— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Flee And Follow – 1 Timothy 6:11

A country preacher decided to skip services one Sunday and head to the hills to do some bear hunting. As he rounded the corner on a perilous twist in the trail, he and a bear collided, sending him and his rifle tumbling down the mountainside. Before he knew it, his rifle went one way and he went the other, landing on a rock and breaking both legs. That was the good news. The bad news was the ferocious bear charging at him from a distance, and he couldn’t move. “Oh, Lord,” the preacher prayed, “I’m so sorry for skipping services today to come out here and hunt. Please forgive me and grant me just one wish … please make a Christian out of that bear that’s coming at me. Please, Lord!” That very instant, the bear skidded to a halt, fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and began to pray aloud right at the preacher’s feet. “Dear God, bless this food I am about to receive …” (Author Unkown)

That’s a humorous look at a perilous situation. Imagine for a moment yourself hiking on a trail on a warm and sunny day. You are enjoying the beauty of God's creation that surrounds you when suddenly a bear crosses your path. What is your first instinct? Are you going to just stand there and face the danger that awaits? Or are you going to run as fast as you can, making every effort to get away from the danger the bear poses for you? The boys tell me if you come across a mountain lion you look it straight in the eyes and open your jacket to look as big as possible and yell at it as loud as possible. If you come across a bear you make yourself as small as possible and try to ignore it. Whatever you think you would do your natural instinct is probably going to be to flee.

In the passage we’ll look at today we’ll learn that there will be times in our lives when we’ll need to flee and times when we need to follow. As followers of Christ we need to be clear on the behaviors we should flee from and clear on the behaviors we should follow in our lives.

There are admonitions in Scripture that tell us to flee certain behaviors. These are on the negative side and are sinful actions that we need to avoid. There are also many admonitions in Scripture to follow after certain behaviors. These are positive things we pursue in our lives to make us more Christ-like.

Let's look at 1 Timothy 6:11.

“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”

Notice in verse 11, that Paul addresses Timothy as a man of God. This passage is directed to Timothy and the minister and has application to all who desire to be loyal to Christ. The phrase, man of God, is significant that Paul uses to describe Timothy. This description was also used of Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and David. Timothy was placed in good company when Paul used this phrase to describe him.

The phrase is used in Deuteronomy 33:1.

“Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.”

And in 1 Samuel 9:6 Samuel is described in the same way.

“And he said to him, ‘Look now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man; all that he says surely comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way that we should go.'”

In 1 Kings 17:18 Elijah is described in the same manner.

“So she said to Elijah, ‘What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?'”

And in Nehemiah 12:24 David is assigned the title, man of God as well.

Timothy was in good company when Paul addressed him as a man of God.

It’s an awesome responsibility to think that this passage is addressed to me as a minister of the Gospel. And it is my desire to be worthy of being called a man of God. And all who follow Christ should feel the importance of being men and women of God.

How do people consider us? What titles would be used to describe our character? Are we thought of as men and women of God? How would people describe you as a result of their business dealings with you? How would they describe you as a result of their interaction with you on the job or in your neighborhood?

It should be our desire as followers of Christ to be considered as men and women of God. Are we living our lives in such a way that distinguish us as men and women of God? Or does glaring sin and unattractive behavior come to mind when others think about us? It’s not that we must be perfect in the eyes of others, but that we are known for making things right when we fail. We ought to be known for our upright dealings with others?

Now notice how Paul tells Timothy to flee these things. He’s referring to the evil associated wit the love of money mentioned in verses 9 and 10.

Evil is something we need to flee from. Remember when the wife of Joseph's master's tempted him? She grabbed his outer garment and he fled leaving his garment behind. He literally ran away from the temptation that was before him. That is what Paul is encouraging Timothy to do. He isn't telling Timothy to literally run as Joseph did, but to separate himself from temptation, to stay away from sinful practices.

There are other passages that encouraged us to flee opportunities to sin; 1 Corinthians 10:14 tells us to flee from idolatry and 1 Corinthians 6: 18 tells us to flee sexual immorality.

David Egner had this to say about the importance of fleeing from sin.

A crewman on a South Seas fishing vessel found himself in the kind of situation no one ever wants to be–swimming with sharks!

He was hired to process fish, but the cantankerous captain didn't think he was working fast enough. One day a school of sharks was following the boat, and in an outburst of anger the captain ordered his slow-working crewman thrown overboard! The hapless fellow swam as fast as he could, caught up with the ship, and was pulled on board.

This reminds me of a danger that we face as believers. Once in a while, we may find ourselves unexpectedly thrown into a situation where the ungodly are "swimming" all around us–at a business convention, at a party, in a dormitory, or even in the workplace–and temptation seems overwhelming. We are in real danger. In a spiritual sense, we're "swimming with the sharks."

When that happens, our best option is to "flee" temptation and choose to do what is right (2 Tim. 2:22). That may mean physically leaving a place or situation as fast as possible (Gen. 39:12). In any case, we need to reach out to God, calling on Him for help and protection–so we don't become shark food.

Like the illustration suggests, we need to be in the practice of fleeing from temptation and sin. Make it a practice to run away from sin that would entangle you. Just as Paul encouraged Timothy to flee from sinful behavior, so must we in our lives. If we know that we have certain areas in our lives where we are weak and tempted to sin, we need to run away from situations that would tempt us in that area.

What we also need to understand is that a follower of Christ has the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that helps them deal with the temptation to sin. Listen to Philippians 2:13 in the NLT. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. And Warren Wiersbe says, “The more you exercise your will in saying a decisive no to temptation, the more God will take control of your life.”

There is hope, the believer in Christ should not be resigned to giving into temptation but we should live with the realization that no temptation we encounter is uncommon. And we should know that God is faithful; He will not allow us to be tempted beyond the point of no return. He will always show us a way out so we won’t give in to the temptation. There is hope. God provides us with the means to flee from sin. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

After Paul instructs Timothy to flee he goes on to show Timothy what he should follow. Paul lists Godly qualities that Timothy should follow. Notice that there’s an important example given here that we need to emulate in our lives. Paul is basically saying, “Put off these things and in their place put on these things.”

This is the principle we ought to apply to our own lives. Whenever there is a particular sin we’re dealing with it’s not enough to try to eliminate that sin from our lives. At the same time we are trying to overcome a particular sin we ought to be replacing it with Godly pursuits. And Paul illustrates some Godly pursuits to put on.

The word pursue that Paul uses refers to an active pursuit. In other words "keep on pursuing" or make it your lifelong ambition to achieve the following qualities. Follow and keep following these qualities. The qualities that Paul encourages Timothy to pursue are, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

In contrast to the sin Paul has warned Timothy to flee, he is now saying, “follow after these Godly characteristics.” And there are six Godly characteristics Paul urges Timothy to follow after or pursue.

First of all, righteousness. The Greek word for righteousness in a broad sense refers to the "state of him who is as he ought to be, the condition acceptable to God. It also refers to integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting. Listen to the following from the "The Word in Life Study Bible"

One of the greatest challenges confronting believers today is to communicate the message of Christ in terms that everyday people can understand. Words like “Righteousness” (Rom. 1:17) have become unrecognizable to many in our culture, and even to many in the church.

Yet it’s hard to talk about the gospel-and virtually impossible to understand Romans-without coming to terms with the word “righteousness” (Greek, dikaiosuna). In fact, the New Testament uses the term in one form or another no less than 228 times, at least 40 in Romans. What, then, does “righteousness” mean and how does the gospel reveal “the righteousness of God” (v. 17)?

The word “righteous” goes back to a base, meaning “move in a straight line.” Thus, “righteous” (rightwise) means “in the straight (or right) way.” Used with reference to morality, “righteous” means living or acting in the right way.

But what is the “right” way? In our society, people commonly say that everyone must determine what is right for oneself. However, Scripture offers a different standard-indeed, the ultimate standard of rightness or “righteousness,” God Himself. God’s character reveals what is absolutely right. He is the measure of moral right and wrong. (The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 538-539.)

Are we pursuing righteousness in our lives? Do we strive to make our lives measure up to God's standards? The Holy Spirit can educate us on God’s standards when we read God’s Word. God’s Word instructs us how to live lives that are righteous. That’s why it’s so critical that we study the Bible. We will not understand God’s character if we are not students of the Word. It is not up to us to determine what is right or wrong for us. God has already determined in His Word standards that we need to live out in our lives. And when we make ourselves students of the Word the Holy Spirit instructs the believer.

The second quality Paul encourages Timothy to follow after is godliness. Godliness refers to reverence, respect, piety towards God. If we revere God and respect Him, we will desire to lead godly lives. Godliness is essential in our lives to be a good testimony to the unsaved. The pursuit of godliness in our lives is a great tool in bringing others to Christ. If we lead godly lives, people will notice and wonder just what it is that makes us so different.

John MacArthur's says,

The critics of Christianity are many. And the point of our greatest vulnerability and the point of their greatest accusation is what we do. It is the scandalous conduct of Christians that fuels the fires of critics. It is the purity and godliness and virtue and righteousness of Christians that silences the critics. And so again I say, the single greatest tool of evangelism we possess is doing right, living right.

I think there’s a tendency for believers today to think that it’s the churches job to win the lost to Christ. If we truly desire to see lives changed in our families and in this community, we must be careful not to overlook our responsibility to live in a way that honors God and points others to Him while living in this world.

The next quality in verse 11 that Paul encourages Timothy to pursue is faith. A better translation of the word faith here is actually fidelity or faithfulness.

When we trusted Christ as our Savior, we made a decision to follow Him and live lives faithful to Him. It should be our desire to follow through on our commitment for the rest of our lives and to never stray from following Christ. That is what is involved in the pursuit of faith that Paul mentions here.

C. H. Spurgeon said "I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much."

And this quote from the Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook is helpful also,

In the Old Testament, faith is rarely mentioned. The word trust is used frequently, and verbs like believe and rely are used to express the right attitude to God. The classic example is Abraham, whose faith was reckoned as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). At the heart of the Christian message is the story of the cross: Christ’s dying to bring salvation. Faith is an attitude of trust in which a believer receives God’s good gift of salvation (Acts 16:30-31) and lives in that awareness thereafter (Gal. 2:20; cf. Heb. 11:1). –The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton , IL; 1984), p. 350

Have you accepted God’s good gift of salvation? If you have, are you living with the awareness of that precious gift and what it means in your life? Are you faithfully pursing obedience and a right relationship with God?

Next notice that Paul encourages Timothy to pursue love. John 13:35 speaks of the importance of our love. This is a critical passage that all believers must practice and the church must emphasize. John 13:35 says,

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Let’s understand that the love that we must have for one another is not based on our feelings but on our will. You know there are people you don’t feel like loving but you must determine to love others, even the unlovely.

Ray Stedman said,

Above all else in our relationship with people, the sign that we have really been touched by the Spirit of God is that we are becoming loving people. Is our home becoming a loving home, where we relate to each other with attitudes of concern for the others' welfare? That is also the mark of a growing church. I do not care how big the numbers are. That does not tell a thing. Some of the cults can fill the largest halls but numbers do not mean the church is growing. It is when the people are growing in love that you have a church that is alive.

Are you practicing love for others? Practicing love is like practicing any other worthwhile discipline. The more you practice love for others the more naturally it will flow from your life.

After love, Paul encourages Timothy to pursue endurance. Endurance here is characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his devotion to faith and godliness by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Our Christian walk will need to be one of endurance. Our journey with Christ will not be one without difficulty. The idea conveyed here is hanging in there when things are tough. It is a refusal to give up even when life may be difficult.

The final characteristic Paul encourages Timothy to pursue is gentleness. Warren Wiersbe says,

Meekness (which is translated gentleness in the NKJV) is not weakness, but instead is 'power under control." Courageous endurance without meekness could make a person a tyrant.

An attitude of Gentleness gives us balance in our Christian life. Gentleness will help us speak the truth in love when it’s difficult to confront others whether it be sharing the Gospel or confronting a fellow believer with their sin. An attitude of gentleness will also help us return a soft answer in response to harsh words.

Are we following the admonitions that Paul gave to Timothy? They not only apply to Timothy and ministers of the Gospel but to all of us who follow Christ.

Are you fleeing from sin and following after the qualities of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?

It would be good for us to periodically examine ourselves in these six key areas. Is it our desire to follow after each one of these qualities in our lives? If not we need to determine with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit that with His strength and guidance we will pursue each of these.

If you struggle with any of these areas in your life I would encourage you to make a note of this passage and make these six Christ-like qualities a matter of your prayer time asking God to give you strength to be obedient in these areas. When we do this we’ll experience the peace and contentment that cannot be found in this worlds goods but can only be found in Christ and He’ll use our lives to glorify Himself and draw others to Himself.

Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont