12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you 14 to keep this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 God will bring this about in his own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:12-16
The first time we find people assigned the role of steward is right at creation. “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). The two roles of stewardship are to “work” or cultivate—to make the garden productive—and to watch—to protect it from pests and predators. If you’ve ever had a garden, you know both tasks are vital to its health and productivity. Sometimes you spend as much time and effort protecting your garden as you spend cultivating it.
The stewardship of people requires the same tasks. To steward well the people in our care or in our circle of influence, we must not only guide them toward that which is healthy for them, we must also protect them from that which is unhealthy. This is the work Paul calls “fighting the good fight.”
Paul is using the word picture of an athletic event—a wrestling match. The Greek word is agon, which means a contest or struggle (we get the word “agonize” from this root). When it comes to tending our relationships, Paul is not painting a picture of rainbows and unicorns. Healthy relationships require hard work.
Consider the verbs Paul uses to name the work of relationships: flee, pursue, contend, take hold and guard. Cultivating and protecting those in our care means running away from that which is not healthy and running toward those people and practices that are healthy.
How do we know what those are? Paul names several practices to watch out for: arguments, quarreling, malicious gossiping, conceit, disobedience to Christ and false teachings. He describes unhealthy people as con artists, hypocrites, wanderers, foolish, robbed and pierced. When you see these characteristics in your relationships, Paul says to run from them. Run instead toward rightness with God, faith in Him, love, endurance and gentleness. These are the qualities of the new life you have in Christ. Pursue that life—reach for it, take hold of it and make it yours. Pull it into your relationships and into the lives of those in your care.
It isn’t easy to call out what’s unhealthy in others or to root it out in ourselves. Jesus said there is an easier way, one many people choose, but it’s a way that leads to destruction. The way to God’s kind of life is narrower and requires intention and vigilance.
If you’ve ever had a thriving garden, you know it’s worth it. Aren’t those we love even more worth it?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Who is in your circle of care or influence? How are you tending this relationship? Ask God, “Search me. Show me.” What is God pointing out to you about the health or unhealth of this relationship? What action is He telling you to take?
- If you, like Paul, were writing a letter to someone you are a friend with or mentor to, what would you say to them about their relationships? What would you warn them about? What would you say is most important for their well-being? Ask God if there is someone you do need to write that note to.
- What do you do in your life that requires both doing what’s good for you and protecting yourself from what’s not good for you? Think about a hobby or habit that requires this kind of intent. What do you learn from this hobby or habit that you can apply toward your relationships?
Pray for local partner ministry Youth Encouragement Services. This ministry serves two specific neighborhoods in Nashville with after-school tutoring, games, a devotional, skills training, a hot meal, and help with navigating life issues. YES provides a safe and encouraging place for students that can last for years. Often the YES staff helps students apply for college and beyond.