Do you want to stay faithful to your calling for the rest of your life? Do you want to stay faithful to your wife until death do you part? Do you want to stay faithful to Jesus until He takes you home?
Over the past few years, many Christian leaders who I look up to have “fallen away.” Some have burned out and others have had a complete moral failure. With these leaders heavy on my heart, I have been searching the Scriptures trying to learn how to prevent this in my own life and the lives of my friends who are in ministry.
2 Peter 1:5 -10 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall."
This is a 100% sure, time-tested promise from God that if we practice these qualities, we will be fruitful and will never fall away. This means there is a way to finish well in ministry, stay faithful to our wives, and never abandon the faith that we love so much. Let’s take a quick look at each one of them and a quick challenge on how to practice them in order to never fall away...
FAITH- This is our foundation. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” We often preach the Gospel, but don’t believe it for ourselves. Let’s fight to remember our simple faith in our First Love we had at first.
PRACTICE- come back daily in our devotions to the simplicity of the Gospel (for ourselves) and genuine love for God.
VIRTUE- This is moral excellence. Let’s be intentional to kill what is not of Christ in our thoughts, desires, and actions: i.e. slandering other pastors or people, lust, pride, insecurity, greed, deceit, etc. Let’s beg him to kill these things.
PRACTICE- have a friend that you tell everything to… everything.
KNOWLEDGE- We ought to be constantly learning about God, this world, and the reality of the Gospel. Let's not disregard the deep study of the Bible because we saw the generations before us neglecting application in favor of knowledge.
PRACTICE- read more of the Bible and other books about who God is than we read leadership books.
SELF-CONTROL- This is mastering one’s sensual appetites. We all have fleshly desires that if left unchecked will lead to destruction. We must fight to grow in the fruit of the Spirit in such a way that gives us control over our appetites for lust, alcohol, anger, etc.
PRACTICE- deny yourself small things that don’t matter to build more self-control in the more destructive things in the future (coffee 1 month per year; a meal periodically; dessert; etc.)
STEADFASTNESS- This is patient endurance. This means that we stay firmly fixed in place regardless of numbers, events, criticism, etc. No matter how bad the storm gets we remain firm in our purpose to love God, love our wives, and advance the Gospel.
PRACTICE- have someone in your life who has been in ministry for twice as long as you have and get perspective from them in the tough seasons.
GODLINESS- This is a focus, love, and desire for God that results in actions that please God. Let’s fight to not make Jesus a means to a ministry end, but fight to personally enjoy and delight in God just because He’s God. Let’s get our hearts in a place where we smile when we hear the name Jesus rather than frowning because ministry responsibilities flood our minds.
PRACTICE- fill your life with things that make you smile with delight in God. Put it on the calendar.
BROTHERLY AFFECTION- This is where we get the word Philadelphia (city of brotherly love). Let’s fight to have deep genuine friendships with other believers. It is a scary thing to get to a place where everyone in your life is a follower and you have no true friends.
PRACTICE- cultivate and invest in at least two deep genuine friendships with other believers who are not people you lead.
LOVE- This is unconditional love for people. We are very good at loving people from a pulpit, but let’s also fight to love all people at all times (homeless, cops, other races, etc.) Scripture says that without this love, everything we do is meaningless.
PRACTICE- stop viewing love as a duty and start viewing love as your delight. Jesus said that His food (soul satisfaction) was to do God’s will. Let’s view our calling to love all people as a way to feast on God and satisfy our souls.
These qualities may seem pretty basic and not anything revolutionary to us as pastors and leaders. Our temptation is to start viewing these seemingly basic qualities as things we can put on the back-burner. We must keep these qualities as essential to our fruitfulness and longevity in ministry. God promises that if we practice these qualities we will NEVER fall.
REFLECTION: Which of these qualities have you put on the back burner? How can you practice that quality today?