Getting a Grasp on Life

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1Timothy 4:16

Pastoring is a big job; it’s certainly not for wimps. Statistically, clergy are dropping by the wayside in unprecedented numbers. The hours, stress, expectations, and challenges are demanding and draining. Perhaps one of the more amazing statistics claim only one in ten currently in ministry will retire from some sort of ministry. In theory, if that statistic proves true, nine out of ten who begin in ministry will not finish in ministry. How true is this statistic? If you’re in ministry, when was the last time you gave serious contemplation to quitting?

As I thought about this number, I remembered Paul’s commendation to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4:16 it states, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” This is solid advice from a seasoned ministry profession. Paul told Timothy to keep hold (a good watch) on two areas of his life. First, Timothy was to watch himself or rather his lifestyle and expression of faith. Second, he was to watch closely his teaching and doctrine. He was to be a serious student and professor of truth. If we’re to finish well, keeping a close guard on self and truth is essential. We fail due to lapses in these two aspects of life.

Paul’s continued instruction to Timothy was to persevere in them – both life and truth. The picture presented through perseverance and persistence is never allowing either of them to get beyond an arm’s length away. We are to persistently guard these areas of life. At the church where I serve, we sponsor an Upward Basketball League. I’ve coached for a number of years. Regardless of where you are in the timeline of the season, I find myself reminding my boys, “Get with your man!” The rule states to stay within an arm’s length away from the man you’re defending. If you don’t keep up with your man, you’ll get scored on nearly every time. Don’t let your life or your doctrine get beyond an arm’s length away from you.

Here’s the promise. If you’ll keep a close watch on your life and doctrine and never allow them to get beyond an arm’s length away, you’ll save (keep out of trouble) or rescue both yourself and those you influence. You help others guard their life, live right, and develop sound doctrinal truth by the way you live. While this is a fine encouragement for any clergy, its application lives far beyond the ministry professional. Any influencer is wise to heed Paul’s instruction.