Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto Timothy—his spiritual son in the faith. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the third chapter. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find the apostle Paul transitioning away from specific instruction to Timothy to words concerning ministry and service in the house of the Lord. If you take the time to carefully read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of scripture you will find that the apostle Paul speaks directly to Timothy concerning those who would desire the office and role of bishop within the house of the Lord. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul also writes unto Timothy concerning those who desire, and those who would seek to enter into the role of deacon within the house of the Lord. It’s actually worth noting that before the apostle Paul writes and speaks any words concerning that which would be required of those who would seek the offices and roles of bishop and deacon, he First makes the emphatic statement that those who desire such a role within the house of God desire a good thing. That which the apostle Paul first speaks to and addresses is the desire that is within the hearts of those who would seek the office of bishop and elder, and expresses that such a desire is a good thing. For the apostle Paul—a desire to enter into service within the house of the Lord was something to be honored and admired, for it is no small or light thing to enter into service within the house of the Lord. If I am being truly honest with you who are reading the words of this writing I must admit that we must look much deeper than those who specifically seek the role and office of bishop and deacon, and to the reality of those who would seek to serve and engage themselves in ministry and service for and within the kingdom of God. I wrote that it is no small, nor is it a light thing to desire the office of bishop and deacon within the house or the Lord, but I would dare state that it is no small thing to seek ministry within the house of the Lord altogether.
I absolutely love the fact that the apostle Paul writes within this passage concerning the actual desire that certain individuals have to stand and serve within the house of God. I find it to be absolutely incredible that the apostle Paul has at the very heart and foundation of this chapter the actual desire to serve among the brethren, and to do so within the house of the Lord. The question that I can’t help but be confronted with in this particular passage of Scripture is centered around and centered upon the reality of whether or not there are those among us who desire to stand before the Lord and to serve among the brethren within the house of the Lord. Are there those among us within the house of the Lord whose hearts burn within them to faithfully serve the Lord within His house? Like the priests of ancient times, the Lord needs those faithful servants who will stand and minister before Him within His house. The Lord is looking for priests and ministers who will minister before and around the altar, and the apostle Paul expresses the reality that there is an element of desire that is directly connected to this concept. The apostle Paul wrote and spoke of desire concerning those who would serve in the office of bishop and deacon, thus suggesting that desire is something that is present within the hearts of certain individuals who are present within the house of the Lord. Oh, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this concept of desire, for there aren’t a great number of individuals who are standing in line to serve in the house of the Lord. There aren’t countless individuals who are gathering themselves before the Lord in order that they might stand and serve in His house, and the question that must be asked is why. Why aren’t there many who are desirous of servicing within the house of the Lord, but would rather just exist within the house of the Lord?
I was recently listening to an audio book by contemporary Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg, and in one of the chapters one of the characters is portrayed as being called by his roommates to the television set in the living room to watch the events which were unfolding within the city of New York. Of course the events which were unfolding within the city were those which took place on September 11th back in 2001 when two planes were flown directly into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. Stunned and shocked at the events that were unfolding—not only within the Cory of New York, but also the events which took place within the city of Washington D.C., this particular character named Marcus decides rather quickly to join himself to something that was much higher and much greater than himself. The author paints the picture of Marcus grabbing his keys one day and driving down to the marine enlistment and recruitment center to enlist after a number of unsuccessful attempts to speak with someone on the phone. The author paints the picture that after the events of September 11th there were countless thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of men who were lining themselves up outside the recruiting offices of the various branches of our military to rise up and defend this country. In that hour and during that dark moment within our history there were countless hearts and lives which were so moved by the events which took place on that day that the lines to enlist in service of this country were incredibly and extremely long. In fact, the author of this particular book painted the picture that the line to enlist in the Marines on this particular day stretched around the block, and it took this particular character four and a half hours to finally get in and stand in front of someone to express their desire to enlist in the Marines. Four and a half hours standing in line with one single purpose, with one single desire, with one single ambition, and with one single thing burning within the heart of this man, and when the wait was finally over, he was standing in front of a recruiting officer expressing that passion and desire to serve his country in matters of defense, warfare and combat.
Now you might be wondering why I would choose to include such an account within this particular writing, and those of you who are reading the words which are contained in this writing might have a hard time understanding the connection—perhaps even the significance—of this account to what we are reading within the third chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that what we find and what we have within this particular section of this fictional book actually paints the picture of what truly did take place in the days, weeks, and perhaps even months following the events which transpired on September 11th. There is not a doubt in my mind that in the days, weeks and months following the events which unfolded on that fateful day within the history of our country there were countless thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of individuals who were so moved and so gripped with the events that had unfolded within the cities of New York and Washington that they could not help but rise up and offer their assistance in fighting for and defending our country. What’s more, is that in the days, weeks and months to follow the events which took place on that day, I am convinced that there were countless individuals whose hearts were so filled with hatred, and anger, and animosity, and resentment towards the terrorists and what they had done, that they were so gripped and moved with a spirit of revenge and vengeance within their hearts and souls. Please note and please understand that what I am attempting to highlight in this writing is not that spirit of vengeance and that spirit of revenge, but rather the overwhelming desire that was found to be present within the hearts of countless men and women in direct response to the events which unfolded and took place within our country. Ordinary men and women who would perhaps have otherwise not even thought twice about enlisting in the branches of our military now all of a sudden were seized and gripped with an overwhelming desire to make the journey to the recruitment offices within and throughout our country in order that they might not only enlist, but also serve. It’s necessary and imperative that we understand that such individuals s who made the journey to such recruitment offices not only sought to enlist themselves in service of the country, but they also desired to actually serve their country. We must recognize and understand that there is something fundamentally and vastly different from merely enlisting in the various branches of our military, and actually serving in those branches. There is something vastly different about expressing one’s desire to enlist themselves in the service of their country, and actually go through the necessary steps to make such a reality happen.
The reason I have chosen to include such a reality and such a concept within this writing is because of what fueled the desire within the hearts and souls of countless men and women to enlist themselves in service of their country. If you take a look back at the events which transpired during those days you will find that there was a tremendous need for men—and even women—to engage themselves in something that was much bigger, and something that was much greater than themselves. There was something that seized and gripped the hearts of men and women during the days, weeks and months following the attacks of that day, and there were men and women who saw a powerful and tremendous need before them—not only a need to serve their country, but also a need to fight for and defend their country. There were countless men and women whose hearts were so gripped with a powerful sense of urgency of the hour that they would not and could not allow the moment to pass by and slip from their hands. There were countless men and women who would not and could not allow another day or another moment to go by without volunteering themselves to the urgency of the moment and the urgency of the hour that was before them. I am convinced that on that day there was a moment that presented itself within the hearts and lives of countless men and women—a moment that men and women would either seize and lay hold of, or a moment which they would allow to slip through their fingers. On that decisive and fateful day there was a moment—whether or not I would claim it as a divine moment, I am not sure—but a moment nonetheless, where men and women would make a decision that would dramatically and radically alter the entire course of their lives. On that day there were men and women who were go moved by the events which had taken place, and so gripped by the urgency of the hour that they felt compelled to rise up and act on what was before them. There is not a doubt in my mind that on that day there were countless men and women who were so gripped with the tremendous power, and the tremendous urgency of the moment that they rose above themselves in order that they might actually serve something greater than themselves.
As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but wrestle with the concepts of urgency and need, for both of these realities expressed themselves on that decisive and fateful day within the history of this nation. On that particular day there was not only a powerful sense of urgency that gripped the hearts and minds of countless thousands of men and women, but there was also a powerful sense of need that gripped their hearts as well. For countless thousands of men and women the desire and passion burning within their heart was not only centered upon this concept and reality of need, but it was also centered and founded upon the reality of urgency. It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable that on that fateful day there was a desire which was immediately placed within the hearts and souls of countless men and women—a desire that otherwise might not have been there. In all reality, I am convinced, and I would dare say that were it not for the events which transpired and unfolded on that particular day, men and women within this nation and country might not have ever been burdened with the desire to enlist themselves in the various services of our country. It is absolutely amazing what such events can and will do within a nation, and within the hearts and souls of countless thousands of men and women within a nation. It is absolutely and incredibly provocative to consider the reality of just what affliction, turmoil, opposition, conflict, struggle and warfare can cause to rise up within the hearts and lives of men and women—those who otherwise would not have even thought twice about giving of themselves to something that was much greater and far bigger than themselves. I am convinced that on that day it was not only urgency and need that fueled the desire within the hearts of countless men and women, but it was also knowledge—knowledge of the events which took place on that fateful and deceitful day. Not only knowledge, but also the images of the planes hitting the towers, images of the fire raging within the towers, images of the towers imploding and collapsing upon themselves, images of the wreckage and rubble left in the aftermath of the attacks, and even the damage that was done to the Pentagon. I am sitting here right now and I can’t help but consider the reality—not only of knowledge as it pertains to knowledge of the events which transpired on that day, but also that of image, for there is not a doubt in my mind that virtually everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on that particular day and in that particular moment. For me, I had just finished taking a test for church history in Bible college and had made my way into the café which was present on the campus. I remember as clear as day where I was, and what I was doing on that particular day when the events transpired and unfolded within our country.
Why? Why is any of this important? What does any of this have to do with what we are reading within the third chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy? I would bring you back to a question which I asked earlier—the question of why more men and women among us don’t have the desire to enlist themselves in the service of the kingdom of God. I asked the question why we don’t have more men and women who have a deep-rooted desire within their hearts and souls to rise up and to enlist themselves in the service of the house of the Lord. I am convinced that the answer to this question actually lies in the realm and arena of urgency and need. I believe with all my heart that there are those among us whose hearts have not been gripped, whose souls have not been seized with an overwhelming sense of urgency of the hour in which we are living, as well as by the tremendous need that is present before us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples which are expressed and written in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to John. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples when they encouraged Him to eat: “In the mean while His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labour” (John 4:31-38). I am also reminded of the words which our Lord spoke in direct response to the need which was present before and all around him. Consider if you will that which is recorded in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to matthew concerning our Lord: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).
When you consider the tremendous reality that is found and contained within these two passages of Scripture you will quickly discover the tremendous presence of need, as well as urgency which Jesus Himself was aware of. In the fourth chapter of the gospel according to John we find the apostle recording Jesus as having instructed His disciples to lift up their eyes, and look on the fields, for they are already white to the harvest. In the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus looking upon the multitudes, and was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. We dare not miss or lose sight of that which we find, and that which we read in this particular passage of Scripture, for what we find before us is a powerful sense of need and urgency—both of which Jesus Himself was keenly and acutely aware of while He was on the earth. Matthew records how Jesus looked upon the multitudes and was moved with compassion upon them because they fainted, and were scattered abroad—a reality which was expressed in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel. Within the ninth chapter of Matthew’s gospel we find the apostle recording Jesus as stating that the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. We then find Matthew recording Jesus as instructing His disciples to pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. What is actually quite interesting about that which we read in the ninth chapter, and that which we read in the following chapter, is that at the end of the ninth chapter we find Jesus speaking of prayer unto the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth labourers into His harvest, and in the tenth chapter we find Jesus Himself sending His labourers into the harvest. When we come to the tenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel we find Jesus Christ sending twelve specific labourers into the harvest in order that His work and will might be accomplished in the earth. Consider if you will the words which Matthew records in the tenth chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast our devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no though how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:-1-20).
When we speak of this concept of urgency and need we must recognize and understand that it doesn’t merely apply to the harvest and that which is before us outside the house of the Lord. I am convinced that there is also a tremendous need among the flock of God, and a tremendous need within the house of the Lord. In fact, I am convinced that this need is not only expressed in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, but it is also found in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel beginning to read with and from the first verse: “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven way, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; as I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them” (Ezekiel 34:1-10). The second passage which expresses this reality is found in the thirty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus and is found beginning with the twenty-sixth verse of the chapter. This particular chapter provides us with the account of the children of Israel and the golden calf, and Moses’ swift and decisive response and reaction to that which had transpired among the children of Israel. Consider if you will the words which are recorded beginning with the twenty-sixth verse of this particular chapter within the book of Exodus:
“Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORd even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day” (Exodus 32:26-29).
I absolutely love what I find and what I read in each of these Old Testament passages of Scripture, for on the one hand we discover abuse and neglect within the house of the Lord among the shepherds of Israel, while on the other hand we discover transgression, immorality, idolatry, and wickedness among the people of God in the wilderness. When we speak of this reality concerning urgency and need, we must recognize and understand that it not only has to do with neglect and abuse within the house of the Lord, but it also has to do with dealing with sin which is found within the camp. Taking this a step further, I am reminded of the account of the children of Israel when they attempted to march against Ai and were soundly defeated by the men of that city because there was sin in the camp. So long as sin remained within the camp among the people the children of Israel would not and could not stand before their enemies, and would instead by overcome and defeated on all fronts. It wouldn’t be until they dealt with the sin and iniquity that was found among them that they would actually be able to once more engage themselves in warfare, conflict and battle against their enemies. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for I am utterly and completely convinced that we need men and women among us whose hearts are so gripped with the need and urgency of the hour, that it fuels a single desire and passion within their hearts and souls to rise up and serve before the Lord their God in His house. We as the saints of God must not only be aware of the need which is before us among the harvest, but we must also be aware of the need that is present before us within the very house of the Lord. I am utterly and completely convinced that we as the people of God need to be completely aware of the need which is before us within the house of the Lord, and we must be willing to rise up and act on that need and the urgency of the hour. I am convinced that perhaps the single greatest reason why we don’t have many men and women rising up among us in this generation to enlist themselves in the service of the Lord their God, and in the service of the kingdom of God is because their hearts have not been gripped with the urgency of the hour, nor the need that is present before them. What I absolutely love about the words which we find, and the words we read in this passage of Scripture is that the apostle Paul begins by writing concerning that one who desires the office of a bishop, and how that one who desires such an office desires a good work. Before even writing and expressing the reality concerning the requirements to serve before the Lord as a bishop or deacon, the apostle Paul first writes and speaks of desire, and how that desire is actually a desire of a good work to be performed within the earth. Oh that we would recognize and understand this reality and concept of desire, and that we would embrace it with every fiber of our being, and that we would desire service within the house of the Lord in order that we might serve Him faithfully as stewards of that which is before us.
Once the apostle Paul finishes speaking of one’s desire to serve in the office of deacon and bishop he immediately goes into describing the qualifications for those who are interested in such roles and offices. This is actually quite remarkable and quite astounding, for its almost as if the apostle Paul is staring that while desire. In and of itself a good thing, it is not enough. The apostle Paul would go on to list specific qualifications which were required if we had within their hearts the desire for the office of bishop and deacon, and we would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to such words, for there are certain among us who believe that desire alone is enough to serve in the office of deacon and bishop, when in all reality that simply is not the case. The apostle Paul—when writing unto the saints of Corinth—stayed that it is required of those who are entrusted as stewards to be found faithful. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not our desire for ministry and service is matched by our level of faithfulness. In all reality, I would dare say that until your desire for ministry matches your level of faithfulness, or rather, until your level of faithfulness matches and lines up with your desire for ministry and service, I would strongly encourage you to take a step back when it pertains to ministry. When we read the word which the apostle Paul writes in this particular passage of scripture I would strongly declare unto you that we have great need to examine our own hearts before we actually seek to enlist in the service of the house of God and in His kingdom, for it is no small thing to engage ourselves in service within the kingdom of God. If we have within our hearts a desire for the ministry and to serve I would bring your attention to that which was required of the seven deacons in the early church who were chosen by the apostles, as well as the church. I leave you with the words which the beloved physician Luke records in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts: “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look he out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:1-3)