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The Word For Today

Finishing strong 3

'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock.' Acts 20:28 NKJV

Here's another issue church leaders often grapple with: they know how to feed others spiritually, but not themselves. Before leaving the church at Ephesus for the last time, Paul gathered its leaders together and said, 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers' (Acts 20:28 NKJV). Before you attempt to take care of others, learn to take care of yourself. Before God builds the ministry, he builds the minister; otherwise, you become an easy target for the enemy. When the administrative side of church threatened to rob the apostles of their daily prayer and Bible study time, they called 'time out', saying, 'We will give ourselves continually to prayer and...the word' (Acts 6:4 NKJV).

Church leader, don't just focus on preparing your sermon, keep your soul prepared! And don't just set boundaries for your people, set them for yourself. Believing you can cut corners spiritually opens you to wrong relationships and destructive habits. As a result, you end up living on two levels - public service and private struggle. When that happens, you live with the fear of exposure, feel like a hypocrite and forfeit the confidence necessary for God to use you (see 1 John 3:21-22). Consequently the church gets robbed spiritually and suffers.

So...what do struggling servants of God need? Spiritual fathers! Paul writes, 'You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers' (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Find a mature, seasoned friend in ministry and reach for help before your problem gets out of control. This isn't just a good idea - your survival in ministry may depend on it!

Soulfood: 2 Chr 25-28, John 12:20-36, Ps 102:12-17, Pro 27:10-12


Finishing strong 2

'Each day I am burdened... about churches.' 2 Corinthians 11:28 CEV

Let's take another look at why over 50 per cent of church leaders leave the ministry. They love the crowd, but can't handle the pressure. We like to talk about the power of the New Testament church, but what about its problems? The church is made up of human beings, and human beings have unresolved issues.

The New Testament church had: (1) Moral problems. One man was sleeping with his stepmother, and nobody in the church seemed particularly upset about it (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-2). (2) Doctrinal problems. Some Jewish converts thought the Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. The dispute became so heated that it almost split the church down the middle (see Acts 15). (3) Immaturity and 'personality-itis' problems. Paul writes: 'I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it...For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly?...when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings' (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV)? He goes on to say, 'Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world' (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV). Then he adds, 'Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm' (2 Timothy 4:14 NKJV).

If you're a church leader here's the bottom line: if you can't feel the pain, you can't heal the pain! Hidden in your everyday problems and people pressures, you'll find the wisdom to minister effectively. So don't get discouraged - keep going!

Soulfood: 2 Chr 22-24, John 12:12-19, Ps 102:1-11, Pro 27:7-9


Finishing strong 1

'I have finished the race.' 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV

Did you know that over half of those who enter the Christian ministry leave before retirement? Why? There are many reasons - here is one of them: they discover that great revelation comes with a 'thorn'. The apostle Paul, who wrote half the New Testament, says: 'To keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV).

Church leader, there are 168 hours in your week. The hour you spend in the pulpit on Sunday morning showcases you in the areas of your gifting and strength. So your challenge will always be to remember that it is God's Word and God's power, not yours, that changes lives and gets the job done. Notice what Paul said: 'To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.' Paul's thorn came in the form of 'weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties'.

What's your thorn? You can only stand strong before people if you discipline yourself to spend time before God in prayer and Bible study. That's how to stay effective and finish strong in ministry!

Soulfood: 2 Chr 19-21, John 12:1-11, Ps 76, Pro 27:4-6

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