The Minister’s Heart
It was said by John Piper that the minister’s greatest asset is his heart. I agree.
All of us have seen men with great gifting, but with a spiritual smallness of heart that leaves us uninspired and feeling cold. Others limp along with broken hearts, while still others put up walls to protect themselves. In my opinion, nothing can compensate for a spiritually sick heart in a minister. Now amount of gifting can replace what the heart is lacking. Conversely, I find nothing more attractive and inspiring than a minister with a heart like God’s. Gifts can be turned on and off. The heart simply is what it is at any given moment.
The great quote about King David was that he was “a man after God’s own heart”.
The heart of a minister is a broad subject, but there are a few aspects of that topic that I want to mention for your consideration.
The Carnal Heart
Pastors are men, and men are tempted with sin. As Pastor Chuck Smith has said, “We are redeemed spirits in unredeemed bodies”. The Apostle Paul said it well in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Nothing good dwells in my flesh. It has no inherent capability to be holy, but only to sin. Every pastor knows this battle between flesh and spirit. The pastor must put forth great effort to stay close to God, and to resist sin. The battle occurs daily. If a man is overrun by sin for a season, inevitably his ministry is affected in some negative way. He knows to do right, but doesn’t. Good intentions are good, but they are not the same as right actions. Knowing what holiness is is not the same thing as walking in holiness. Knowing “how to do ministry” is not the same as doing it with a heart that is unburdened by sin. Each one of us thanks God for His daily mercy and grace. If you are a pastor who is burdened by sin, remember that you have been set free from the bondage of sin. (Re-read Romans 5 & 6). Repent and do the first works, and return to your first love. (Revelation 2:5) God is good. Turn back to Him with renewed vigor.
The Broken Heart
If a pastor does his job well, he will eventually suffer from a broken heart. Pastoral ministry is people oriented, and people sin and hurt each other.
The Walled In Heart
A pastor is sometimes tempted to wall off his heart, in order to avoid suffering the heartbreaks that result from committing himself on an emotional level. I don’t think that a pastor can serve well if he tends to protect himself too much.
The Jesus Heart
There was no sin in Jesus. He was temped in all ways as we are tempted. He knew what it was like to be tempted with lust, fear, pride, anger. He knew what it was like to want to be recognized and appreciated, but to not receive it. He knew what it was to go without some of the comforts of life. I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus understands my temptations very well. He is not shocked at my humanity, frailty, and my pre-disposition to sin.
To be sure, Jesus suffered from what we would call a “broken heat”. He poured Himself out time and time again. He poured Himself into people’s lives, and especially into the Twelve, who all forsook Him at His arrest and death. And yet, Jesus never turned back from doing the will of His Father in Heaven. I find great comfort in knowing that Jesus understood the deep pain of a broken heart, and yet never turned back.
I don’t see Jesus ever walling in His heart. He did not live a self-protecting life, but He lived a very poured out life. I see Jesus rising early to pray. Surely, this added much to His ability to give and give and give. He was fully human, and knew the dangers of becoming cynical and bitter with people. He understood well the propensities of others to use and abuse, yet I never see Jesus pulling back and protecting Himself from the pain and cost of loving to the uttermost. I must consider Jesus’ life of holiness and prayer as keys to living a life that does not protect itself out of a mentality of “self-preservation”. In addition, I am sure that as Jesus always did those things that pleased the Father, that that obedience must have led Jesus to know when to go, what to do, and when not to go, or not to do.
I do not have an answer for how a pastor ought to care for his heart. I have suffered all three of the above described scenarios. However I choose to live, I know that Jesus is and always needs to be my model.
May God lead us well as we serve Him. May we find all our strength in Him, all our guidance, all our comfort, and all our love in Him.