1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Picture in your mind the captain of a team. They take their job seriously, watching over each player on the team, making sure that they are making wise decisions: eating well, getting proper sleep, and ensuring they are in great physical shape. This captain also helps teammates through personal crises, ensuring they are in a good emotional state, useful to themselves and the team. Where necessary this captain is also willing to challenge teammates where they act foolishly or don’t put in the effort necessary to be a winner.
Now imagine that you find out that this same captain does nothing of the above for themselves. It turns out that they eat improperly, make many bad personal decisions, and as a result their sleep patterns are awful. Their life spirals and they rely on the abuse of alcohol and drugs to get by. Suddenly this caring, wise captain looks like a sorry fool and has nothing to offer the team. Of what use was all the caring, all the wisdom they had for the team, when they did not first take care of themselves.
In today’s scripture from 1 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul is sending a letter to his student Timothy, and he instructs him to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” Paul often gives Timothy instruction on caring for the sheep, caring for the flock, but here he focusses on Timothy. Paul recognizes, and hopes that Timothy realizes, that his teaching will be of no value unless his life is in accordance with this teaching. He needs to care for his own spiritual life first.
There is a 1975 song from Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Lookin’ Out for #1”. One of the lines in this song is: “you’ll find out the only way to the top is looking out for number one”. This is clearly not what Paul is talking about in this letter, because Paul is all about dying to oneself and putting others first. However, Paul is saying that Timothy, and by extension us as believers, need to firstly ensure that our life is solidly affixed to the Lord. Not coincidentally, Paul adds that we need to also watch our doctrine closely. The Psalmist writes that “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”. (Psalm 119: 105). If we are rooted in the Word of God, if we are grafted to the vine of Jesus Christ, then we are in a place where we are useful to others, in a place where we can walk securely and bless our hearers.
How much time are you taking to watch your life and your doctrine closely? Are you ensuring that you are in a place to even be spiritually useful to others? Are you spending quiet time in the word, quiet time with the Lord on the desired road of sanctification? If your life is too busy, if you are too distracted to watch your life, then like the well-meaning captain, you are in danger of falling and taking others with you. Paul warns Timothy to “Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” The converse to this would be that if you do not persevere in watching your life and doctrine closely, you will lose yourself and your hearers. This is a costly error that many well-meaning Christians have committed, and they have lost everything. Ensure that you, and those you love, do not become one of these statistics. “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)