“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop [elder], he desires a good work.” - 1 Timothy 3:1 (NKJV)
My mother had this cartoon hanging in her kitchen. I think it is a good reminder when we think about elders in the church. The New Testament lists 23 qualities an elder should have (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These qualities represent the ideal elder, and by extension, the ideal Christian man. But there are no ideal men who perfectly have all of these qualities, neither today nor in the days of the Apostle Paul.
To help us understand the New Testament elder, I have summarized the 23 qualities or characteristics in four words:
1. CONTROLLED: An elder should demonstrate self-control. He is not controlled by his appetites, either physically or materially. He demonstrates the moral standard of the Word and doesn’t use alcohol or money to meet his needs.
2. COMMITTED: An elder is committed to his wife and children. He has made the sacrifice to spend the time to be the spiritual head of his family.
3. CAPABLE: An elder understands and communicates the doctrine of the New Testament church. His life is organized around pleasing the Lord.
4. CONSISTENT: An elder has a track record of treating others with gentleness and respect and has a good reputation with those outside the church. —
When I was in grade school in Indianapolis, my grandmother, uncle, aunt, and cousins lived around the corner from us. There were five of us kids, and my sister, brother, and I played in the alleys and yards nearby while my mother cared for the two youngest at home. When it was time to come home, Mom would ring a bell that hung by the back door. No matter where you were in the neighborhood, you heard that bell. It was time to come home. Your friends heard it too, and they knew you would be walking or peddling back home. Sometimes you groaned and complained when you heard it; you didn’t want to stop playing.
But as much as you didn’t want to go inside for the evening, it was comforting to know that someone was keeping tabs on you, waiting for you, and loved you. There were times as it got dark and the bell had not sounded yet that you got worried - wasn’t it time to go home?
Mom went home to be with the Lord on December 21, 2015. I remember we reminisced about that bell once in a while, but I wonder: did I ever thank her for ringing that bell?
Spiritually, who rings the bell for you? Who cares enough for you to make sure you come home? And if there is that person, have you thanked him or her? Isaiah 66:13 has a beautiful picture of God - “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” God comforts you through people. They are his hands ringing the bell and his arms hugging you when you get home. Be that person for someone else.
When it would start getting dark, Mom would come to the back door and ring the bell. She would stand in the door and watch and wait for her children to come home. We would see her standing in the door as we came through the back gate. Mom, thank you.
Some might remember “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat” that was the intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I always felt sorry for that ski jumper who crashed week after week after week.
Consider spiritual defeat for a moment. Instead of power and joy, the Christian life for some is disappointing and depressing. Why spiritual defeat? What has gone wrong? An answer can be found in Joshua 7, the story of Achan. That story teaches us some important lessons.
1. UNCONFESSED SIN. Israel had a crushing defeat because of unconfessed sin, and in this case, secret sin - “Israel has sinned” (v.11). For the disciple of Christ, unconfessed sin will absolutely rob you of any spiritual power you might have had.
2. OTHERS SUFFER. In verse 5 we find that 36 men died because of unconfessed sin. Achan thought that his sin was harmless, that it didn’t affect anyone else. Yes, sin is personal, BUT it has a communal effect. For example, a Christian living with unconfessed sin will not have his or her prayers answered. So the people you want to pray for suffer because God will not hear your prayer.
3. SOLUTION. In verses 16-21 the sin of Achan is uncovered; Achan is punished; and Israel goes on to victory. The solution for the Christian is the forgiveness of Jesus - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:9,10).
Spiritual defeat? Search your heart. Any secret sin?
Ever watch wrestling on TV? Yes, it is all fake. And yes, over the years it has become depraved. But I want you to think about the “submission hold,” that trademark maneuver some wrestler would use to get his opponent to quit, to submit.
Question: Does God have a “submission hold” on your life? Or are you still struggling, wrestling with his word? We are commanded to submit to (a) God in James 4:7, (b) governmental authorities in 1 Peter 2:13, (c) one another in Ephesians 5:21, and (d) elders in Hebrews 13:17.
There are those who cannot submit to God’s word. The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:6-8) wrote that the “mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” People focused on self cannot submit and “cannot please God.”
One of the consequences of not submitting to God is that your prayer life is null and void. You might feel better when you pray, but that’s all it is, just a feel good experience. The author of Hebrews wrote: “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (5:7 NIV)
Are there spouses, children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren who have needs you want to bring to God? Don’t worry about the words you use in prayer; consider your life. Ask yourself: Am I reverently submitting myself to God? Is there anything I am commanded to do in Scripture that I am choosing not to do? Is my pride and stubbornness keeping my prayers from being answered? Remember, even Jesus submitted, and he was heard. — Mike
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” - Jesus (Luke 16:10)
Jesus is teaching us that it is not the size of the task but the condition of the heart that matters. If you are asked to do something notable or public or critical, you will give it all your heart. If you are asked to do something routine, behind the scenes, do you give it the same attention?
In the Kingdom of God, there are no unimportant jobs. Everything contributes to the building of the kingdom. So small tasks test your faith as much as large ones and are an indication of your faith.
Evander Holyfield, 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal winner in boxing and four time heavyweight champion boxer, once said: “It is not the size of a man but the size of his heart that matters.” So the question is, “How big is your heart?”
Make up your mind to do the small things in life with great heart, whether in the church, home, or work. Those small tasks reveal more about you than the big ones. Why? When you take on a big task, usually people notice. But a small task might go un-noticed except by God. Those small tasks are the building blocks of your character.
During a busy day filled with teaching and healing, Jesus observed that the people who had followed him were hungry. They were away from a town; there was nowhere to buy food. There were 5,000 men alone, plus women and children. He told his disciples to feed them. Andrew wandered around and all he could find was one boy’s lunch. Andrew said to Jesus: "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Andrew found out. When Jesus gives you a task, it’s never inconsequential.