Walking the Line
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with skillful hands. -Psalm 78:72
Sitting in seminary one afternoon, one of my professors shared a story that made a huge impact. Class hadn’t started yet, or we were on a break or something, but the professor began to share that looking at the books in his home library was a humbling experience for him. This pegged my interest and I began to listen intently wondering, “How in the world could looking at some books be a humbling experience?” He continued to explain that many of his book were given to him by friends that dropped out of ministry over the course of years do to one moral failing or another. Wow. Powerful. The books to him weren’t books, but scars (in some respect) of dear friends of his that didn’t make the distance. He lesson to us was clear–if we were going to go the distance, we needed to a close watch on our hearts.
The above verse contains valuable lessons from the life of David.
Integrity of Heart. God seems to care more about the inside of the leader than He does the fruit of his life. Most men have the priorities backward. Our hearts are slippery creatures that seem bent on evil. How do we maintain our integrity of heart? As as young believer I was blessed to be surrounded by men who were honest about their struggles and passionate about God. Being surrounded by these men helped me understand that we can be passionate while imperfect. In sharing struggles and shortfalls with these men helped me grow stronger in my walk with the Lord. As I left the military and headed for the ministry, I have seen over time that isolation from true friends, or peers is a common pitfall. In this last 7 years in the ministry I have found that it has been helpful to nurture relationships with fellow pastors. I am thankful for these guys who are friends. Guys I have freedom to share my struggles and successes with. Through them I believe the integrity of my heart has been strengthened.
Skillful hands. Preaching and teaching is an amazing calling that is a wonderful blessing. I am grateful that I have been called to the ministry of the proclamation of the Word. There is freedom here. There are pitfalls. We can become lazy in our preparation, but I believe God cares about the quality of our work of preaching and shepherding. Preaching every week requires much time in preparation. I have learned that it takes hard work to cut out time to work on my skill as a pastor. We need to. In recent months I have tried to increase my reading on preaching and pastoring in order to sharpen my skills. I went to a pastor’s conference hosted by Alistair Begg in May to encourage and invigorate my passion for the ministry.
Integrity of heart and skill of hand are linked together. We need to be diligent on both battle fronts. I desire to go the distance in this marathon.
Hi, Gunnar – thanks for the timely reminders. That comment about ‘scars’ sinks in. I have found that the most important thing for me in ministry is not keeping my heart pure, but keeping it fresh. For me, and this is a subjective statement, purity is about looking at me and seeking how well I am doing. A focus on purity fosters a self-consciousness that I don’t find healthy. But as my focus is on Christ and loving and glorifying Him, my heart is refreshed and renewed – and one of the glorious results of this is purity of heart. And, as you mentioned, this leaks into the ministry of the word. Thanks again.
Thank you for this post. I am not a pastor but I fully agree with the points you have made about integrity of the heart and skillful hands. I have been involved in ministry for many years and many of my friends are pastors. We have found that we need to give each other the freedom to call each other out when we see sin creeping in. This has served us well in keeping our hearts in check. When I have been discouraged in ministry I have always found it is because I am focused on me and not He!
I also think that God has not only given us skills to help lead in whatever area of ministry we are called to, (if you are the guy who empties the waste basket show leadership and do it with joy as an example of how the Lord would want you to serve) He gives us opportunity to practice those skills and lead from where we are. Honing your skills and talents for the Glory of God is something we should work at no matter what area of ministry we are in. I need to do more of that, thanks for the challenge!