The Search for Happiness. 1 Timothy 4:12-16. DBC—October 21, 2018. David R Denny PhD
Introduction: On a scale of 1-10 rate yourself right now on personal happiness. Tuck that number away. No one has to see it except you. *There is an article in Psychology Today entitled Ten Simple Ways to Find Happiness. One of them applies to our text today. #6 on the list is Find Purpose. The writer says this: “Those who believe they are contributing to the well-being of humanity tend to feel better about their lives. Most people want to be part of something greater than they are, simply because it’s fulfilling.”
Our text today is all about finding that purpose in your life. Finding what it is that makes you happy. Everybody has some gift within them that they excel at, something they are uniquely qualified to do that benefits the world and makes you happy in the process. What is that thing in your life? That is something we want to find out this morning.
I have a feeling after reading our text today that Timothy, the young pastor of the church in Ephesus is a little unhappy. He has lost his way. He has forgotten his gift. And this troubles Paul greatly. We know that some elders in the congregation were looking down on Timothy because he was so much younger than they were. I think this was having an impact on Timothy who was doing his very best to lead the church forward.
But there is another hint about Timothy’s well-being tucked away in the Greek text of verse 14. *My little red Greek book. I remembered a very important Greek lesson that my old professor Dr. John Burns taught us at the seminary. I even marked it in my little red Greek book. I noticed in the front cover of this book that I had stamped my address on it. 5900 Rhonda Road, Terrace Apt., Lynchburg Va.I had just gotten married and we lived in a tiny apartment in the basement of a large house in a quaint neighborhood near the school. The Greek lesson that my professor taught us this day in class was that sometimes an imperative verb has to be translated with the word STOP. And 1 Timothy 4:14 is one of these places. The best way to translate verse 14 is this: “Timothy, stop neglecting the gift that is within you.”
I find this statement so troubling and sad. Paul had found young Timothy on his missionary journeys years earlier and was immediately impressed by the young man. He was so fond of him he led him to Christ and then invited him to follow along on the missionary journeys ahead. Paul became very attached to him. He had so much promise. He was a natural leader and teacher. This gift had come to Timothy directly from God and through the laying on of hands by the influential men who supported Paul’s ministry (v.14). It was the gift that made Timothy happy. But recently he had stopped using it. When he spoke in the church his face betrayed a tinge of depression and his sermons dragged. He had a gift for these things, but he had laid his gift aside and now he merely went through the motions. And this is what is sad. Timothy was no longer happy! His gift had withered away. And this is what prompted Paul to say “Timothy, STOP neglecting your gift.”
*This summer I had a beautiful pot of cornflowers only my back deck. I loved looking at them. They were bright and cheerful. I was a little haphazard about watering though. I would give them a sip of water every once in a while. I didn’t have time for watering. But I sure enjoyed the effervescent blooms. One day I went out to sit beside the flower pot and I noticed they were dead. The blush of life was gone. I had done the very thing Timothy had done. I had neglected them. That is the meaning of the Greek word here in verse 14. And it is Paul who saw it at once when he returned to the church from his travels. And it was Paul who commanded the Timothy to STOP DOING THIS! “Stop neglecting your gift, Timothy.” You’re a natural at preaching and exhorting others to love life. So get back to it.
But wait. It was not enough to just urge Timothy to find his gift again. He said another fascinating thing in the opening words of verse 15. He said to Timothy. “I want you to pour yourself into your old gifts. Get yourself all lathered up and excited about it” ( 15 ταῦτα μελέτα ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι). This is the very word that is used in Psalm 2. “Why are the nations in an uproar and the people so excited in their hatred of God?” And it was this very Ps 2 text that was repeated in Acts 4 after Peter and John had been released from jail for healing the lame man at the temple. The saw how worked up all of the people of Jerusalem were against Jesus and the work of the Spirit.——“Timothy, I want you to be like this, frenzied almost about your gift.”
*I still remember to this very day how worked up my old high school basketball coach used to get at halftime if we were losing. He would come storming into the locker room, slam the door and stare at us without a word for a few seconds. Then he would kick a chair across the room, and when that didn’t seem to rouse us enough he would slam his fist into a locker.
This is the urgency Paul is commanding Timothy to have. Timothy, revive your gift. Put your heart and soul in it. It is the very thing was made you so happy before. Stop neglecting it.
Now let’s shift our attention away from Timothy and back to us. What is the one thing you love to do? Are you still doing it? If you neglect your talent, you will lose it. —*I loved to play the cornet in high school. I played all the time. But at some point in the past, I laid it down and now I can’t even find my old horn.
Paul said something very important to one of his other congregations. He said to the Corinthian church, “All of you have a gift. You need to find it and pull it out. Dust it off and use it again. It will bring you happiness and purpose. And then Paul did something very creative to get his message across. He created a little play and all of the actors were body parts. Yes. That sound strange but look at 1 Corinthians 12 and you will see this playful side of Paul. —-Mr. Foot comes out first and looking very gloomy says “I am not much use to anybody. I am not a hand. Everybody knows how valuable a hand is. It can do everything. But I’m just a foot.”
And then Ms. Ear comes out on the stage. “Man, I know how you feel. I’m just a big old ear. I’m nothing like an eye. Eyes are so useful. They can see everything, and you can put makeup on them etc. But what good is an ear.”
Paul closes the play by stepping up to the mike and saying loud and clear—Ears and feet are just as important hands and eyes. Everybody has a gift. Timothy has a gift but he neglected it. You have a gift. Stir it up. Bring it back to life.
This is so important in the church. We all have a place here and everyone can do something for the greater good.
What was your happiness number this morning when you rated yourself? True happiness comes from serving others and using your unique talents for good in the church and in your community. Dust off your gift and then put it to use again. And let’s all go down to Timothy’s church and listen to him now that he’s back on track and using his talents.