Recently I had to take one of my daughters to the local Hobby Lobby to pick up some supplies for an art class that she is taking. While she was looking for her supplies, I wondered off a bit and found myself in the aisle where they stock the Paint By Numbers kits. For those not familiar with the Paint By Numbers kits, they contain a canvas with a drawing etched upon it. Within the lines of the drawing are numbers corresponding to a variety of containers of paint. The goal is to apply the paint within the lines according to the number. By the end, you will have a painting that looks exactly like the one on the box and exactly like those who follow the same basic rules. Painting by numbers is regarded as a bit of joke by anyone in the art community. There are no “paint by numbers” specialist or art shows. They do not hang the results of a paint by numbers kit in any museum! Art is about originality, doing something new.
As I stood looking at the kits, my mind was drawn to the thought that I want to be a paint by numbers preacher. What do I mean by that? I mean that God has called me to be a steward and that in that stewardship there are no rewards for originality, only for faithfulness.
In his last letter before facing death, the Apostle Paul seems quite anxious to pass on his heart to Timothy who will follow in his stead. He writes, 2 Timothy 1:13-14 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Timothy, there is a pattern already laid out. This is a rich deposit of truth which I have given to you. Your job is to hold fast to it. Not to add to it, not to dilute it, not to make it more palatable, but to hold it fast, never let it go. Timothy, these sound words are a good thing which has been entrusted to you–guard it! This is what you must teach to others, this is what must be handed down from generation to generation.
There are many temptations to make a name for ourselves, to stand out as “original artists”, to be the man who is not simply repeating the same old truths which people have heard for thousands of years. This temptation must be resisted with all our being. The lines have been drawn, the numbers have been given, the paint has been provided. Let us paint, within the lines, to the glory of God!