One important aspect of Bible study is watching for key phrases or themes that come up repeatedly in a passage. I’ve been spending a good bit of time in some of the pastoral epistles recently (2 Timothy and Titus specifically), and the idea of doing good constantly comes up. I’m thinking of phrases like “good work” and “good deed” (e.g. 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 3:1). As I’ve been working through these passages, the importance of devoting ourselves to good has become increasingly evident.
Now let’s be clear, these works are done in response to salvation. However, there is a key aspect we need to consider in these last days. Let’s use the passage I used in this week’s Monday Encouragement video as our jumping off point:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).
A familiar passage, but notice that the “good deeds” are in response to what “the grace of God has” done (vv. 11, 14). Yet Paul says that we are to devote ourselves earnestly to this, to doing good for God’s glory. This is part of what it means to belong to Jesus. This point is made increasingly clear as both the singular and plural form of “good deeds” is used throughout the next chapter (Titus 3:1, 8, 14).
Yet we cannot stop simply at noting the multiple uses of a phrase. We need to ask, “Why is Paul bringing this up so often?” In other words, what’s the point? If we look at how Paul uses the phrase, some points will become clear.
We’ve already seen how doing good is part of what it means to belong to Jesus. This is emphasized in Titus 3 by the union of belief and fruitfulness, as well as the contrast between a life pleasing to God and unfruitfulness. Notice what Paul says in Titus 3:8 –
“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”
Now add to this Paul’s final instruction that “our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs” (Titus 3:14). When we take all this together, we see the idea of intentionality come to the forefront.
The Lord is not simply calling us to do good when it works out or happens to be convenient. There is a training, a focus that comes with this doing good. 2 Timothy 2 especially drives this point home. For instance, Paul says, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). Paul is calling out the soldier in Timothy, telling him not to get too comfortable and distracted in this life. He must remain focused on serving Jesus.
Paul goes on in the passage to urge faithfulness and warn against some specific distractions, especially those things that are “useless” (v. 14). He then says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Boom. There is our phrase again, and with it, the idea of intentionality. Notice how someone has to cleanse “himself from these things” and be “prepared for every good work” (v. 21). That takes forethought and effort. It means not making “full use of” this “world,” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:31.
There is a lot more that we could dig into, but the point the Lord is showing me is quite simple, but can be hard to put into real practice. The time is growing shorter, and every moment counts. We cannot afford to waste any time. Therefore, we need to intentionally think of how we can use the opportunities God has given us to do good for His glory. Why has He placed us where we are with the responsibilities we have? How can we steward these and make “the most of [our] time?” (Ephesians 5:16). As I heard the Maxwell family say at a Titus 2 conference, there are a lot of things that are good for us to do, but we are called to do the best thing at that moment. We need to be intentional.
And that’s what I’m trying to do more, especially the intentionality part. As I told a friend recently, I feel like I get too many pans in the fire at one time. I get so excited about all these “good” things, and want to do them all. However, I’ll burn out if I try to do them all equally. So part of doing good deeds is prioritizing and thinking of what is best for that time, that season, that moment. What God may be calling us to do right now may not be what He’s calling us to do in ten years. This act He has given one person to do may not be what He’s given to someone else. We are called to a personal relationship with Him, and we need to rely upon the Spirit to direct our steps.
So let’s recommit ourselves to doing good. Not just for the sake of doing good itself, but for the glory of God. That takes intentionality and prioritizing, but by the Spirit’s help, we can do it. We are called to, and God will give us the grace to carry it out.