By Katie Pearson
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise[d] must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 3:1–13
God doesn’t take leadership lightly. Not everyone with a dynamic personality or a teaching gift should be permitted to lead in the household of God. Those called to more visible leadership responsibilities in ministry must be spiritually mature, which requires time and testing. Seasoned individuals are often sought out for leadership positions because they consistently demonstrate Christ-centered behavior in a variety of situations, especially when unaware that others are watching. Because they are experienced in living the Christian faith, not just learning about it, they demonstrate the spiritual authority to lead.
But spiritual authority isn’t something Christian leaders obtain based on ambition or a self-centered desire to be successful. It’s a gift given to those who consistently prove that their highest purpose is an intimate and obedient relationship with God. They want to know God, and their lifestyle is sober-minded, disciplined, and without reproach. To the pure-hearted, spiritual authority is bestowed, not bought. Often, such individuals never actually aspire to lead, but their character leads to a higher calling. These are the leaders whom Paul says should oversee the church.
In his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “No man is born naturally or supernaturally with character; he has to make character. Nor are we born with habits; we have to form habits on the basis of the new life God has put into us. We are not meant to be illuminated versions, but the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God.”
Paul shares with Timothy a portrait of a leader who has cultivated the godly habits that frame a holy lifestyle. This list isn’t complete, but it paints a picture and points toward a higher standard that is only fulfilled in the power of the Holy Spirit. As leaders, we are merely jars of clay, yet when filled with God’s strength, wisdom, and purpose, we overflow with power to be and do things far greater than we could ever accomplish alone.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul refers to this power as “treasure” because its value is priceless. We cannot be better or do better without the Spirit’s help. All the qualities we associate with Christian character are called “the fruit of the Spirit” in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:23). A holy lifestyle produces abundant fruit.
Reflection: Read this passage several times and notice your natural response to the standard Paul issues. Rather than trying to conform to rules, focus on your intimacy with God so that your character is formed as a response to his endless love and goodness. In this sense, godly leaders are developed organically and filled with grace that overflows. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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