God Is Able
Sunday morning, April 18th
Text: Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Welcome! We are glad you are here this morning. If you are visiting with us, we want you to know how glad we are to have you here, and to let you know what is happening here in this congregation. We are in the process of selecting and appointing additional shepherds for our family here. It is a process with which some may be familiar, and others not as much. In the foyer there is a place to submit names for men you believe would serve as good shepherds for this congregation. Names can be submitted through May 2nd (for those who are connecting through the live-stream, you can call the church and have your choices added to the list). I think it's important to note that this is the responsibility of all our members to submit those we would like to see serve. If you are a member, no matter your age, we encourage you to make your voice heard in this decision.
With that being said, our lessons, beginning last week and continuing through the next two weeks will focus on what Biblical leadership means and look at its importance. Last week, Randall really focused on the importance of biblical leadership and its characteristics. We will continue that this morning.
There are some dangers in a series like this. The first one is that it may focus too much on the eldership so that it is not seen as particularly relevant to everyone here. Now, I think we all know that leadership is important and that the vision and direction of this church and our role in the growth of the Kingdom is of great importance. But, we're here this morning looking for something; looking for a word from God that will strengthen us in our walk, draw us closer, lift us up. If this is directed at a specific group, we may feel that we didn't get what we came for. My prayer is that together we see the relevance and application this morning that is not just for a specific group, but for each of us as we continue to walk with Jesus.
There are a couple of passages to which we typically go when we talk about appointing, selecting, ordaining (whichever term we prefer) shepherds. Those are 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These are the places where eldership is really examined or broken down for us and we are going to look at these this morning. Now, if we have read these two passages and really looked at them closely, we may have noticed that they are not identical. There are some things that are mentioned in one letter when it comes to qualities of elders that may not show up in the other and vice versa. I think it the reason we find differences is the different contexts in which we find each of these ministers, Timothy and Titus. Paul left Titus on Crete after what many believe is a mission trip where converts are made and churches are planted. Paul left Titus there to set things in order, and to appoint elders. This is probably more of a new church plant situation. Timothy ministers in Ephesus where the churches are more established, have been there longer. One of the hints to that is that in Timothy, Paul says that a shepherd should not be a new convert. He doesn't have that as a quality in Titus. This morning we are going to look more at 1 Timothy than at Titus, but both will come into play.
If you have your Bibles, go with me to 1 Timothy chapter 3. Right above the beginning of chapter 3 in bold letters in my Bible I am confronted with the subheading "Qualifications for Overseers." I like the subheadings. They make it easier for me to find the things I'm looking for quickly. Sometimes though, they can be a little misleading. Are these "qualifications" or should we think of them as something else? Qualifications makes it sound like a type of a checklist. This is what it takes and if someone were to meet all of these demands, or if we could check off these boxes by their name, then they are "qualified" to be a elder. Sounds good. Let's look at the list from 1 Timothy really quickly.
All of these sound really good. But as I thought about these and using them as a checklist, I think there's something missing. In fact, if all we did was use this as a checklist, an atheist might qualify for this position.
So, for a little while this morning, let's think of these not as a checklist but as qualities we see exhibited in the lives of those who have been changed by Jesus. Let's look at these things as evidence of a life changed by the Holy Spirit of God. These are people who stand out, not because of drawing attention to themselves, but because their lives are different because of the fruit of the Spirit. Isn't that what Jesus says? "By their fruit you will know them." (Also form Matthew 23 from the "Woes")
So let's look again.
My prayer for all of us here this morning, no matter our age, but that all of us who are considering submitting names for those we would like to see serve in this area look for men whose lives are shaped by years spent following Jesus. And that we see these things we find in Timothy and Titus as qualities of people and not just a list of qualifications to be met. Also, I pray that we see this as not just a list of things for the super spiritual, but that each of us have our lives shaped to reflect these qualities.
There's still something missing. Even after going over this list, there's something that we have left out. Did we catch it? Look at 1 Timothy 3:1
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
If anyone aspires to the office. I thought about this phrase quite a bit. Aspiring to the office, some translations say desire the office. I wondered about what that meant to "aspire to the office." I think it speaks of people who want to be in that position. And as Randall mentioned last week, these qualities are something that each and every one of us should aspire to. I also wonder if what we see here are people who serve as shepherds to whom others look as role models. In other words people whose lives we see and say, "I would like to be like them." This is something that I hope we consider as we think about names to submit. There are those who have had an impact on us, those we have seen that emulate the life of Jesus, those who make us want to be better people. Don Sitton was one of those for me. Don served as an elder in the church in Bolivar where Staci and I went for several years. I knew Don a little bit. He was about the age of my dad. Don's mom and my grandma were great friends, and I knew Don's sons pretty well. I remember one Sunday morning at the church in Bolivar when Don responded to the invitation and asked for the prayers of the church in a struggle he was having. An elder coming forward! I had never seen that before! I remember Staci and I talking about this when it happened. That level of humility and being confessional is something that has continued to make an impression on me. It made me think, "I want to be like that."
John Archer was another. We were new to this congregation and Staci was coming to ladies' Bible class on Wednesday morning and would bring Josh with her. John would bring Josh into this auditorium and play "Lone Ranger" with him while Staci went to class. We saw him as one who could lead not just a church, but even our kids to a closer relationship with Jesus.
These two are not all, but just a couple of examples of people who might make others aspire to that position. Those who serve as role models.
To those whose names have been submitted and will be submitted: That opening verse of chapter 3 has a lot to say. The eldership, being a shepherd is not about the office. It is about the work. Look at it again.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
It is not an office. It is not a position. It is a vocation. It is not one of special privilege or recognition. It is the responsibility of shepherding God's people. It is about having the vision to lead them to where they can grow. It is about defending them and protecting them. It is about laying down our lives for the sake of others. It is a task, a job, a work, a vocation. I think this is what Jesus refers to in Mark 10.
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)
We said that there are some dangers in a series like this. The first one is that it may focus too much on the eldership so that it is not seen as particularly relevant to everyone here. I hope that as we have talked about the qualities of lives shaped by Jesus that we have thought of those who we would like to see serve as shepherds. I hope that we have those have come to mind that we see as role models who exemplify Paul's statement from 1 Corinthians 11.
Another danger is that as we look at the qualities and the demands of being shepherds that those mentioned say, "There's no way. I am not qualified for this." The truth is that none of us are truly "qualified" for this vocation. As we think through scripture, I don't think we find anyone who said, "I'm absolutely qualified for the task you have put before me, God."
Moses said, "God you just need to find someone else. They won't listen to me. I don't speak well. I'm not your guy." God said, I am with you.
Isaiah said, "Woe to me. I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king the Lord of hosts." God said, I am with you.
Jeremiah said, "Lord, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth." God said, "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord."
Amos said, I was no prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to my people Israel.'"
Esther said, "All the king's servants and the people the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law - to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days." Mordecai said, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Or in other words, "If God has called you for this, God will equip you for this."
Mary said, "How can this be?" Gabriel said, "God is with you." Should we go on? Scripture is full of the examples of God's ability to equip those he has called.
After all, we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
This brings us back to our reading for this morning.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.