” Apply it for faltering.

It is reliable “for instruction in righteousness. It guides us in making God first.

Plodders need instructions on the right route.

Let God’s Word be your standard for life. Many people are looking and listening to learn what’s “in.” The “everybody is doing it” mantra is a mandate for meritocracy.

That sage, President Harry Truman, who defied the polls said: “How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll? What would Jesus Christ have preached if He had taken a poll in the land of Israel? What would have happened if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It is isn’t polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership.”

One plodding after the heart of God gets marching orders from the Word of God. Timothy did.

Paul describes Timothy as his “fellow laborer” (I Thes. 3:2).

In the day when the dignity of labor has been debased we do well to have a Labor Day on our national calendar to pay tribute to those who labor.

When a person sees his or her job as a ministry then it takes on a holy glow. When they conceive of themselves as doing what they are doing as though Jesus were their on job boss life sparkles. Then Colossians 3: 23 becomes a by-word for life: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

Perform and produce to an audience of one, Jesus.

Few figures are as much in the spotlight as athletes in America today. I am pleased to associate with many of the greatest athletes in the world by virtue of being Chairman of the National Board of Trustees of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Many of them measure their effectiveness not by boos or cheers of the crowds but by whether they have performed in a manner pleasing to Christ. They know Christ to be plodding every step with them.

John Wooden, perhaps the greatest coach of any sport, who won unprecedented number of National Championships with UCLA, said, “Sometimes I wonder if the Lord isn’t almost as much the coach as I am.”

Tom Landry observed, “Knowing your job isn’t the most important thing in your life relieves a lot of pressure. And because I felt I was doing God’s will in my life, I knew I didn’t have to do it all in my strength.”

Bobby Bowden who has enjoyed unprecedented success with his football program at Florida State, in speaking of his life growing “more Christian- patterned,” said, “At least I hope I have grown in my Christian life through the years. I’ve tried to be a better example to my players.”

Tom Osborne whose Nebraska Cornhuskers ranked among the top 24 in the nation for 30 years, from 1969 to 1998, and 21 times in the top ten, is a man of great personal faith. His newly released book, Faith in the Game, is punctuated with accounts revealing his deep personal faith in the sufficiency of Christ.

Grant Teaff, Executive Director of the American Football Coaches Association, told me he has made a long time study of the crucifixion of Christ because His was the ultimate sacrifice. Any sacrifice he asked of himself and his players was measured against that.

Like these men the labor of Timothy was to establish and encourage people in their faith. Everybody needs strengthening and encouraging. Modern behaviorist Dale Carnegie said, “Three- fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.”

Timothy and Paul, like many today, had an unusually difficult assignment. They were to be living examples of the sufficiency of Christ in adversity. Don’t read I Thess. 3: 3 with glazed eyes: “that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

They were “appointed” to suffer for Christ.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The things that hurt instruct.”

Paul had a thorn in the flesh with which he lived. Timothy had digestive problems. For this reason he was counseled to “take a little wine for the stomachs sake.” Wooooe!

Many take this as license for consuming alcohol noting the Bible says do it. If you are going to be Biblical about it be Biblical about it all the way. The medical standard of the era is revealed in the word “little.” There was a formula for this. Sanitation and water purification in that era wasn’t good. To compensate for this they added one part wine to 20 parts water. So if you are going to use this as your proof text be sure to follow that formula and you won’t become an alcoholic.

Pollster George Gallup, Jr., concluded in his book Saints Among Us that approximately 13% of Americans live their lives out of deep, authentic, spiritual commitment. He found they are more compassionate, more conscious of God’s presence, and led happier and more joyful lives.

Throughout the Book of Acts Timothy is found being dispatched to a different difficult area to share the love of Christ. He was part of the vanguard that put out the altar fires in the pagan temples and light the gospel torch in the palaces of Caesar. We too have a similar assignment.

Eighty years ago England was the most churched country in the world. Today many churches are closed. Those who do reach people for Christ average baptizing 1?2 person per year.

In 1958 America was the most churched country in the world. Today, 40 years later, we are half-way to where England is.

Loyalist like Timothy must be raised up to plod into the fields that are indeed white unto harvest, over ripe.

Paul described Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (I Cor. 4: 17). With such identity Timothy was sent to the divided church in Corinth to be God’s instrument of reconciliation. Plodders go where they are supposed to go and do what they are assigned to do.

Timothy’s message and life are confirmed as positive. Paul said, “Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by … Timothy—- was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (II Corinthians 1: 19, 20).

There is to be no vacillating. The expression “amen” is an expression of confirmation.

As a leader in the emerging church Timothy was martyred during the reign of Domitian trying to stop an indecent heathen act. Thus, this God-honoring plodded sealed his testimony with his blood.

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings. One thing endures and that is character.” (Horace Greeley)