In the corporate-modeled, high pressure and results-oriented world that we live in today, it would be very easy for a pastor to overlook the most important area of his ministry – his personal holiness and walk with God. The sad fact is that studies show that many ministers today do not have a vibrant and consistent devotional life. The reasons are what you would expect – “too much to do,” “to little time to get it all done,” the proverbial “squeaky wheel,” “always another visit to be made.” It seems that many pastors today operate under what has been defined as “the tyranny of the urgent.” The best possible result of frantically running here and there, doing this and that to cover all the bases in “the ministry” is that there is a deficit of spiritual power. Unfortunately, there is often a more sad and serious result – a personal fall and the subsequent disqualification from ministry.
If you want to be a man that God uses then determine today that you will cultivate a close fellowship with Jesus that evidences itself in a passionate devotional life and a personally pure lifestyle. As the quote from D.L. Moody that my father inscribed on the inside of my, ordination Bible reads, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”
You see, the enemy would have you believe that the requirements God has for your life and character either don’t matter or that there’s no way to actually know them. Don’t fall for either of these lies. They will be the death nail of your ministry.
That great preacher from Scotland who died when only twenty-nine years old, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, put it so succinctly. He said, “My people’s great need is my personal holiness.” Then he added, “How awful a weapon in the hand of God is a holy minister.”
I would suggest that as one called by God to serve Him in His ministry that you give close and careful study to the life of Jesus. I know that we seem to live in a day that is increasingly focused on the didactic writings of Paul, and I would not seek at all to lower in your estimation those portions of scripture that he penned. However, I can’t help but notice that it was his encounter with the living Lord Jesus Himself that transformed His life and walk. It is the one thing that he seems never to be able to get out of his mind. It didn’t just change his destination; it changed his direction. I, therefore, believe that such an encounter would do no less in ours.
As I have studied the life of Jesus, I notice two things that figure very prominently in His earthly life. First, He daily spent prolonged times with the Father in prayer. In fact, we read that He got up early in the morning and that he prayed so long that the disciples fell asleep. Second, when tempted by the devil in the desert, He didn’t rely on His personal will or intellect, but repeatedly relied on the Word of God to fend off the enemy’s fiery darts. The recurring phrase, “It is written,” should be the motivation, model and mode of operation in the minister’s life.
I will never forget when I was a seminary student hearing Steve Gaines during the T.V. Farris Preaching Lectures deliver what he titled, “The Praying Preacher.” It has impacted my life in so many wonderful ways. Above all, I remember the simple, but poignant statement, “Save your morning’s for God.” I have benefited greatly from his practical advice on how to pray, when to pray, where to pray. I still follow his pattern of utilizing prayer cards and a journal. Most of all I have sought to have a systematic way in which I memorize and meditate on Scripture. I believe whole-heartedly the Psalmist’s answer to the question, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.”
Paul, in his letter to his young preacher-boy Timothy, makes a statement that every minister seeking to be used by God should carefully consider. He writes, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Thus, we are told of the six spheres that make up the life of a minister.
In their book, “On Being a Pastor,” Derek Prime and Alistair Begg ask in what spheres a pastor is to be an example, and their answer is: “In every sphere!” Seek to be a man God uses by cultivating a consistent and passionate walk with Jesus that affects every area of your personal and pastoral life.
Next week I want us to begin to look at each of these areas of a minister’s life. We will look at the life of Jesus for examples on how to cultivate a fellowship with Him that is marked by a vibrant devotional life and evidenced by personal holiness.