To some people it looks like pastors and elders have an easy life. They get to spend all day studying God's Word, praying, writing and visiting people without any concern about anything. But the fact is pastor's and elders are possessed by a mother's heart, always caring for, praying over and tending to those who have voluntarily placed themselves under the servant-leadership of the pastor and his team. All of their days are filled with people and the desire to see them grow and mature in the Spirit.
Sometimes this means needing to correct or warn people when they are in danger or taking the wrong path. Most of these mistaken paths lead to danger and even death. But it is hard to bring correction to people who are free to come and go as they wish, who are under that servant-leader voluntarily, which means they can leave any time they want. The mature stay where they are because of their resolve and the immature tend to run away. Regardless, because of the love of Jesus, pastors must warn those who are going astray. If the person hasn't hardened their heart and is not overcome with pride, a simple warning is often enough so that the conviction of the Spirit pulls at the heart and they turn back to the Lord.
Often we forget that preventative medicine is best. Physically, if we eat well, exercise properly, and get our proper sleep we will prevent a lot of diseases. We will not need to see a doctor except for our annual check up. If pastors would occasionally spend some time on preventative care it may save many heartaches. It is what Paul was telling Timothy to do, warn people of the danger before they fall into the trap:
If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)
Then Paul warned Timothy about a few things as preventative care. Remember that Timothy is young compared to Paul but Paul had left him there to oversee the ministry in Asia Minor with Ephesus as the hub. That was a lot of responsibility and would be a busy life. Paul loved his friend who had shared many of his journeys and who had remained faithful to him and to the Lord. He gave him some good instruction that is also good for us to apply:
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:7)
There are a lot of godless myths and old wives' tales circling around the Church these days. A lot of practices that we are leaving off, such as prayer, Bible study, and fasting. These activities bring us into a closer relationship with Jesus but instead we fill the time with music, video teaching and fellowship. There is nothing wrong with these last three but a steady diet of it without the more important relationship building tools will leave us weak and susceptible to deception and abandonment.
Instead, Paul tells Timothy to train himself to be godly. He tells him:
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:6)
Some of us who are older understand the value of physical training. It prevents illness and disease, it keeps the body working well, it helps us remain mentally alert, it allows us to have energy, keeps us active longer, we sleep better at night, and the list goes on. Physical training is of some value but godliness is not only valuable for this life, it is something we will take with us in the life to come.
Godliness is to have the character of Jesus and we can train for it by understanding the character of Jesus and desiring that character. It is an amazing spiritual law that, as you step forward in that thing you want, God transforms you into it. If you desire to love like Jesus, even though we have no such love in us, when you start doing what he did in love, the Spirit fills you with that love. As you desire to be like Jesus, taking the first steps, allowing the Spirit to correct where you need correction, the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Jesus, starts being produced in you.
The training is the studying to know and then acting on what you know. What you lack the Spirit gives to you. Let me give you an example. I have been studying a lot about Jesus' love and the apostles understanding of this love so it is much in my heart to possess this love. But this love is not for us, it is a fruit of the Spirit for the benefit of other people. The other night I made some soup and salad for my family for supper. I did a kind thing and made my wife her favorite soup separate from the rest. As we sat down to eat my pregnant wife told me that she was turned off from her favorite soup and would prefer what the rest of us were having. Unfortunately, what the rest of us were having was my favorite soup. Having just finished a lengthy fast I was really looking forward to this soup. As quick as a flash the Spirit said "And this is love". I reached out and switched our bowls of soup. When my wife protested (because she loves me), I was honestly able to look into her eyes, smile a big smile and say, "I love you", which settled the matter. I was training myself to be godly. The Spirit was my coach and my enabler.
This is the thing we can never forget: we are not in this alone. It is not like Jesus gave us our assignment and then pushed us out of the airplane to fight on our own. We have the Holy Spirit, who is much more than a companion and a corrector. The Holy Spirit is our enabler. He makes it possible to do and be what, on our own, we would never be able to achieve. He is our coach, guide, helper, corrector, and enabler.
He uses godly men like Paul and Timothy to warn us away from danger, to encourage us with the Word of God, and to guide us when we feel lost. He also uses the Word of God as we study and grow. He uses our time of prayer to speak to us, to correct, to instruct and guide us. He uses worship to draw us into God's presence so we can give our offerings of love. He encourages us through the fellowship of believers. He reveals deeper things as we are instructed by men and women of God. He helps us in our godly training to become more than we could ever possibly imagine. He helps us take our pastor seriously when he has to bring us words of warning and correction so we do not continue down the path of destruction.
I don't know about you but I for one am very thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit as I continue to train myself to me godly. We also need to be thankful for the pastors and elders who God has surrounded us with; men and women who love us enough to practice preventative medicine as they warn us away from the things that could destroy us. Send them a note today to tell them how much you appreciate them.