Every afternoon when I arrive home from work, I lace up my running shoes and go run. On the few and far between spring-like days that we have had in the Raleigh area over the last several weeks, I have chosen to run outside rather than on the treadmill at the gym. In the midst of enjoying the sunshine, I have navigated the sidewalks of my neighborhood while listening to upbeat music on my iPod shuffle.
Admittedly, while I enjoy participating in all forms of athletics, I am not a fan of running. The pounding on the pavement hurts my knees, aggravates an ankle injury I have had for 20-plus years, and leaves muscles I have long since forgotten about hurting and aching. While I’m not a fan of running, I am a fan of being fit and healthy. The more I have spent time running the more I realize that my energy level is high, my stamina is greater, and when I don’t water down my workouts, I am able to endure more strenuous workouts because my poor legs and lungs have been beaten into shape.
While getting into shape has not been fun at times, I realize in the end I am stronger and healthier as I have worked through pain and have allowed the process of running and other exercises transform the muscles of my weak limbs into stronger muscles that are able to endure much more.
The unadulterated, inerrant Word of God does this for our lives, too.
In our American culture today a growing trend of changing the Word of God to fit the rapidly declining morality in culture is on the rise. Instead of standing on the truth of God’s Word, many believers have colored the black and white issues Scripture clearly addresses gray – and in so doing have watered down God’s very word spoken to mankind. Instead of allowing God’s Word to transform culture, we have allowed culture to transform the holy words of Scripture.
What a dangerous, scary sin this is for the American church.
However, Paul gives leaders a warning through his instruction to Timothy in II Timothy 4:1-5. From this passage of Scripture Paul gives several warnings that we must heed as women’s ministry leaders.
1. Teach the Word of God. Paul charges Timothy in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he refers to as the judge of the living and the dead, to preach (teach) the Word of God. Paul had just spent the preceding verses reminding Timothy of the “sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15). Paul referred to God’s holy word as sacred – holy and set apart. In the original language, sacred had a deep definition, “sacred Scriptures, because inspired by God, treating of divine things and therefore to be devoutly revered.”
The Word of God is divine and when we teach the Word of God we need always to remember that God’s Word is God breathed and unlike any other word in human history. How dare we think we can change the words of the Almighty Maker of Heaven and earth to fit our desires or our worldly paradigms.
2. Be ready at all times. When situations arise we need to know what God’s Word says. How are we ready? With disciplined, daily study of God’s Word. We cannot share God’s Word if we do not know His Word. Recently I heard a speaker challenge the American church. She explained there is severe biblical illiteracy in our churches today. She explained that this is because we have settled for a “verse-a-day” Scripture reading and approach to Bible study as opposed to digging deeply into the Word of God. I wholeheartedly agree. Paul reminded Timothy that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). The only way to be ready at all times is to be in the Word of God and apply His Word to our lives.
If we say that we believe the Word of God is the food for our lives, we must cease to live on crumbs, but instead partake of the entire Bread of Life.
3. People will want what appeases them rather than the truth. Paul quickly tells Timothy in the next few verses that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from truth and will turn aside to myths” (II Timothy 4:3-4).
Paul is speaking here of people in our churches – believers, not the world. To look at our context, how does this impact the women with whom we are discipling? Are we teaching them the truth from the Word of God, without twisting the truth to make someone feel good, or are we changing things around so as not to offend another and instead tickle their ears with bits of truth laced with falsehoods? This is happening in our churches and it is a sobering thought. However, if we don’t teach the women of our churches the full counsel of God’s Word, they will not know how to discern the truth from lies. This is why so many of the women of our churches clamor after popular individuals who are twisting truth and hang on their every word. They do so because they don’t know how to discern the difference.
One of the scariest thoughts that I have before teaching before a group of ladies – whether in a large group setting, in my Bible study or even in my blog posts – is that I can lead a woman astray if I don’t correctly handle the Word of God. For me this is a sobering thought and I take seriously the admonishment from James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
I never want it said of me that I was an ear scratcher.
4. Realize that fulfilling our ministries means enduring hardship. Standing on the truth of God’s Word in a culture that wants to either change the Scripture to fit their desires or wants to reject the teachings of the Bible is difficult, to say the least. But, we are to endure hardship and fulfill our ministries.
When I get ready to run each afternoon, I like getting into my workout clothes. They are comfortable and I really like my hot pink running shoes. I feel athletic in these clothes. But, the clothes aren’t what changes me into an athlete – the actual workout does. I can sit on my couch in my cute workout clothes, eat guacamole and chips, read runner’s magazines and watch workout infomercials, but I won’t be changed. And, while I might look cute and feel good in the moment, it profits me nothing in the long-term.
God’s Word is powerful and changes and transforms lives. However, we are not called to pick and choose which parts we want to believe and apply to our lives – the entire Word of God is God-breathed, not just the parts we like or that make us feel good. The hard stuff is, too, and God uses those hard things to make us look more like Jesus.