Tough Moments in Ministry



Scripture:

1 Timothy 2:8-15

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Observation:

The people attending Timothy’s church seemed to have some issues with the ways in which they were behaving. Christlikeness was probably not a word that someone would have used to describe what they saw at the church. Therefore, there were some instructions being given that addressed the concerns.

Evidently the men were arguing with one another. Instead of focusing on their disagreements, they were to learn to pray together. Men were to lead the way as prayer warriors, when gathering together, they were to pray! 

The women were refusing to give up their worldly practices. They were being converted in a city that was full of secular influence. In Ephesus we find the temple to Artemis, or Diana. This was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and people came to worship, sight-see and purchase souvenirs. One can imagine the influence this had on the women of Ephesus, who wanted to appear sophisticated for those who visited this cosmopolitan crossroads of the world. Braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothes may have represented ways in which women prepared themselves to worship Diana. Now, they had confessed to revere God, and they didn’t need to look like the women who worshiped idols made with human hands. This was about kingdom life and reality. 

The people were being influenced by popular theology. In a city and region where female goddess worship had become extremely popular, the church seemed to be adapting to the local religion. Some of the women of the church had bought into a heretical idea that Eve came first, and then Adam. This idea would certainly make it popular to come to a church in a city where they revered the goddess Diana. These uneducated individuals in the church were purporting to know the truth, and their heresy was becoming dangerous. Finally some rules had to be set down to deal with the crisis. Those who were not educated in religion/theology were not to be the ones teaching it! In this case, this happened to be the women. The men (if they were Jewish) would have studied the Scriptures growing up. This was a very positive admonition. Men — don’t keep this knowledge to yourselves, but take the time to teach your wives at home. The women were to be given the opportunity to get to know the word so that they would no longer be enticed by false ideas. This was a problem of discipleship in the church. Those with the knowledge should have been teaching those who did not. 

Those who may have felt chided, needed to be encouraged. The women in Timothy’s church could have felt hurt by the comments and instructions given. There doesn’t appear to be any intent to repress the women, but to help them grow spiritually. Therefore, this passage ends with a word of hope that is often misunderstood but it comes to us from the incarnation of Christ. When Jesus is born in human flesh he provides for the transformation of all that has been corrupted. From the moment of the fall, all of creation has been groaning under the pain of corruption. Quite specifically, women bore a heavy burden for Eve’s participation in the fall. The relationship between men and women was changed, as was her burden of pain in childbearing. When Jesus comes in — and touches human flesh, he reveals the hope of transformation. The very first place that Jesus touches humanity is in the womb of a woman. This is the good news for those who need to be encouraged. At the place of our greatest suffering, Jesus comes to bring hope and transformation. The women who are struggling to grow in their faith have been blessed with the good news that Jesus touched woman first and began to reverse the order of sin. 

Application

When the situation in the life of the church becomes difficult, it’s important to take the time to address the real issues. Spiritual issues need to be confronted. Prayer must be a focus of the church and community. Getting to know the heart of God will keep the church from falling into the trap of disagreements. It’s so easy to become distracted and argue over issues which become a distraction from the real work of following Christ. Prayer humbles all who meet at the foot of the cross. 

To be a follower of Jesus Christ, you cannot have all the things of the world. It simply doesn’t work that way and the reality is that there is self-denial involved in following Christ. The extravagances of a worldly life grow dim in light of knowing Christ. If that’s not happening, then the focus of life is wrong. Lot’s wife continued to look longingly on the life she was leaving behind and lost it all. Life in Christ has much more to offer than we often recognize. We speak of it self-sacrificially, which is true, but there is also much to gain. It’s important to focus on the positives of a life in Christ.

There is a desperate need for discipleship across the age spectrum within the church community. Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples and we must be engaged in the intentional practice of helping others grow in their faith. Those who are not like us should be invited into the discipleship experience. We should have our eyes open so that we can invest in the development of others. This includes those who may seem to be unlikely candidates. 

At the same time we must tread gently when dealing with relationships within the community of faith. We are to build one another up, even when nudging in the right direction. My father used to say, “always err on the side of compassion.” Never lose your loving spirit, and remind people of their unique place in receiving grace. It’s a reminder to us as well, that we are recipients of undeserved grace. 

Yes, there will be tough moments in ministry, but those who have gone before have become our mentors. They leave us with a pattern for dealing with issues that have happened in the past and will happen again. We participate with those who have gone before, and with our holy God, in this spiritual journey. It is both our individual and our collective journeys as we draw closer to Christ. Along the way we are challenged to reflect Christ in every circumstance, no matter how difficult. 

Prayer:


Lord, I pray that you will give me your patience and wisdom in the challenges of life and ministry. May you be glorified in all that is both said, and done. Amen. 

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