In our day it seems like there are two types of ministers: those that burn out or those that run out. A common misunderstanding is that pastors work only one day a week. That’s definitely not true. A recent survey has said that the average pastor works well over 40 hours a week. The time clock may even record over 50 hours a week.
As a matter of fact, a corporate management paper surveyed various jobs and concluded that pastors rate among the hardest of professions.
The long, frustrating hours put in can take its toll quite easily on a person. That’s why a minister can quickly burn out like a light bulb. The line of work can also cause them to pack up and leave to take another call. I have read that in our day the average stay of a pastor in a parish is about 5-7 years. Some of this might be due to a pastor’s desire for a change of scenery. Perhaps he just likes to keep variety. But I would assume it is mainly because of the rigors of church ministry.
Long lasting ministries need power. That power is not found in a cup of Folgers or in Energizer batteries. Pastors need God given power.
As we work through this letter we are going to find that Timothy was faced with many rigors in his ministry. And Paul knew this. Paul knew that Timothy needed power for his ministry. That’s why Paul begins his letter with this greeting. In these two verses we find that God equips your pastor with power for the ministry. Your pastor can minister only because God gives him the authority and ability to minister.
I. Authority to minister
Paul begins his letter with these words, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. To Timothy, my true child in the faith.”
Timothy was Paul’s assistant in the ministry. You could say that Paul was Timothy’s mentor. Timothy was groomed for the ministry in the second best seminary in the world (the first being the Jesus himself!). Everything Timothy learned about carrying out the Lord’s work he learned from Paul. They spent much time together. And it is obvious that Timothy would have known Paul held a special office as an apostle.
Certainly, timothy didn’t need to be convinced. So why does Paul emphasize his office? I would suppose, with John Calvin, that, Paul does not say this for timothy’s benefit, he said it for the benefit of the people who would be under timothy.
Paul is going to be prescribing specific things for the church, and Timothy is the one who would be carrying them out. And the people needed to know that what Timothy was doing was not of his own will. If people were tempted to buck against Timothy, they would have to know that they were bucking against God himself.
As an apostle, Paul was the representative of God. He passed on to timothy what God wanted for his church, and the people needed to hear that what timothy was doing, he was doing with God’s authorization.
As a minister of Jesus Christ, I am under this same authority. It is my job to implement and enforce what God has laid down in the Scriptures for His church.
And it is your responsibility to react appropriately to them. You must not regard the things that we as leadership say and do as of no importance. Like those to whom timothy ministered you must recognize that what is in accord with the Word of God has authority over you. And with that knowledge, you must bring yourself to submit to them.
Of course, I don’t want you to simply take my word on that. You have a responsibility to listen to God, but not to the words of a mere man. So that highlights another responsibility. You need to know that what I do as a minister must have a firm biblical grounding.
You must be like the Berians who were commended for searching the Scriptures. What I do, and what our elders do, must always be checked against the Scriptures.
There have been many a time where people have been led astray. Cults, the people do not check their leaders actions against the scriptures. They mindlessly listen to whatever they have to say.
Now, I don’t want you to become overly skeptical of us. Leadership does require your trust. But not your naiveté. Our authority only extends so far as the Word of God permits. If we as leaders go beyond the word of God, we are guilty of adding to the scriptures. We would then become like the Pharisees who put heavy burdens upon the people.
So you are to check what I say. But remember, your minister is not only under authority, he possesses authority. When he is obedient to God’s Word and carries out God’s wishes, he then does so with authority. And you must recognize that it comes from God.
Think about how easy it would be to simply brush off these things. Some of you are related to me. Remember how Jesus was treated by the people he grew up with? He said, “a prophet is not welcomed in his home town.” Why is that? Isn’t it because they regard him as just an average person. So they say, “What right does he have to speak to me in such a way? What authority does he have?”
But not only that, but think about how our culture reacts to authority today. A lot of people like to run their lives (and the church) by what feels right to them. So the only real authority is their personal preference. Their likes and dislikes become the rule by which everything is measured.
And so God’s Word and the ministers that bring it have no place in their lives. And if they do give the minister a place, then it is simply to be considered as an adviser. If they like what you say, they will accept it, but if they don’t then they will leave it.
But that is not how God has ordered things. God has given his ministers to the church and he has equipped them with authority. So when the word of God presses in on your lives, you have the responsibility to take it for what it is.
God has given pastors power to minister. But that power is not only expressed in the authority to minister. God also gives pastors the ability to minister.
II. Ability to minister
Congregations must understand that a pastor cannot sustain a minister in and of himself. A church cannot be run on human strength.
That’s why Paul adds this blessing in verse 2. He says, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul knows that a church leader needs God’s power. And part of that power resides in God’s grace.
You remember what grace is. Simply put, it is God’s undeserved favor. You might find it odd that the one who is supposed to regularly speak of the grace of God, is one who is so much in need of it.
But it is true, a minister deeply needs the grace of God. He needs it so that he might be able to carry out his ministry, and this is why: A minister is one who is regularly steeped in the Scriptures, much more than the average person. As a result of his being in the Scriptures he comes to learn two things: How great God is and how great a sinner he is. As a minister learns these two things more and more he can come to be so ashamed that he feels like he shouldn’t even be called a “Reverend,” much less speak on behalf of God.
I am reminded of Peter and how he reacted when the Lord Jesus called him to be His disciple. We read in Luke 5 that Peter had a hard night on the lake. They worked hard, but hadn’t caught any fish. Jesus told him to get back into the boat, sail out farther than normal, and let down the nets. This would mean grueling work for Peter and his co-workers. But he obeyed, and when they did they caught so many fish their nets began to break.
Do you remember Peter’s response? He said, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man!” The nearer he came to God, the more he felt his personal wretchedness. But God’s grace was manifested. Jesus called him to become a fisher of men. That grace was what enabled him to become God’s spokesperson.
A minister needs to be reminded that he isn’t qualified for the task to which God has called him. It keeps us humble! But we need His favor. The sense of guilt can turn one away from the pulpit, but the grace of God places us in it.
But not only do we need God’s grace to minister, but we also need God’s
In almost every one of Paul’s epistles he greets the recipients with a blessing. But the blessings in the Pastoral epistles, the letters Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, are a bit different. Paul’s normal blessing is “Grace and peace to you.” But here he adds mercy. God’s mercy is related to man’s misery. God has mercy because he sees man in his miserable state and takes pity on him. So what is Paul saying here? Is he not hinting at the fact that ministers experience a great deal of misery?
I never admired a doctor. I never wanted to be a doctor. As a matter of fact I always thought that doctors must have the most depressing job in the world. All they deal with is people who are sick, injured, or somehow else under the weather. I often have thought about going to the doctors office for a visit when I was healthy just so I could encourage a doctor; let him meet someone who was in a happier state (But then I think about how much it costs and I say, “They can’t be all that sad!”).
But think about how that same idea applies to the minister. In days gone past the minister used to be called “the doctor.” Because he was a doctor of the soul. The minister deals with sickness in another form, he deals with sinners and their sin. And while most patients, when the visit the doctor, heed the doctor’s advice, that isn’t always the case with a minister. Sinners are not as willing to respond to the Word of God. Even when the gospel promises full restoration and peace, some people will not swallow it.
So the minister needs God’s mercy. He needs God’s compassion to lift him from the trenches of sorrow. The minister can become so grieved and heartbroken that he wishes to leave the ministry. Just think of Jeremiah. He was called “The Weeping Prophet” partly because the people would not listen to his message.
So too, Isaiah. In Isaiah 6 we read about the calling of Isaiah. It begins with a great vision of God in the temple, Angels crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” After this great portrayal of God’s Majesty, He calls out, “Who shall I send to minister to My people?” Isaiah willingly responds, “Here I am, send me.” Then God prepares Isaiah for the ministry ahead of him. He tells Isaiah that he is going to send them to a people who won’t even listen to his message. “they will be ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing, but never perceiving.” He talks about their hearts being calloused, their ears dull, and their eyes closed.
Even Paul himself knew the hardships of the ministry. Think about how often he must have grieved over the hardness of people’s hearts. We think of Paul as a Super-minister. We look at his ministry and we see how successful it was, how many conversions there were under his ministry. But I would submit to you that he saw more people reject the gospel than except it. He must have spent many a night agonizing over their stubbornness.
A pastor is in much need of God’s mercy. He needs God to comfort him in the midst of his misery. Because the ministry can be filled with hardship and heartbreak.
As we said, a minister needs God’s grace, God’s mercy. And Paul also knows that a minister needs God’s peace.
In our day we tend to think of peace as something associated with the level of noise. But this refers to the Jewish notion of peace, “shalom” which means “wholeness.” As I mentioned, the hardships ministers face ministers need God to sooth their souls. We need peace of mind. But ministers also need God’s peace with regard to our physical person.
I know we tend to think that pastors only work one day a week, but that is a terrible myth. Ministers can labor long hours. As a result they can become quite weary. I’ll never forget the phone call I received from one of my former pastors when I was in seminary. It was Sunday afternoon and he asked me if I could fill in for him that evening. He had had such a draining week and he was left simply exhausted. He did not have time or energy to prepare a message for that evening.
And of course there is always the danger of sickness. Ministers need God’s peace. Peace that protects both body and spirit.
Without God’s grace, mercy and peace one cannot sustain any sort of ministry for one instant. That’s why you need to be in prayer for your minister. When you petition God ask him to give me His grace mercy and peace. Even if he were a resilient person, an Iron man, he couldn’t sustain the work of the church without God’s spiritual equipment, let alone make it worth your while for a moment.
Of course, that is all to his Glory and praise. God will not have one man run the show. He makes it so that no man can do it in his own strength so that God will not be robbed of His glory. The church is not built by the hands of men. It is erected by the power of God. And it is to him that the praise rightfully belongs because it is God who gives the minister the ability to minister.
So if you want a good minister, pray for him. Pray that he will be equipped by God to minister. Pray that God will give him the ability to carry out his duties. And if you get frustrated with your pastor, if you think he isn’t doing a good job, begin to pray for him.
Oftentimes when people are frustrated with their pastor, their first reaction is that they want to get a new one. But their first line of attack should be resort to God, asking that He would bless him. For when God hears this prayer His ministry is sure to improve. You yourselves will be blessed as your minister increases in the favor of God.
The seminary that I went to begins each year with a kick off retreat. It’s a devotional time where the freshmen and upperclassmen can get acquainted. One year we broke up into groups so that we could get aquainted with each other. One of the students was asked what his greatest weakness was for the ministry. He said, “Myself.” Then he was asked, what was his greatest strength. He said, “Christ.”
That man is going to be a great pastor. He recognizes that he is nothing, and that Christ is all in all. We must recognize this as well. The ministry will only succeed because Christ gives the power. You must listen to him and to him alone because he possesses the rightful authority. And you must beseech the Lord on behalf of your pastor, because He alone will give your pastor the ability to minister among you.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.