“Take heed unto THYSELF, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” I Timothy 4:16
Have you not noticed how often the Scriptures direct those in ministry to seriously heed their own walk with Christ before they attempt to lead others down the path of holiness in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you not felt times of desperation in your life when you seemed so inadequate to minister and fell victim to some of the same depressions as those to whom you were called to minister? Have you not sensed, in such times of prostration, that you were all alone, and even if you could share with another, they would not fully understand why you might experience such times in your life also? After all, you are the pastor, the missionary, the faithful servant of the Lord who has been called to lead and lift up others, to encourage, and to somehow, make all things well! Please take a few moments to walk with me down the corridors of time and see how some of the greatest servants of generations past experienced some of the very same emotions as they sought to “take heed to themselves,” how they dealt with them, while at the same time, continued ministering to those to whom they had been called.
Some Soul-searching Discoveries
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to. Personally I have often passed through this dark valley.” Charles Spurgeon
“He had seasons of deep depression regarding the results of his work in the pulpit or among his people….” Spoken of Alexander Whyte
“You seem to imagine that I have no ups and downs, but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy. By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky. My ministry has appeared to me to be wanting in so many ways, that I can only say of it, indescribably inadequate.” Andrew Bonar
“During these ten years, I have known more of visions fading into mirages, of purposes failing of fulfillment, of things of strength crumbling away in weakness than ever in my life before.” G. Campbell Morgan on 10th anniversary at London’s Westminster Chapel.
“Sometimes he would suspend the routine of parochial engagements and devote whole days to these secret exercises, in order to which he would contrive to be alone in some void house, or else in some sequestered spot in the open valley.” Joseph Alleine (Alarm to the Unconverted)
“Enjoyed sweet hours on the banks of Hudson’s River, in sweet converse with God…abstracted from all the concerns of this world…rapt and swallowed up in God.” Spoken of Jonathan Edwards
David Brainerd, as described by Jonathan Edwards, to whose daughter he was engaged: His life shows the right way to success in the works of the ministry. He sought it as the resolute soldier seeks victory in a siege or battle; or as a man that runs a race for a great prize. Animated with love to Christ and souls, how did he labor always fervently, not only in words and doctrine in public and private, but in prayers day and night wrestling with God in secret and travailing in birth with unutterable groans and agonies until Christ were formed in the hearts of the people to whom he was sent.”
“While holding communion with his God, he seemed to lose all sense of time. Once, we are told by one who was present, he was so filled with the sense of God’s love that, being able to contain no more, he cried out, ‘O, my God, withhold Thy hand, or the vessel will burst!'” Spoken of Fletcher of Mandalay
Some Spiritual Disciplines
Read Your Bible Every Day!
“The Study of God’s Word for the purpose of discovering God’s will is the secret of discipline which has formed the greatest characters.” James Alexander
“Apply thy whole self to the text; apply the whole text to thyself.” J. Bengel
“Read it through; pray it in; live it out; pass it on!” G. Gritter
Find A Place to Pray!
“God’s promises lie like giant corpses without life, only for decay and dust, unless men appropriate those promises by earnest and prevailing prayer.” E.M. Bounds
“In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” John Bunyan
“Let’s move from theology to kneeology! Power for victory in spiritual warfare is found in prayer.” R. Lawrence
“Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much!” John Newton
“The battlefield of prayer will be your greatest warfare. Be consistent! Be systematic! Be specific! Take long walks! Hide in a corner! Keep a fresh list of requests! Walk the pews of your church! Early in the morning! Late at night! When you wake and can’t sleep! Pray! Pray! Pray! MHB
Choose Right Relationships!
“Five years from now you will be pretty much the same as you are today except for two things: the books that you read and the people you get close to.” Charles Jones
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” George Washington
“A real friend is one who helps us to think our best thoughts, do our noblest deeds, and be our finest selves.” Unknown
“Keep in touch with men who love God! Right or wrong, through the years I have striven to find men who might teach and challenge me in certain spiritual disciplines needed in my life.” MHB
Make Books The Best of Friends!
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon
“I would urge upon every young man…to obtain as soon as he can, by the severest economy, a restricted, serviceable, and steadily….increasing service of books for use throughout life.” John Rustin
“John Wesley had absolutely no faith in the kind of religion that was not informed. he believed a person ought to read, and he offered to give any of his preachers, who could not afford to buy literature, up to five pounds’ worth of books.”
Time Outs Are Extremely Important!
“Solitude is a release to the soul that was imprisoned in company.” George Swinnock
“Sleep more hours than the mechanic, who uses his brain less than the minister.”
“An annual holiday of at least four weeks should be secured by every minister. No minister can do twelve months’ work, though he can in eleven. He will hear quoted, without doubt, the example of the Prince of this world who ‘never takes a vacation.’ Our advice is that the preacher pay no attention to such critics, but seek in every way, to be as unlike Satan as possible!” T.H. Pattison, Pastoral Theology Book, 1912!
Some Scriptural Directives
Following are some passages from Scripture that can encourage and assist you in keeping fresh in ministry. Sometime when you have a few quiet, uninterrupted moments, reflect upon them and rejoice in the Lord.
- I Timothy 4:16
- Psalm 1
- Jeremiah 31:1-3
- I Samuel 16:23
- Psalm 23:3
- Proverbs 25:13
- Isaiah 40:31
- Philemon 19-20
- Ephesians 4:22-24
- 2 Samuel 7:18
- Daniel 9:3-4
Some Concluding Thoughts
The counsel of Dr. Alexander McLaren: “Dwell in the secret place of the Most High. We must be first and foremost good men if we are to be good students or good ministers…the first, second and third requisite for our work is personal godliness; without that, though I have the tongues of men and angels, I am harsh and discordant as sounding brass, monotonous and unmusical as a tinkling cymbal. Like our Lord we must go to the Mount of Olives, when the people go every man to his own house. Then shall we be able, at early morning, and noontide, and evening, to come down to the temple and teach. Then, and only then, will the common people hear us gladly, and men be constrained to say, ‘It is not ye that speak; but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.'”
Thomas Watson: “I will conclude with that excellent saying of Bernard: ‘Lord, I will never come away from Thee without Thee.’ Let this be a Christian’s resolution, not to leave off his mediation of God till he find something of God in him!”
–Maynard H. Belt