Do you know anyone who loves to argue? How about someone who always has to be right? When you get two people together who love to argue and have to be right, things can get heated. I once saw a meme where a number was drawn on a paper between to people who were sitting across from each other. When one person looked at it, the number was a six. On the other side of the table, the number was a nine. Both sat there arguing over who was right. Neither was willing to get up from their seat to see the number from the other’s perspective because they were sure they were right. I think that’s the way a lot of arguments are. We’re so concerned about being right, that we fail to be concerned about the other person.
Each person who has accepted Jesus as their Lord, has begun a journey into spiritual maturity. Each one of us grow at different paces and are at different levels of maturity. From where we sit, and through the eyes of our past, we can interpret things differently. I used to get into arguments with people, trying to correct their misguided (in my opinion) ways. We would argue until we were blue in the face, but neither of us would give in. I’ve found that’s a way to lose friends and to stunt someone’s spiritual growth (including my own). Again, when I’m arguing and my focus is on being right, then it’s not on growth (mine or theirs). That’s a sign of spiritual immaturity and not what we’re called to do.
Romans 14:1-4 has a lot to say about this and how we’re to treat others. It says, “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval” (NLT). Accepting others where they are, and understanding that we’re all at different levels of maturity, should help us to understand that our job is to promote growth in others instead of stunting it. How we treat other believers matters. When we are more concerned with growth and maturity instead of being right or trying to prove someone is wrong, we’re moving in the right direction. Quit trying to be right, and start trying to love instead.
I’m nowhere near a professional gardener, but I do love planting a small garden each spring. There’s just something about tilling some earth, planting seeds, watering them, watching them grow and then enjoying the results. I’ve noticed though that sometimes my plants produce the minimum amount of vegetables while someone else brings in a bumper crop. Ive learned that there are a lot of variables that make them different. The soil is one of the greatest factors in how well the plants will do. It needs the right amount of vitamins and minerals for the plants I have to help them. There also the amount of water and sunlight they receive as well that will affect how they grow. The more I adjust these three things, the greater the more I can empower them to grow and produce.
As Christians, we’re not so different. Christianity is not just a one time event where we accept Jesus as our savior. It’s a lifetime of growth that comes after His seed is planted in our heart. In Matthew 13, Jesus told the parable where a sower scattered seeds among 4 different soils. Three out of four seeds sprouted, but only the ones in the seeds that were in good soil produced the crop he was looking for. The environment we’re in has a lot to do with our growth. Another thing we can do to empower our own growth is to stay watered in the Word of God. We can’t just live on the water we receive on Sundays. We must get watered daily. Finally, we must be exposed to the Son. Prayer is our time with the Son who causes us to be healthy and to grow. When these three things are consistent in our lives, we will not only grow, but produce fruit which is to create and empower other believers to grow.
Romans 15:2 says, “Our goal must be to empower others to do what is right and good for them, and to bring them into spiritual maturity” (TPT). Every one us need to have the goal of not just maturing ourselves, but to empower others to grow and produce as well. You have the power to create the atmosphere around you. Are your words and actions toward others creating an environment where others can grow? Are you fertilizing the seeds that have been planted in their heart? Does your life reflect the Son? Our goal should be to do these three things consistently. We need to make sure we are headed for maturity, and that we are empowering others to mature as well.
One of the things I have to do often at work is self evaluation. After my boss observes me either working in the field or in presenting information, I know that afterwards they’re going to come to me with three questions. What did you do well? What was your biggest opportunity? What will you do differently next time? After answering these three questions, my boss then answers them from their perspective. The goal is two fold: to get me to calibrate my perception with theirs and to keep me constantly questioning how I can be more effective at what I do.
They know that if they can instill in me a mental process that asks those three questions constantly, I will improve whether they are there over my shoulder or not. Paul understood this principle too. He was mentoring Timothy from a distance. He offered him advice and encouragement in leading a church. Clearly, Timothy was a younger man than those he was preaching to and had doubts. Paul gave him pointers in the books of I and II Timothy that are good for each of us as believers.
In i Timothy 412-16, Paul offered encouragement first. He said, “Don’t let anyone think less of you…but be an example.” He encouraged him to do the right thing knowing that he was under more scrutiny because of his age in a leadership role. He simply encouraged him to do the right thing and show others how to live. In essence, Paul was saying, “Practice what you preach.” We should live the life that we are asking others to live. Each of us should be examples of Christ’s love to those who see us. When we do that, it’s hard for anyone to look down on us.
Next, he encouraged Timothy to focus on reading the scriptures and using the gifts God gave him. The more we read the Bible, the more we put it into our hearts. We know that what’s in the heart comes out the mouth. If we spend time reading God’s word (publicly and privately), we and those who hear it will know what God says and will know how to live. We won’t just rely on someone else telling us what God says. We will know because we have heard it ourselves. Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:8 encourage us to not just read God’s Word, but to meditate on it as well. Meditating on it pushes it deeper into our hearts and minds.
Finally in these verses, Paul tells Timothy what my boss tells me. He said, “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. (NLT)” He wants Timothy to not just do things, but to pay attention to what he’s doing and how he’s doing them. He wants him to question those things so he can improve as a minister. Paul then gave the payoff of such improvement: “Because if you do, you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (GNT)” How we live affects how others receive the Gospel. We should constantly be questioning what we are doing well, what our opportunities are and what we can do differently in the future to improve. How you live matters whether you are a minister or not. Live in such a way that it points others to salvation.