The life of a pastor is a continual reminder that God put His “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7). “Who is equal to such a task?” The word of the apostle is never far from a shepherd’s heart: “be examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3). Examples are badly needed, but not easily provided. It’s tough to be a good example when aware of your own sins! Yet we must also be examples of those who live under God’s mercy.
Clock-out and go home?
Pastors can never totally clock-out and go home: “Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (II Corinthians 11:29). I am sure thankful that God designed the Church to be under a plurality of leaders. Who could do this a work alone?
Rhythm of personal transformation and pastoral ministry
Elders must remember that the rhythm of personal transformation and pastoral ministry is death and renewal: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (II Corinthains 4:10-12).
This rhythm continually reminds me of my source for strength. The temptation to rely on our own gifts and abilities must be resisted. The apostle spoke of a time when God used his circumstances to remind him to lean on God for strength.
“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead” (II Corinthians 1:8-9).
Our Lord’s rhythm:
We must practice the rhythm of spiritual activity our Lord followed. Trace his steps and you’ll find a pattern of engagement and withdrawal; of crowds and solitude. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). We need time to get perspective in the audience of One. “Come away” Jesus said, “to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). I may not be able to completely clock out but I must get away. Frankly, I always felt that I had to leave the town I minster in to do this. But this was not always feasible. So at least leave the office or hit the DND button on the phone and put up an “In Prayer” sign on your office door.
My lifeline in ministry has been a disciplined practice of Psalm 62:8: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Prayer for me is often a perspective gaining session with God. I just need to clear my mind by pouring out my heart to Him! I must have significant Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16 encounters with God.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).