By Benjamin H. Liles
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. ~ 1 Timothy 3:1
First things first, I know this picture looks like the same one I used for the post titled Interceding for Others. I had to look again myself to ensure that it indeed was not. I want to say this about being in a leadership position. It may look as though you've sought it out, and perhaps that's the truth, but also think about it in this way: do you dsesire to serve God with all of your heart? You know 1 Timothy 3:1 may be the basis for this message, but I could actually make this a message about what it is an elder, bishop, or senior in Jesus' Church is to think on, what to say, and how to live.
I'm going to use myself as an example and also of my cousin who is a teacher. I have to admit I admire her and her spirit. She has two children she's raised with her husband of more than twenty years. One is in College and the other is in middle school (thereabouts). Both of these people are lovely in their own ways. As far as my cousin and her husband are concerned they have done their best in raising their children. They love their parents, they go out of their way for others, they search and know their own hearts (this will be a point), and above all these kiddoes also look at how they live their lives. Why is this part of my main point?
It is to show that by being in a position of leadership means you're serving not just in love to others, you're giving your life for them. To put it in another way, as Paul says, "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). Without adequate warning, not discipling well, and without showing someone--like a child--how to live and lead their lives leaves a mark on us. In this way it's just like Jesus says, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).
We use our words daily. Some of them are used to bless, some are idle (such as gossip, slander, to maim, hurt and destroy others), others are for exhorting and encouraging (such as a parent to a child, a pastor to his congregation, a mentor to his protege). But what do these words show in the life of the one giving them, like myself? I said I was going to use myself as an example. There are days in which I do amazingly well. I can give my wife as well as others the beauty that's in my heart, encouraging, uplifting, teaching well and right. Then there are those days where I just grumble and mumble and complain. I'll be judged for every word that comes from my heart.
And this is that next point: not everyone who uses their words, like myself, are reasonable in their view of themselves. God known our motives. Just as God knows the motives of my cousin and her husband's heart, He also knows mine as well as yours. The writer of Provers writes, "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits" (16:2). The word used for spirits in this verse can also mean "intentions, motives, paths" and even "hearts." We may believe we're put in heart, but God knows us better than we know ourselves, but then again we cannot behold or receive revelation from Him if we're not "pure in heart" (see Matthew 5:8).
I must confess that even before I started this blog and my ministry as well I kept myself before God, asking and even imploring Him, "Are you sure I'm to teach your word?" Every time I heard a soft word, almost a whisper, saying simply, "Yes." I admit I wanted to teach for some gain, but the more I do this, every single day I feel more humbled and honored God chose me to do what I am. I feel like what I have sought out is "honorable" as Paul wrote to Timothy, but also a little self-serving, and at this moment truly and amazingly humbled God can use a man even with the weaknesses I so apparently have.
Another purpose to being in ministry is to warn the people that not all are meant to be leaders in church (see James 3:1, partly). These people may have problems they are unwilling to change, or unsure of how to do so, and that's a reason for churches to have counselors, pastors, ministers, elders, and the like to help bring about change. It's not just about glorifying Jesus, which is the main point in the life of ministry, but it's about being their for others, sharing each other's burdens, making life easier, to build up the body of our Messiah, and in growing together as a team.
The church that Jesus gave charge to isn't just His bride to be, but we're His ambassadors to a hurting and dying world. We shoulder His truth, His love, and to lead people to Him; showing them blameless and pure, but also to tell them of dangers, to warn of things that may happen, or will end up happening.
One of those events that will happen is both a blessing and a cursing. For those who wait longingly for King Jesus it is a blessing. For those who go their own way it is a curse. For these Christ reserves justice and judgment to give them their just reward (actually to all of Creation, not just to those who did evil, sin, wrong). But for those of us who serve from the heart, from love and obedience to His calling on our hearts it is for a place in Heaven, ruling with Him.
In regards to having desired an honorable position it means also loving and accepting discipline, even when it's hard. Not only that, but it shows you desire knowledge and wisdom, working it out before God. Again the writer of Proverbs pens the words, "A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, And the deeds of a man's hands will return to him" (12:14). Therefore I would say that looking for a position of honor is a good thing overall. I would want to caution that your heart to be in a right place otherwise you would be unwise to lead, which brings me back to this one verse: James wrote, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1).
Truly, I would say that being in a position of leadership isn't always about giving a popular, pleasing, and positive message to your congregation. I'm not saying we shouldn't go about being positive and encouraging, but it needs to be tempered with God's mercy, His fairness, and justice. We are to build one another up, as I said previously, to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). It means to warn when a warning is needed. It means chastising when it is needed. It may not be what you want, but it is about doing what is good for you, for the benefit of the whole, not to harm. It is for this reason everything needs to be said in truth and in love.
It is my hope and prayer that this message blesses and encourages you. It is not my intention in the least bit to tell anyone to not serve in their church. If anything, it is to encourage it. But the whole purpose is to examine your heart, your motives, and intentions. Are you doing it for fame and glory? That's not a good reason to want to serve. If, however, you're doing it our of love and obedience, that's a far better place to be. It helps to keep you real, to being humble and pure before our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah. God bless and may your Tuesday be will with and for you.