Note to reader: We are getting toward the end of the year and the maintain this chapter a day writing schedule, I need to plan out pretty far ahead, so I am thinking about 2021. Do you want these devotionals to continue? Would you prefer a selection of the Old Testament (a chapter a day, not covering the whole OT, but hitting the major stories and passages), the whole Old Testament (3 chapters a day, covered at a much more superficial level), a topical devotional (I was thinking maybe "God: A Self-Portrait," looking at a different thing God said every day), something that changes quarterly, readings that reinforce that Sunday's sermon or something else? Is 5 days a week good, or would a different calendar be more beneficial for you and your family? Do you feel like you have a better understanding of the big ideas of the New Testament? I have considered having these printed into a book form, what would you think about that? Send me an email to email@example.com and let me know what you think.
Key verse: 1 Timothy 1:5
Big idea: The goal of a ministry is love.
The second habit in Stephen Covey's famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is "begin with the end in mind." If you start out on a project without any specific goal or purpose, it is impossible to set priorities or separate the good from the essential. But it seems like many churches operate this way. Someone likes painting, so they start a painting ministry. Someone loses a loved one, so they launch a grief sharing ministry. A group likes to sing, so the church needs a choir. A new social media platform comes out, so they need a page. There is a tradition of a weekly bulletin, so we spend time and money keeping one up. None of these are bad - indeed, all of them could have a place in a healthy church. But a church cannot do everything and if we do not know why we exist, we have no rubric to distinguish between what we can do and what we should do.
The same problem can plague individuals and families. We can play three sports and two instruments while taking all AP classes, but saying "yes" to those things means saying "no" to others. We can spend money on a new car, a bigger house or a nice vacation as long as we understand we are choosing not to spend money on other things. None of these are bad, they are just choices. How do we choose? The secret is purpose.
Paul explains that Timothy is not to get caught up in endless questions or genealogical squabbles. His ministry is to be laser-focused on its purpose: helping people grow in love, through a pure heart and genuine faith. This is not an astroturf love that encourages people to be superficially sweet to one another with hearts that are unchanged. This is the kind of love that comes from understanding the gospel. It comes from knowing our sins have been forgiven and trying to serve God with our lives. It comes from trust that God is going to care for us, so we do not need to serve ourselves. It is the kind of love that believes that the person before us is so precious to God that He gave His only begotten Son for them. So ministries that reach the lost, help the saved live holier lives, and develop love are worthwhile. Things that do not do that (or do it less effectively than other options) are the fat we ought to trim. Maybe in a particular church, the painting group or choir help develop the love between members. Maybe the newest, hottest social media craze lets you lead people to faith. Or maybe they are distractions. If we have a standard, at least we can begin to find out.
Our goal as individuals and as families is the same. What is going to help me grow in love, faith, and holiness? Those are my priorities. Anything else is optional and should come in second to what really matters. When we have a clear purpose, we can choose what we will do, rather than having our circumstances choose for us. Think of the freedom you could have if you dropped all of the baggage God never intended for you to carry.
Discussion idea: What are the three things in your life that take up the most time (other than sleep)? How well do those support your purpose? What could you trim to make more time for the things that really matter?
Prayer focus: Pray that God would give us the clarity to focus on those things which help us to grow in love.