I wonder what the Apostle Paul might write to younger leaders today, if he was exchanging correspondence. What use would he make of social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc? What counsel would he offer to help leaders in Christ’s kingdom keep a razor-sharp focus?
I’ve mused recently with an ‘iron-sharpening’ colleague about the ‘inanity’ of what we’re tempted to post. We don’t have to respond to every issue. We don’t have to share with others the insignificant minutiae of our lives. We don’t have to be up-to-date on every possible issue that is posted in ‘click-bait’ format. It’s time to refocus.
At the conclusion of his first paragraph of this final chapter of his final correspondence, Paul exhorts Timothy, once again, with four intense directives.
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Let’s consider the opposite possibilities and contrast them with the truth.
#1 LOSE YOUR HEAD in all situations. Overreact, blow a gasket and make sure everyone knows how little the fruit of self-control is evident in your life.
Some times we do lose our heads. We yield to ‘fits of rage,’ and foolishly ignore the warning of James – “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry.” A man who lacks self-control, the writer of Proverbs declares, is like a city with broken down walls. O to think before we speak. To sit on an email and prayerfully ponder the wisest words to write, rather than reacting within micro-seconds of reading some provocative post.
#2 AVOID HARDSHIP. Who wants to suffer? You ‘deserve’ an easy life. You should be ‘carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.’ Sure ‘others fought to win the prize,’ but why should you?
I was blessed last Thursday by listening to a Christian doctor tackle the issue of physician assisted suicide. This was NOT an easy topic and he navigated the stormy waters wisely. He noted our growing distaste for suffering. Our pain threshold, at least for many, is lowering every year. None of us would opt for more pain or more challenges, but let’s reread 2 Corinthians 12 and let’s wrestle with the Apostle Paul’s testimony – “When I am weak, THEN I am strong.” God’s grace is sufficient, or do we doubt that amazing response of our God to Paul’s request for a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to be removed from his life.
#3 KEEP YOUR FAITH TO YOURSELF. Don’t engage others in political or religious arguments. Stay politically correct. Faith is a private matter.
Let’s not deliberately set out to be offensive. The news station I listen to, last week featured a passionate ‘vegan’ who took offense at a vegan restaurant with two other patrons wearing coats with natural fur collars. His strategy was obnoxious, but he stood his ground. Let’s not be foolish, but as wise as serpents, as Jesus exhorted, and let’s be clear to our pluralistic society that Jesus Christ is THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE not A way, A truth and A life.
#4 CHERRY PICK YOUR MINISTRY ACTIVITIES. Delegate what you don’t like to do. Avoid areas of leadership that show you are not ‘omnicompetent.’
Discharge all the duties of your ministry. I’ve been blogging my way through 2 Timothy for the past weeks, trying to get a handle on mentoring and ministry. I want to review the verbs, the imperatives Paul uses to set the standards for his mentee, Pastor Timothy.
Would you join me in praying for those who serve you and your family in pastoral ministry? Ministry is not easy. It never has been. But God is raising up leaders who take His word seriously and are allowing their lives to be shaped by the directives of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I think they’ve been reading Second Timothy and are ‘giving themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word,’ like the early leaders did in Acts 6.