I am speaking tonight at a dinner held at our church for the volunteers who serve with Angel Tree ministries. I am excited about the work that has been done and that is being done through this ministry. As a church, we challenge members to purchase gifts to give to needy families during the Christmas holidays. Gift giving is a Biblical concept because God, based on His nature, is a Giver. He gives gifts to men. Jesus, when He walked this earth, He gave gifts to men, with a very specific purpose. The purpose of giving is to open the door to the message of the Gospel. When Jesus did things for people, when He met their pressing needs, He immediately followed up the good deed with spiritual teaching.
There is a principle found in Proverbs 18:16 about the importance of gift giving:
A man’s gift makes room for him
And brings him before great men
When we give, it opens up the door for you. The people who receive the gifts are ready to listen to you. This is the time to share the message of the Gospel. It does not end with the message of the Gospel. When Jesus shared the Gospel with people, He always invited them into the process of discipleship. Some responded positively, while other responded negatively. After feeding the 5,000, many of those people were following Him (probably hoping to receive another free meal. Jesus invited them to give up everything and follow Him in the process of discipleship. Most of them did not like what He challenged them to do and as a result, they walked away. Jesus continued to invest in the 12 who remained and wanted to be discipled. Tonight, I want to challenge the volunteers to take the next step in the process, to invest in the lives of these families by discipling them in the Word of God. The principles that I want to cover are found in II Timothy. In order to disciple people in a practical way, the three things that are going to be covered in this article must be present. There are many, many more principles but, for the sake of time, we will cover three; faithful examples, diligent study of the Word of God, and learning to follow.
I. Faithful Examples
In II Timothy chapter 1, we learn that Timothy had faithful examples in his life. His grandmother was faithful to the Lord and she taught his mother to be faithful to the Lord. Timothy grew up learning faith from these two precious saints. There was a problem though. Timothy’s father was a Greek and it seems that he was not a follow of the Lord. It seems that Timothy’s father did not have a positive, spiritual impact in his son’s life. Timothy needed that. God provided that resource in the person of the Apostle Paul. When Paul met Timothy, he took him under his wing and began to disciple him. This is something that most of the children who participate in Angel Tree need, an experienced believer who can not only share the Gospel with them but also become a present example to learn from. This is what I want to challenge our members to do. It is not enough just to give the gifts. It is not enough just to share the Gospel. These kids need example of faith whom they can learn to follow. Are you a giving person like God is? If you follow Him then He will lead you to be a giver. As a giver, do you seek to share the message of the Gospel and invest your life in the recipients of the gifts? Are you being a faithful example for others to follow?
II. Diligent study of the Word
As you invest in others, the best investment that you make in them is to teach them the Word of God. This is what Paul did for Timothy and this is the calling for all believers, to make disciples by teaching people to observe the Word of God. In II Timothy 2:15 we find the following challenge:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
In order to teach others to be diligent in the Word, you first must be diligent yourself. Are you spending time in God’s Word daily so that you can hear from God and learn how to disciple others? Why is it so important to be a diligent student of the Word of God? The Apostle Paul explains this in II Timothy 3:16.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
It is important to be a diligent student of the Word because the Lord uses the Word to work in our lives on a daily basis. The first things that the Word of God does is that it teaches us. How? It teaches us by showing us where we are wrong. Once God shows us where we are wrong, He then corrects us or shows us how to get back right. Once God set us on the right track, He then trains us to stay on the right path so that we can be useful to God and to the people around us. As you invest in others, you must teach them how to be diligent students of the Word so that they can learn to handle the Word of God accurately and when handled accurately, the Word of God will transform you. Young people, especially from vulnerable families, need to learn wisdom from the Word so that they can make good decisions in life, so that they can be followers of Christ, and learn to disciple others as they, themselves, are being discipled. Are you a diligent student of the Word? Are you teaching others to be diligent students of the Word? Are you allowing God to show you where you are wrong and help you get back right? Are you allowing God to train you on a daily basis through His Word?
III. Learn to follow
As you invest the Word of God in the people around you, you must teach them how to apply what they are learning by using your own example and by involving them in the process of making more disciples. We do not teach people the Word just to fill their heads up with knowledge. We teach them the Word so that God can transform them and then use them to further the process of discipleship. They need to learn to serve and they do that by following you as you serve. Paul describes it in II Timothy 3:10.
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, . . .
The order that Paul presents here is important. First the teaching. Paul taught Timothy God’s Word. As Timothy applied God’s Word, his conduct was transformed. The third thing in the list is purpose. Timothy now has a new purpose in life. He travels with Paul, helping Paul make disciples and plant churches. Timothy ends up pastoring a church and the way he leads is by equipping the believers to make more disciples. As you invest in people, teaching them to be diligent students of the Word, are you inviting them to join you in discipling others? This is what disciples need. This is what giving the gift is intended to lead to in the lives of the recipients.
I want to close with the same verse that we began the article with:
A man’s gift makes room for him
May the Lord bless us as we give the right way!