1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: Day 5

Instructions for Ministry


Today's Text: 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, Colossians 2:16-23

Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, Colossians 2:16-23

Flossing is the elephant in the room when it comes to dental hygiene. It’s right there, we all know we should be attending to it, but few of us are hitting the bullseye.

When I first draw out the fresh clean length of floss, all’s fair. As the glistening rope is shimmied between rows of teeth, its usefulness preserves its privilege to be allowed access to my mouth. But the second the act of flossing is over, the string of floss immediately shifts from valued instrument to absolute and unequivocal garbage. Once I’ve finished flossing and set the floss down for even a second, there is no circumstance that could persuade me to take that floss up again and begin the process afresh. Something in my brain tells me that once the floss has left my hands, it’s no longer something useful—now it’s appalling and gross.

Arbitrary rules like this usually stem from an important kernel of truth, ranging from harmless to helpful, and even downright quirky. Some people won’t let one food touch another. Others mandate that the proper orientation of toilet paper is out instead of in. But we stray into dangerous territory when we position our cute, quirky opinions as moral law. Paul is writing to Timothy about this precise problem.

Folks at the church in Ephesus had gotten carried away with their opinions, and instead of sticking to the simple truth of Scripture, they added their own rules and declared these as essentials of the Christian faith. Rather than commending them for adding more strictness to the law, Paul condemns these extra rules, reminding them that creation is good. These additions are actually a departure from the faith. Legalism is a natural bent of the human heart. We adore making up our own rules and setting up our opinions as law. Our inclination toward rulemaking is as strong in matters of faith as it is in dental hygiene. But we are not called to simply follow rules; we are called to pursue the living Christ.

Paul encourages us to train ourselves in godliness. God gave us the law to train our sinful hearts. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he calls the law our tutor: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). We need training wheels to point our hearts in the right direction. We need guidance to orient our lives in the ways of grace. God laid out tracks for us to follow, and as we learn to wobble in His ways, we start to think like Him—start to act more like Him. We find we are no longer focused on the rules, but running after the Father with all our might.

The leaders of Ephesus were getting it all backwards; they were focused on things with limited benefit. But Christ invites us to Himself, for He is beneficial in every way (1 Timothy 4:8). They couldn’t see the forest for trees—or anything important because they were fighting over whether or not they should eat ham. We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking Him ourselves.

 Look to Christ. Run to Him. “For this reason we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God” (v. 10).


  • Monica Davis


  • Courtney Moyer

    I couldn’t help but read a little further into Ecclesiasttes 9. Whatever work you do, do it well. When the opinions and created rules are manipulated away from Truth, it’s challenging to do anything well. It distorts the mind to be have selfish motives rather than thinking how the same task can be accomplished to glorify God’s Kingdom. Praying and being given wisdom allows spiritual discipline rather than unnecessary rule making.

    Spiritual discipline will allow whatever work we do to be done well to serve God.

  • Ashleigh Rivers

    “We find we are no longer focused on the rules, but running after the Father with all our might” -so much yes!

  • “18Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,”

    Im sure that wasnt the exact verse we were meant to focus on in this devotional, but my family was actually talking about mediums and people who talk to spirits today, and I couldnt think of a verse to explain how it shouldnt be messed with. i could only think of the quote, “A door, once opened, may be stepped through in either direction.” but of course God knew I needed a verse and not just a Doctor Who quote so He sent this verse along for me to remember.

    • Lisa Sargent

      I was thinking along the same lines when I read this verse. I have a friend who is a Christian, but she also seeks “counsel” from a spiritual adviser. I thought of her when I read this and knew this was the perfect verse I have been searching for. Now I just pray for the courage and opportunity to share it with her!

  • Denise Powers Fabian

    “We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking Him ourselves.” Today’s takeaway!!!!

  • Diane Huntsman

    “We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking Him ourselves.”
    Such a profound yet simple truth.

  • Coral Monson

    I’m reading Grace for the Good Girl and this goes perfectly in line with the writing of that book! Although I saw through legalism as a younger Christian and didn’t like it, I have been in a couple churches where it was very actively done. I’m saddened by the lack of understanding of the Word by so many in matters of life and how the focus becomes works and appearance and performance. I know very well this nature can destroy our daughters and sons making appearances and performance higher than godliness.

  • Susie Hall

    Having grown up in a stricter Christian family these “rules” of what we can’t do still are in the back of my mind and make me feel guilty when I break them. However what a great reminder to instead look to Christ and worry about my own walk with Him and not the “rules” of what a good Christian should or shouldn’t be doing.

  • Well said.

  • Janella Rollert

    Well said!

  • Hannah-Rose Ingham

    Look to Christ. Run to Him.

  • HOLD. UP. The end of the toilet paper should

  • Charity Parker

    Another study I’m reading said, because of Jesus, what the law required, grace enabled. I love how these studies got so well together today!

  • I am just still wondering why the 2 selected additional scripture readings are cross referenced here. I realized that I’m not sure how these are ever selected. Is it referenced in study bibles/commentaries as well? Because I am still reading the bible in full. I can honestly say I have never done that before and it appears to be a disservice to me because I want to know how cross references are chosen.

    • Deborah Craytor

      I can’t speak directly to how SRT chooses what verses to cross-reference, but maybe I can offer some insight into why they chose Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 and Colossians 2:16-23 to accompany 1 Timothy 4. 1 Timothy 4:3-5 reminds us that everything created by God is good and was intended for us to enjoy. We should not surrender our freedom to enjoy all of His gifts by deferring to the legalistic demands of others. Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 echoes the first of these points, while Colossians 2:16-18 reflect the second.

  • Wow, this was the devotional I needed to hear today. Lately Ive been feeling like crap with my anxiety and my past failures with my old job, relationships that have been damaged, and my overall sense of worth. This all changes when I seek Christ. There is nothing more spiritually, emotionally, and physically healing as when I see Jesus with all my might to know him, love him, and experience the glory of his abounding love, grace, and holiness. These rules and laws implemented by scripture arent meant to harm us. Instead they allow us to shift our hearts towards our Lord and savior. Lord Jesus, I thank you for your sacrifice for us down here on Earth. Because of your faithfulness and love we have opportunities to seek you and embrace all of your love. Lord I ask that you give us the strength to always pursue your holiness and spirit. Amen.

    • She Reads Truth

      Thanks for sharing this Lauren. We’re praying for you during this time and are so glad that you’re reading along with us. -Margot, The SRT Team

  • Great lesson!

  • There seems to be a balance between “don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day ” (Col 2:16) and “set an example for the believers in speech,in conduct,in love,in faith, and in purity.” (1Tim 4:12)

    • Terri

      This comes under 1Cor 10:23. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
      Also 1Cor 6:12

  • I’m reminded of the verse in Galatians 5:1 that says “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tangled up again in slavery to the law.” (NLT).
    It seems that we love rules, we love the structure and boundaries they provide, and we really love to point out when someone is out of bounds. So much of what the Jewish culture was steeped in was man made rules and regulations, and I think Paul wants to emphasize that enough is enough. Jesus isn’t interested in whether we do yard work on Sunday, or whether we eat ham (love that sentence, Rebecca). He wants us to fall in love with HIM and walk in relationship, not rules. I’m still learning; it will likely take a lifetime to learn to simply follow, to walk alongside. Lord remind me that you want my company, and not just compliance.

    • Lisa Miller

      I love this! I totally wrote this down in my notes…thanks for sharing!

  • Ana Silva

    I know God wanted me to read this today. Just last night, my husband and I got into an argument about ministry. We usually do argue about this because I don’t know much about it and I get angry about topics I don’t know well. But this reading is so good because it is showing me and reminding me that everything made by God is good and my brain should not set such high moral laws.

  • Jessica McCreary

    A great reminder!!!

  • BTW I’m no longer Catholic however I’m so grateful for what took place back then. All the adults in my life the helped me along the way. I’m so grateful for the wonderful church I belong to now that I’ve been a part of for about 20 years now. Where my kids are growing up and have such great friends. I’ve been blessed with any wonderful godly friends especially my friend Gretchen who is walking this life I’m living right now right alongside me.

    • Terri

      Thank you so much for sharing. I began my relationship with Jesus through a Catholic charismatic prayer meeting to which my Baptist classmates invited me in 1977. God has lead me to other churches over the years. One nondenominational church for 22 years. I am very grateful for His leading and many blessings of fellowship. God doesn’t always work the same way to get to His one purpose of a relationship with us.

  • V12: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young…… This verse brought back some fond memories when I was a teenager. My sisters and I were new in the faith and part of the Catholic charismatic renewal way back in the early 80s when many Catholics were becoming born-again Christians. I remember many did not understand it and we were criticized and looked down upon. That scripture kept us going. And I’m so glad. Even though my life has had its ups and downs I will never forget that youth group that was started by my friends mom’s garage where my relationship with Jesus started.

  • SB Taunton

    So I know this isn’t about floss but it spoke to me. I was laying in bed thinking about flossing then realized that I hadn’t read my devotional for this am! I needed that small reminder that God is good and loving and kind today. Thank you!

  • I’ll be honest…I have tattoos and I like a good craft beer. Do those two things lower me on the totem pole of Jesus’ love? of course not! I have had people judge me very harshly for those things. I just want to convict myself and others to attend to our hearts. Prepare Him room! “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus loves you in mascara, in a shower cap, and in your deepest sorrow.

  • Mary Evelyne W

    I love love love the verse 1 Timothy 4:12. It says “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” As an almost-14-year-old, I have always loved sharing God’s word with others, but I have always felt like I have to do it by volunteering in the children’s ministry at church or sharing it with my friends. However, after reading this verse a few months ago, I started a blog called “One Girl. One God.” (You can follow it at http://www.onegirlonegodblog.wordpress.com )After reading this verse again, I got another encouragement from it. It’s nice that I help little kids, but now I realize that I can be an example to adults and older teens too!! Thanks for taking time to read this!! Have a great day!❤️

    • Ana Silva

      You are so right! Never forget you can minister to everyone- no matter what age but also don’t forget ministering to children is a very important role. They are the future of your church. They will grow your church. I love your heart Mary!

    • Jori Stockdale

      That’s awesome!!! I’ve worked with youth and kids for years and God often uses them to challenge me!!

  • Linsey Peterson

    “Do not neglect the gift you have…”
    I love how the first scripture exceed seems to turn the law on its head in the way it says to focus on what we do have rather than looking at how we don’t size up to the law. We HAVE the holy spirit and we have a Savior and we have the assurance that “everything created by God is good”, and that empowers us to live out the gospel.

  • “We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking him ourselves”…… so convicting!!! Help is to seek you Lord, so that we may impact others for your glory

    • Elizabeth WillisPhelps

      This spoke volumes to me! Okay Lord! I’m listening!!!

      • YES—this is great reminder: “Seek” is an action verb. Seeking Christ means digging into His Word, opening my heart, and receiving all that He has for me, AND then my light and life can lead others to y Savior.

    • Kathy Hensley

      This verse jumped off the page for me! The most important thing I can do everyday is seek Jesus. I get so caught up in the unimportant. Very convicting for me. Praying for forgiveness and help to let go of everything but Jesus.

  • Beth Meagher

    Change is difficult. I see myself. How difficult it must have been for peo0le whonhas been taught, for hundreds of years, that certain practices are necessary then no longer. Yes, they missed the fulfillment of the prophecies and yes, Jesus. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

  • Kelly Chataine

    Christ invites us to Himself, for He is beneficial in every way! Yes! Look to Christ! Run to Him!
    Please pray for my former student, Kaylee. I have been sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with her for approximately two years.
    May we all be more Christ-like and less religious!

  • Lisa Shelton

    I teach this very thing in my church and bible study group. God does not want or care about religion, He only desires a relationship. We often get so hung up on the religion aspect in life…when we do things, how we do things, why we do things. But God just wants those first moments of our day to be focused on Him. If our eyes and hearts are on Him all of the other details will work themselves out. The world will see Him in us more if we have that relationship with Him than if we just try to wing it and have life dictated by a religion. God loves us all no matter what religion, ethnicity or even political party. He created us for relationships not religions. Thank you God for loving me this way and for a relationship that no man can separate me from..

  • Churchmouse

    A friend told me that I do some things “religiously.” That’s an old fashioned phrase that’s meant to be a compliment but it’s really not. To do something religiously is to be scrupulously faithful, conscientious. That sounds good. But I don’t want to do things for the sake of a religion but for the sake of a relationship. I get up early, pour my coffee and open my Bible. I don’t do this religiously. I do this relationally…every day. I pray using a wooden labyrinth. I don’t do this religiously. I do this relationally. Some ‘spiritual disciplines’ are a constant in my life. Some are for a season. As long as they draw me into a deeper relationship with Jesus, I’m scrupulously faithful to them. But if they become a complacent habit, they are then set aside. I have that freedom and I exercise it. What draws me closer, may not work for you. And vice versa. That’s ok. Jesus is uniquely personal for each of us. That’s one of the things that’s so cool about Him.

    • Rachel Anne

      That is beautiful, Churchmouse! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Sarina

      I do this relationally…every day. Our church here in Dehradun, India emphasises on- ‘From religion to relationship ‘. This is our mission statement. Jesus I pray May we all draw near to you in an intimate relationship.

    • DebG

      well said.

  • Jessie Lamb

    “Bodily training is of some value , godliness is of value in every way.” This leaves me considering the amount of time I spend focused on my body versus the amount of time I spend on “working out” my spirit. If I can spend thirty minutes a day running surely I can devote more than that to my relationship with God.

    • Terrisa Stewart

      I totally agree Jessie. That verse made me stop and think as well. I ❤️ working out at least 3 times a week for 60+ minutes. It’s time I start putting as much energy and begin loving my devo and quiet time with God again.

    • Stacey Cothren

      Good point!

  • Jessie Lamb

    Bodily training is of some value, godliness is of great value.

  • We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking Him ourselves….
    Oh my what an awesome truth Rebecca….
    It is only in knowing that truth can be spoken… it is only in seeking Him that we can lead others to Him in the truth ….

    Blessings dear sisters …Happy Friday…xx

    • Churchmouse

      Good to read you here, Tina. I’ve missed you and been praying for you and your family. Yes, we cannot pour out from a dry well. “We can’t lead others to Christ when we aren’t seeking Him ourselves…” Well said, friend.

    • Mamajonk

      I’ve missed you Tina!

      • Tina

        I’m here walking alongside quietly…
        Too much going on.. mum not good ..grandson in need of a safe place.. work.. life..
        But God..
        He is good.. though I may not be present here, writing, rest assured I am spiritually…
        I miss you all toooooo..xxx

    • valerie

      So good to “see” you again!!!

      That line stuck out to me as well! It reminded me of Matthew 6:33-34…

      “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

      I’ve been continually praying for Kane every time I pray for my son – believing that God is at work in both of their lives.

  • Stacey Cothren

    When I think about how Jesus opened up this whole new path to freedom, giving us a life free from ritualistic practices such as sacrifice and fasting, asking only our devotion to reading and sharing His word, I am so thankful and also so convicted. He freed us from a life of rules and laws, and left us with love and devotion, demanding only that we set out eyes and hearts on Him, and leave legalistic and ritualistic practices that often confused and condemned behind. Thank you, Father! A pre-Jesus world would not be a world I’d want to live in. I fall short of this one commandment, so how would I serve a God with so many rules and regulations?!
    However, at the same time, I can see how following rules would be so much easier than really loving God. If I painstakingly attend to rituals and laws, then my heart doesn’t really have to get involved does it? I need only go through the motions to demonstrate my faith.
    What Christ demands from us is so much less, yet so much more. When we really love someone, we want to tell everybody about it, and yet so often we keep Him to ourselves and ignore the one thing that He really wants from us.

    Give me the strength and desire to love you loudly, Father. If there is anything that others see me doing radically and openly, let it be loving you. Amen.

    • Tricia Cavanaugh

      I love this Stacey! Thank you for hitting it right on the head.
      Lord, please forgive me for not shouting my love for You from the rooftops! May other’s see You in everything I do.

    • Kelly R Smith

      This is so good, so true! Rules can be easier than relationship. External change can be forced through discipline. But what God is after is our heart–an inward transformation.

    • Lindsey Bailey

      Yes! This is beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing.

    • Mari

      Give me strength to love you loudly! I love that Stacey! Thank you for that.

      • Tanis Srewart

        I often see the heart of God in parenting my teens. It’s not behavior modification I’m after it’s heart transformation. I want their behavior to reflect their true heart’s desire. Bingo….. God whispers to me, that’s it Tanis my girl, you’re getting it, exactly what I desire in you….thank you Lord!!!

    • MArtha

      Thank you for your insight. ❤️

    • Amy Hayse

      Yes! My lifegroup is going through a series by Andy Stanley called Brand New and it addresses this very thing!! Thank you Stacey

Further Reading...