First Things First
Watch your life and doctrine closely. 1 Timothy 4:16
When you travel by air, before the flight takes off an airline employee presents a safety briefing, which explains what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure. Passengers are told that oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above and they are to put one on themselves before helping others. Why? Because before you can help anyone else, you need to be physically alert yourself.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he stressed the importance of maintaining his own spiritual health before helping and serving others. He reminded Timothy of his many responsibilities as a pastor: There were false teachings to contend with (1 Tim. 4:1–5) and wrong doctrines to correct (vv. 6–8). But to discharge his duties well, what was most important was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely [and] persevere in them” (v. 16). He needed to take care of his own relationship with the Lord first before he could attend to others.
What Paul told Timothy applies to us too. Each day we encounter people who do not know the Lord. When we tank up on our spiritual oxygen first through time in God’s Word, prayer, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we keep our relationship right with God. Then we will be spiritually alert to help others.
The importance of our relationship with God is also a prominent theme in the Old Testament. As Moses passed the leadership of the Israelites over to Joshua, he reminded his protégé that he must keep a right relationship with God. Joshua was to study God’s Word, “to meditate on it day and night,” and “be careful to do everything written in it.” Only then would Joshua successfully lead his people into the Promised Land (Josh. 1:7–8). Four hundred years later, David gave similar advice to his son Solomon: “Learn to know [God] intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. . . . The
What steps can you take this week to strengthen your personal relationship with God?
For further study consider the free online course Spiritual Life Basics at christianuniversity.org/SLBASICS.