If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:6,7)
One of the great distractions leaders face is not to suddenly give up on leadership but to be gradually drawn away from what is important to what is less important. The challenge constantly is to "keep the main thing, the main thing."
Paul had spent the previous verses talking to Timothy about the importance of sound teaching. Without being taught truth, people soon drift into error.
When we focus on truth however we risk making our faith about having the right doctrine, rather than living the right way. We place "knowing" above "being".
I remember in my early days of following Jesus, I was absorbed with right teaching. I'd read books on Revelation, spiritual gifts, and church leadership, all with the aim of being "right". When I came across people or books that disagreed with my viewpoint I was quick to dismiss them and took some comfort in the assurance that I was right and (by implication), they were wrong!
At the same time as I was studying doctrine, my interest in the personal and practical implications of what it meant to follow Jesus took something of a back seat. Somehow, the beatitudes, proverbs and the pastoral epistles seemed less interesting, perhaps because there was less room to study them and be "right" when arguing with others.
Over time God has made me appreciate what Paul is saying here to Timothy. Yes, it's good to be nourished (v.6) by good teaching, but what is needed is faith (v.6) in this teaching that sees us follow (v.6) it which in turn results in godly living (v.7).
Spending time reading your Bible and thinking deeply about what you read is an indispensable requirement for a leader. If you are weak in this area you'll have little of worth to say to young people, and what you do say may in fact be more opinion than truth.
As you read and reflect, teach yourself to constantly ask the "So what?" question. I do this by studying a passage under three headings. The first is "He" and here I note down what the passage teaches me about God.
Secondly I take the word "Be" and reread the passage, noting any examples or descriptions of who God wants me to "be" (or not be).
Finally I reflect on what this passage is saying to "Me". I reread my "He" and "Be" notes and it usually doesn't take long for something to be impressed upon me at a personal level.
From there I talk back to God about what He's been saying and commit myself to applying it and becoming more godly.
This pursuit of godliness is far more challenging than the pursuit of knowledge, characterised at times by worthless "arguing over godless ideas." It requires faith and a determination to change.
Yet with this challenge comes a deeper sense of fulfilment and joy that characterise the life of a leader who pursues godliness, and in the process, inspires those they are leading to follow them.
How determined are you to understand your Bible and be right about its core teaching? What difference is this understanding making in your life? Are you in danger of being more interested in knowing truth than living it?