Absolutely nothing is more critical to a Christian leader than the growth and maturing of his heart and mind. Paul’s words to the young preacher in 1 Timothy 4:7, “train yourself to be godly,” describe an intentional lifestyle. Our hearts have to be regularly nurtered and fed. Our minds need to be cultivated as we think through what it means to be a faithful leader in God’s Kingdom. Paul uses the words “godly” and “godliness” only eight times in all of Scripture. And all eight instances are found in Timothy and Titus, encouraging the preachers to live good and holy lives, grounded in the source of their holiness, Almighty God.
As proclaimers of the Word, we are to live as models in the Kingdom. Our very lives should reflect what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ Jesus. Others must see God in us. If salvation from God through Christ hasn’t changed me, if it hasn’t impacted the way I live my life, then how could it possibly appeal to anyone else? How would I ever expect the believers in our church here to allow the Spirit to transform them if the one proclaiming this transformation to them week after week is himself the same?
I must live a godly life.
And that takes strong self-discipline. It demands a constant concentration, a consistent focus on thinking and talking and acting like God. It requires on-going evaluation and continual correction. It means realizing I am a very self-centered person, and deciding to die to self all over again, several times a day. It’s understanding my weakness with certain temptations and consciously avoiding those situations, several times a day. It takes a devotion to study and prayer and meditation. It takes a dedication to service and sacrifice. And it’s realizing that all those times I fall short, God’s Spirit is living inside me to lift me up, to encourage me, and to empower me to live a godly life.
In that way, my failures and my shortcomings actually serve to move me closer to God, not destroy me. And my life serves as an example to others, not as a barricade between people and the Gospel.
Certainly you are moving in the right direction, Allan, from milk to meat the Hebrew writer would say. In the process, lighten up: Even the best of implements has limits, beyond which they are subject to “stress.” Some of those who have their eyes on you cannot carry the load you have assumed. Like the tortoise, a slow, steady walk with the Lord will get you where you want to go!