Are We Making Progress? (Oct. 4 Lesson Application)
Are We Making Progress? (Oct. 4 Lesson Application)

This “Application” column goes with the Bible Lesson for Oct. 4, 2020: Teach (1 Timothy 4:6-16)

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By David Faust

Ronald Reagan quipped, “Status quo is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’” We won’t get out of this mess without God’s help. That’s why we need teachers who communicate God’s grace and truth with reverence and relevance.

Progress Requires Intentional Effort
Paul urged Timothy to carry out his ministry “so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15). That verse compels me to ask, Would others say I’m communicating God’s Word more effectively today than I did five years ago? Am I stuck in my ways, or am I willing to learn and grow, try new things, and keep sharpening my skills? Abraham Lincoln wryly observed, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “progress” (prokope) appears only in 1 Timothy 4:15 and in Philippians where Paul speaks about the “advance” of the gospel and the believers’ “progress . . . in the faith” (Philippians 1:12, 25). The word described the way soldiers chopped down trees and undergrowth, clearing a path so the army could move forward. Without deliberate effort, leaders grow stale and organizations slip into mediocrity.

Progress Requires Biblical Wisdom
Bulldoze a grove of trees to build a parking lot and some will call it progress while others shake their heads in dismay. Alter longstanding traditions and some cry “foul” while others applaud the disruption. We need God’s wisdom to discern what changes truly lead to progress.

Christians should be both preservers and path makers. We have a spiritual heritage to preserve and a trail to blaze. “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14)—that’s being a preserver. Entrusting God’s truth “to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” in the future (2 Timothy 2:2)—that’s being a path maker.

Progress Requires Incredible Patience
Someone said, “Overnight success usually takes about 10 years.” A minister friend of mine retired after serving nearly 30 years with the same church—a congregation over 160 years old. During his ministry the church increased in number, added property, built several additions onto their building, and gave more than 20 percent of their budget to missions—but progress didn’t take place instantly. It took decades as he patiently taught God’s Word, invested in relationships with the congregation, and collaborated with the elders to make wise, courageous decisions.

In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins compares organizational leadership to pushing a flywheel. A period of build-up may take years as you keep pushing the heavy flywheel steadily in the same direction, but eventually there’s a breakthrough, and momentum increases once things get moving.

Progress Requires Practical Faith
Paul urged Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16) because effective teaching combines “life” with “doctrine,” blending biblical knowledge and practical application. We pass along “the truths of the faith” (v. 6) not merely to transfer information but to bring about life transformation.

Following Christ is a journey of faith that keeps us stretching and growing all the way into eternity. There’s always something new to learn and do—always a next step of faith ahead.

Even death won’t end the journey. When Christians die, we move from pain-filled to pain-free, from aging to ageless, from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Now that’s progress!

Personal Challenge: How are you sharpening your skills as a communicator of God’s Word? Will you read a book, take a course, attend a conference, participate in a webinar, critically evaluate a video of your own teaching, or ask trusted friends for honest feedback about your leadership and communication style?

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1 Comment

  1. Larry E Whittington
    September 28, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    This contains good material for reading and thoughts for applying to ourselves.

    If this was delivered in sermon form, how much of it could be covered?

    Would it have to contain all the casual (friendly?) stuff that seems to come up in sermons?

    Serious material should be delivered seriously.

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