And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.
— 2 Timothy 2:24
Many years ago, we had a staff member who moaned and groaned all the time because he was working so hard and was making such great sacrifices for the Lord. It was true that he was working hard, but so were all the rest of us. I agreed with this staff member when he told me that he and his wife were facing hardships they had never faced before. However, I also knew they weren’t alone in this predicament. We were all facing hardships because life in the former USSR was very difficult at that time.
The truth is, this man’s family was living at a much higher level of comfort and privilege than his neighbors or fellow workers at the office. But because he complained so much, everyone on the team rallied to help his family get over the hump they were experiencing. But no matter how much people did for this staff member and his wife, they continued to moan and groan about how bad life was and how much they had sacrificed for the Lord — and they rarely ever thanked anyone for what he or she did to try to help them.
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Remembering how difficult it had been when our family first moved to that part of the world, my wife and I felt a need to do everything we could to help this man and his family adjust. We tried to comfort this couple as they worked through their transition. We knew they were having to get used to some very difficult living conditions while dealing with the normal feelings of homesickness that almost everyone experienced who had just moved to that side of the world. But after a while, we also realized that no matter how much we comforted this couple, they just would not be comforted!
Finally, the entire staff began to run out of patience. Everyone was getting fed up with listening to this couple sing the same sad song every day at the office. I could see that feelings of resentment toward these two were growing among staff members as appreciation for the couple’s work decreased. In the end, I knew I would have to sit down with this man and wife again to discuss their sour attitudes because they were adversely affecting so many people in our organization.
The day finally came when I pulled up my chair to the husband’s desk and said, “I need to talk to you about your attitude.” But before I could even get started, he had already put up a wall of defense that made it impossible for me to deal with him. Talking to that man was like talking to a brick wall! As he proceeded to be argumentative and defensive, I thought, Wait a minute! I didn’t come here to fight with him today! I came here to be a help and a blessing!
After a few minutes, I could see that my attempt to speak a word of correction into this man’s life was a total waste of both his time and my time. Had he opened his heart and allowed me to speak into his life, I could have helped him. But he wasn’t open to receiving input from anyone and was therefore destined to go through a series of mishaps and serious mistakes of his own making. However, all those mistakes could have been avoided if only he had allowed someone to be a friend and speak the truth to him.
Speaking correction into someone’s life isn’t a responsibility any leader relishes. Nevertheless, it is something leaders are required to do from time to time. This was Paul’s message to Timothy in Second Timothy 2:24. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy at a time when certain members of Timothy’s team were apparently demonstrating a rebellious attitude toward him as their pastor and needed to be corrected. In Paul’s letter, the apostle explained to Timothy how he was to bring correction to someone under his sphere of authority. This instruction is helpful to us as well for those times when we are required to speak correction into someone else’s life.
In Second Timothy 2:24, Paul said, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” Notice that Paul called Timothy “the servant of the Lord.” The word “servant” in this verse is the Greek word doulos. It describes a bondslave who is bound to do what he is told to do, regardless of what he thinks about it. This means that Timothy, as the bondslave of the Lord, was to hear what the Lord told him to do and then faithfully carry out His orders no matter what he felt or thought about them.
It is significant that Paul used this word when instructing Timothy to deal with problem-makers. It tells us that Timothy probably didn’t want to do it and that Paul was therefore reminding the younger minister that as a servant of the Lord, he didn’t have a choice regarding how he was going to handle such a situation.
Timothy was the chief leader of the church. Therefore, it was his responsibility to step into his leadership position and act with the authority and responsibility God had given him. No one else had the position or power to set things in order. Whether or not he wanted to do it, it was time for Timothy to step up to the plate and start playing according to God’s rules.
Likewise, if God has chosen you to be a leader in your church, your business, your organization, or your family, you must learn to see yourself as a God-appointed leader and accept the responsibility that goes along with this position. This is not a responsibility that you can shirk or pass off to someone else.
If someone under your authority is acting wrongly, it is your job to deal with it. Rather than shut your eyes and hope the problem simply disappears, you must love that person enough to go to him and deal with him in the spirit of Jesus. Do what you can to bring correction into his life so he can be set free from a wrong attitude that will negatively affect both his present and his future.
If that person chooses to listen to you and to submit to your spiritual authority, he can be changed. But if he chooses to ignore you and to reject your helpful counsel, you must then make a choice about whether or not to let that person remain as a part of your team. One thing is for sure, however — ignoring the problem will not make it go away and, in fact, may make it even worse.
You may dread the moment you have to sit down with that person to discuss what is wrong in his attitude. But once you finally deal with the problem, you’ll be so glad you did! The other team members will also be thankful that you took your leadership role seriously and refused to let a bad attitude negatively affect everyone else on the team. In the end, you’ll bolster your own leadership position in the eyes of others because you did the right thing. Your willingness to confront a problem will cause your team to respect you more, and hopefully you will have helped that person whose attitude needed to be corrected.
So if you are a leader, accept the fact that bringing correction to people under your sphere of authority is part of your responsibility. As you pray and seek the mind of the Lord, the Holy Spirit will show you how to speak to people in this kind of situation. He will teach you how to help them see what they need to change in their lives and attitudes so they can move up higher in God.
Never forget that bringing people higher is one of the primary goals of a leader. So if you are entrusted with the care of others in any arena of life, do everything you can to lead them to a higher level of excellence — even if it means correcting them in love!
My Prayer for Today
First of all, Lord, I thank You for loving me enough to put people over me who were willing to bring correction into my life in the past. Although that correction was difficult to receive, I needed it and it ultimately benefited my life. For this, I am so thankful. Second, I ask You to help me now to be a blessing to those You have placed under my sphere of authority. When I see attitudes in them that need to be corrected, help me know how to approach them in a way that is positive and uplifting. I ask You to give me the wisdom I need to challenge those under my authority to a higher level in every area of their lives.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that those under my authority listen to me and submit to my spiritual authority; therefore, I am able to help them grow and mature in the Lord. I accept the fact that bringing correction to people under my sphere of authority is part of my responsibility. As I pray and seek the mind of the Lord, the Holy Spirit shows me how to correct people in love. He teaches me how to help them see what they need to change in their lives and attitudes so they can move up higher in God. I willingly make it my goal to bring the people under my care to a higher level in every area of their lives!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you think of a time when someone sat down with you and spoke words of correction to you that ultimately produced great and positive changes in your life?
2. Has there been a time in the past when you dreaded the moment you had to bring correction to someone, but afterward you were so glad you finally did it? What did your counsel produce in that person’s life? Did he listen to you, or did he ignore your counsel?
3. Can you think of some positive ways you can speak words of correction to someone to make it a little easier for him or her to swallow?