Be Still and Know Daily Bible Devotion
Day 84 - Issue 42

Day 84 - Issue 42

September 30, 2022

1 Timothy 5:19-20

'Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others.'

Accusations are always sad, and it is particularly tragic when a church leader is the one being accused. However, I’m afraid that’s all a part of being human and so the Church has to have effective ways of coping with its worst moments. I often hear people say things like: “You wouldn’t expect such things to happen in a church.” My question would be: “Why wouldn’t you expect such things to happen in a church? If a church is made up of sinners, then surely such things are inevitable?” Please don’t think for a moment that I find bad behaviour in any way acceptable. I simply believe that it’s inevitable in a fallen world
full of fallen people, and the whole of history supplies ample evidence that I am right. We should all be saddened and heartbroken when things go wrong but, at the same time, we should ensure that we have effective procedures in place to cope with such situations. That was precisely why Paul wrote to Timothy in the way that he did.

Paul followed the usual Jewish legal position that an accusation brought by one person was not sufficient. There needed to be at least one other witness. Deuteronomy 19:15 laid down this principle: “You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” The reason for this law is clear enough. An individual might lash out in anger in the heat of the moment or because of a personal grudge, and so it is vital that the testimony of other witnesses should be heard.

If an elder was found guilty of sinning, then Paul urged Timothy to do this publicly. This is all very uncomfortable, but one can easily see his wisdom. He was eager that such things should never happen again and that was more likely to happen if everyone knew the facts.

Today, scandal and accusations are still rocking the Church, and we should all be deeply sad at that miserable fact. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Church isn’t perfect, it’s a hospital for ill people. For that reason, we need to ensure that Christian organisations – including our churches – have wise procedures in place to cope when things go wrong.

Question: What do you think is the best way to handle accusations in your church?

Prayer: Loving Father, grant our church leaders the wisdom and grace of your Holy Spirit to ensure that accusations are always handled in a decisive and healthy way. Amen

Day 83 - Issue 42

Day 83 - Issue 42

September 29, 2022

1 Timothy 5:17-18

Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”

As the early Church grew it inevitably had to face the issue of caring for its leaders. The Church was never going to prosper unless leaders were well looked after, and one of the very practical issues was that of pay. Paul had often supported himself through his work as a tent maker but, even so, he had always insisted that it was appropriate for churches to take responsibility for paying for their leaders. Here he refers to the Old Testament law concerning oxen. When the sheaves of corn had been harvested, they would be laid out on the threshing floor and oxen would walk across them, often tethered to a post. The farmer was obviously keen not to lose too much of his crop but, even so, he was commanded not to muzzle the ox. That wasn’t out
of kindness to the ox so much as to ensure that he kept working effectively. It was just good common sense. In the same way, when Jesus sent out the 72 on a mission, he said that a worker deserved his pay (Luke 10:7).

Paying church leaders is, of course, still a really important issue and here, Paul sets out the principles which should guide such pay. It isn’t possible to know exactly what was in Paul’s mind when he spoke about elders being paid generously. But there can be no doubt at all that he was declaring the significance of their role, and the importance of looking after them well. Unfortunately, through the centuries, church leaders have become more famous for struggling to make ends meet. This reflects badly on the whole Church. I don’t believe that church leaders should be paid vast amounts of money, but it is vital that they receive pay which clearly reflects the importance and value of their work. If, like Paul, they are able to fund themselves, that is all well and good – but the church should then look to find other ways to be considerate and generous to their leaders.

Question: What can you do to ensure that your church leaders are looked after generously?

Prayer: Loving God, I thank you for the gift of church leaders. Please help me to honour and encourage them, and to ensure that their needs are met. Amen

Day 82 - Issue 42

Day 82 - Issue 42

September 28, 2022

1 Timothy 5:8

'But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.'

In days before the welfare state, caring for relatives could be a massive responsibility. Paul was clear that this was fundamental to the Christian faith. It was usual in his society for families to care for one another, and so it was crucial that the Church didn’t lag behind in this. He could hardly have been stronger in his language: if anyone neglected their family responsibilities, they were worse than an unbeliever. It was unthinkable.

Caring for our families is very different today. The state provides a huge range of care, and pensions ensure that families are not alone in providing financial support for older people. But, even so, the responsibility that families bear is still very great and we should be grateful for the many charities that support us in this work. One of them is Care for the Family which offers a wide range of parenting, marriage and bereavement support. However strong our families may be, there are times when we need encouragement, guidance and support from others.

Eva Burrows, a former general in the Salvation Army, wrote: “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” Great words, and I suspect that many of us can speak of the blessing that our families have been to us. But that isn’t the whole story. We all know that families can, at times, be extremely
hard work and create some of the most difficult tensions and challenges in life. That’s one of the reasons that churches need to be communities which actively support family life. We need to be honest with one another, joyfully celebrating the many times of joy and success but equally willing to share the times of brokenness and sadness.

For Paul, Christian faith was never simply a matter of believing the right things and worshipping with fellow Christians. It was about living for God amidst the storms and challenges of everyday life, and caring for the family is where it all begins.

Question: In what way has your Christian faith helped your understanding of family life?

Prayer: Lord God, we thank you for the gift of families. Help us to love and support them through all the ups and downs of life. Amen

Day 78 - Issue 42

Day 78 - Issue 42

September 27, 2022

1 Timothy 3:1

This is a trustworthy saying: “Whoever aspires to be a church leader, desires an honourable position.”

One of the key tasks for Paul and Timothy was to find good leaders. Without godly and effective leadership, the Church was never going to thrive. In this chapter, Paul spelt out the qualities that a church leader needs. And in 1,900 years, it is worth noting that the list hasn’t really changed much! A church leader still needs to have good relationships within their family. They need to be faithful, hospitable, able teachers and gentle. It’s interesting that Paul felt the need to say that a leader shouldn’t be a heavy drinker, violent, quarrelsome or a lover of money, but no one would disagree with him. Paul was also concerned that leaders were not new Christians and that people outside of the church community spoke well of them.

What interests me is that Paul begins these comments by talking about those who aspired to be a church leader. He wanted to encourage them; they were desiring an honourable position. And I believe that that is still the case. Ministers of the gospel certainly do not have an easy life and won’t always be popular, but to serve God is a wonderful thing and should be actively encouraged. I’m grateful to those people who, when I was a teenager, encouraged me to reflect on the possibility of becoming a minister. I was firmly convinced that they were wrong and headed off to study law. However, their kindness and persistence were a crucial part of me becoming a church leader and I am very grateful to them.

We all need to be on the alert, looking out for those whom God might be calling to church leadership. With our love, encouragement and prayers we will see a new generation of leaders who will be able to take forward the work of God.

Question: What other qualities do you think might be necessary for a church leader in the 21st Century?

Prayer: Lord God, we thank you for those whom you call to lead your Church. Help us always to be there to love and support them. Amen

Day 77 - Issue 42

Day 77 - Issue 42

September 26, 2022

1 Timothy 2:8

'In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.'

Lifting up hands in worship has happened for thousands of years. The psalmists often referred to it. In Psalm 63:4, King David proclaimed: “I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.” But the truth is that, by itself, lifting our hands in worship says nothing at all about what is happening in our hearts. A person could be living the most immoral life and thrust their hands in the air. Paul was concerned that those who worshipped God in this way were doing so in the right spirit. He wanted to know that their hands were holy, and that the person worshipping wasn’t angry or stirring up controversy.

When we worship God, we must come in holiness. That is to say, our minds must be focused on God. It is so easy for us to come to worship with our minds distracted by any number of things. For that reason, it is often very helpful to make sure that we have a time of quietness before we worship God. In that time, we can deliberately lay down all the potential distractions so that we can place God at the centre of our thoughts.

It’s also impossible to worship God if you’re angry or in dispute with someone. It just can’t be done. You need to resolve the situation first and then worship God. However badly you have been wronged, you need to forgive the person who has hurt you, remembering Jesus’ words that if we don’t forgive other people then neither will God forgive us.

What Paul longed for was congregations of Christians who were sincerely and joyfully focused on praying to God, without any distraction. He knew that prayer was the powerhouse of any church – and it still is!

Questions: Do you find it helpful to raise your hands in prayer and worship?

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the incredible privilege of prayer. Help me to always to come to you in the right spirit. Amen

Day 76 - Issue 42

Day 76 - Issue 42

September 25, 2022

1 Timothy 2:1

'I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.'

Although the number of people who attend church services is constantly shrinking, it is very good to see that prayer isn’t going out of fashion. It’s often assumed that people pray as they get older, however a ComRes opinion poll in 2021 revealed that twice as many people in the 18-34 age group prayed, compared with those aged over 55. But the question is: what do we do when we pray? In our verse today Paul encourages Timothy to have the right focus in his prayers.

Our natural condition is to be self- centred, and so it is very easy for us to see prayer in an entirely selfish way. We pray for ourselves, our happiness, our health, our family, our future and so on. All of those things are perfectly proper subjects for prayer but if they become the exclusive focus, something has gone seriously wrong. Paul reminds Timothy that the priority of his prayer life needs to be to pray for others – and particularly to pray for those in authority. This was particularly challenging at the time, because many of the rulers in Paul’s day were violently opposed to Christianity. However, Paul tells his young friend that they needed to be on his prayer list.

What strikes me is that Paul saw prayer as Timothy’s priority. There is no doubt that Timothy had huge, demanding responsibilities as a leader. He had pressing issues to deal with every day. He needed to be robust in defending the truth of the Gospel, particularly because there were many who were seeking to destroy the Church. He had an incredibly busy ministry but, amid all his vital work, Paul told him that prayer needed to be top of his list. That’s an important observation for us all because it is often tempting to see activity as our priority. We feel we should be busy when what the Lord really wants is for us to be prayerful. In short, if we are too busy to pray, we’re too busy!

I am convinced that prayer still needs to be our priority. We will all be busy with 101 different things. But prayer needs to be number one because this is God’s work. In prayer we show our dedication to working in partnership with him.

Question: Is prayer your priority? If it is, rejoice! If it isn’t, spend some time today thinking through how this could happen.

Prayer: Loving God, please help me to take prayer more seriously and to place it at the heart of my life. Amen

Day 75 - Issus 42

Day 75 - Issus 42

September 24, 2022

1 Timothy 1:16

'God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realise that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.'

The apostle Paul never forgot his colourful past. He had been so committed to his Jewish faith that he had gone to extraordinary lengths to destroy the Church. He was convinced that Jesus was the enemy of everything that he held dear and so he enthusiastically threw his energies into trying to crush Christianity. When his life was turned around on the road to Damascus, it changed everything. He came to realise how completely wrong he had been and to see the wickedness of what he had done. He felt that he was the worst possible sinner but all of that changed when he encountered the mercy of God. He knew he could never have deserved God’s love and forgiveness, but he received it anyway, because God is also unfathomably merciful.

Mercy is a wonderful thing, but it can be hard for us to receive because we understand the principle of justice. If I exceed the speed limit, I expect there to be consequences and, although I might mutter and complain about it, I know that I have no right to be surprised. That’s how a just system works, and we all want to live in a society that respects the principles of justice. But if I do something wrong and am told that there is no penalty and no rebuke because I have been forgiven, that flies in the face of justice. That’s what the apostle Paul struggled with. He knew that he deserved condemnation, but what he received was mercy and forgiveness.

Paul’s experience of mercy totally changed his understanding of life. He concluded that if God could have mercy on him after his catalogue of sin, God could be merciful to anyone! Here is good news for all of us. Whatever wrongs we may have done God reaches out to us in mercy. It may be hard to take because we know how richly we deserve to be condemned, but God opens his arms to each of us and promises to set us free.

Question: How do you respond to the fact that God has treated you with mercy?

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for not treating me with justice but with endless mercy. Amen

Day 74 - Issue 42

Day 74 - Issue 42

September 23, 2022

1 Timothy 1:12

'I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work.'

I seem to be surrounded at the moment by people telling me how tired they are. Perhaps it’s just the effect that I have on them! But the truth is that however you are feeling right now, there are limits to our strength. Paul had an extremely busy ministry and he was fully aware that he needed God’s special strength for the work that he had to do. This verse reminds us of Paul’s words to the Philippians: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). That’s a bold claim, but clearly it was Paul’s personal experience as he faced up to continual resistance and challenges in his ministry. Few Christian leaders have faced the range of trials and difficulties that he did. He was confronted by violent opposition on many occasions, endured years of imprisonment, suffered three shipwrecks and was constantly exposed to abuse and danger. When he talks about God giving him strength, he is worth listening to!

There can be no doubt of God’s ability to give us the strength that we need. But he can only give us his strength if we are humble enough to receive it. The trouble is that we will always be tempted to think we can cope by ourselves. We look at our experience and gifts and imagine that we have all the resources we need to keep going. But the truth is that our own resources are incredibly limited. We need to ensure we are leaning on God’s strength from the start.

St Augustine said: “For those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, humility is the second, humility is the third.” That is to say, God wants us to know how completely we depend upon him and, as we do so, he gives all the strength we need to be effective and strong in his service.

Question: In what ways have you experienced God giving you strength?

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you that you understand me so well. Thank you that you are able to give me the strength I need to face every new challenge. Amen

Day 73 - Issue 42

Day 73 - Issue 42

September 22, 2022

1 Timothy 1:5-6

'The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point.'

You only need to look at the religious section in your local bookshop to see that our society is still incredibly interested in religion. There is still a massive appetite to learn about God, the universe and the meaning and purpose of life. But there
is enormous confusion too! That means that we have a great deal in common with Paul. His world was also stacked full of different religions and philosophies and so, when Christianity emerged, it had to compete with a number of rivals. It wasn’t at all easy to establish a church; Paul knew better than anyone how tough the fight was.

In this letter, Paul was keen to encourage his young friend Timothy as he led a fledgling church. We get the impression that Timothy was a gentle and rather timid man, and so Paul was keen that he had clarity on what his role was. He had left Timothy in Ephesus in order to oppose the false teaching that was in circulation. Timothy needed to be tough, to stand up for the truth and give clear instructions but, at the heart of everything, was love. There was no point in having correct doctrine if it wasn’t bathed in love. For Paul, that kind of godly love flowed from three things: a pure heart, a clear conscience and genuine faith. That is to say love flows from people who know that they have been forgiven, who are trusting God completely, and who are committed to single-minded obedience to God.

It’s incredibly important that we seek to understand Christian truth and become increasingly effective in sharing it with others, but it is more important that we are filled with love.

Question: Why is love so important that Paul describes it as the purpose of his instruction?

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the way in which you have shown me perfect love through your son Jesus Christ. Help me to pass on your love to those I meet today. Amen.

Day 72 - Issue 42

Day 72 - Issue 42

September 21, 2022

1 Timothy 1:1

'This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Saviour and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.'

The apostle Paul always started his letters by making it very clear why he was writing. He was doing so because of his calling. Everything he did was shaped by the fact that God had appointed him to be an apostle (meaning ‘someone who has been sent out’). Paul had no doubt that Jesus, who met him on the road to Damascus, was the one who had commissioned him. The letter which follows is full of warmth and affection. Paul had great respect for Timothy and wanted to give him encouragement and guidance for his ministry.

I wonder how you would describe yourself and the work that God has called you to do? Paul undoubtedly had a very special role, but you and I do as well. We have been given unique gifts by God and today he is calling us to use them to bless other people. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you were responding to this by saying: “But I’m only a...” (fill in the blank here). Whether you’re a homemaker, shop worker, nurse, teacher, cleaner, barrister or accountant, it doesn’t matter. Paul would tell you that, in God’s scheme of things, the words “I’m only a...” simply don’t work. Everybody and every role is crucial. What matters is that we know God’s hand is upon our lives. What we do is of infinite importance. While working in your shop or office today, God may give you the opportunity to show his kindness to someone who is feeling knocked about by life. In your school, he may enable you to show love to someone who is feeling rejected and lost. In your home, you may be able to bring his peace. I don’t know what God will call you to do today, but I do know that we are all appointed to live for him and to share his hope wherever we go.

Question: What has God appointed you to do today?

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you that you have called me to serve you today. Please help me to give my best to you in whatever I do. Amen

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