2 Corinthians 12:7-10
How can an elder maintain his spiritual balance, while shepherding the flock of God.
The primary essential of any local church is the presence of the Lord. To attain this happy state with its attendant blessings, there must be two important ingredients: perfect holiness and perfect unity, the unity of the Holy Spirit.
To maintain such ideal conditions in the responsibility, duty, and privilege of spiritually qualified elders.
Happy is the assembly, today, which has godly men at the helm. The identity of elders does not rule the assembly. Idealistically, it is ruled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, and he does this through the elders.
Contrary to what some think, overseership is not a spiritual gift. I Timothy 3:1, “If any man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” If any man desires overseership, if any man stretch himself to overseership.
This implies deep spiritual exercise over a prolonged period of time, during which the Holy Spirit matures and fashions a brother. The Spirit molds him spiritually, morally, socially, intellectually, and experientially, so as to become an elder.
Let us now consider the work of an elder.
It is the performing of this work that brings an elder into situations which are unbendable, so distressing, that he is driven to the point of distraction. Your troubles have just begun.
There are at least five areas in which a true elder is actively engaged.
1. He is under a shepherd or pastor to feed the flock.
2. He is a sentinel to protect the flock.
3. He is a pillar to support the flock.
4. He is a ruler to guide the flock.
5. He is an example to encourage the flock.
Beloved, in the execution of the sacred duties, a true elder can be wounded and scorned. He can be drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. The gun incident.
Due to unmitigated pressure, one can almost, and some do, reach breaking point. Harassed by the care of the church, being distressed by the onslaught of Satan brings physical and mental exhaustion and the accompanying spiritual barrenness.
In some cases, this has led to a total breakdown.
What is the elder’s protection against all of this? Before answering this question outright, let us see how Paul survived in his day. As a pastor and a teacher, Paul was ceaselessly engaged in edifying the Church. Despite the hazards and dangers, he returned to every city where he had preached the Gospel, to teach the saints.
He taught publicly and privately from house to house. He taught in Ephesus night and day for three years, with tears.
During his care for the flock, he received stripes above measure, imprisonments, and he faced death many times.
Five times he received 39 stripes, three times beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times shipwrecked, “I bear on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
These hardships and brutal beatings altered Paul’s appearance. His enemies said that his outward appearance was weak. His speech was contemptible—he probably had an impediment.
In all likelihood, his appearance was grotesque. Could Paul ever recover his spirituality after such brutal treatment? Then there were those who questioned his apostleship.
During this period, Paul used words which described his suffering: afflictions, anguish, distress, fighting, sorrow, stripes, sufferings, tears and tumults.
Interestingly, another set of words appeared in his writings: comfort and comforted. These words are more frequently used in 2 Corinthians than in any other Pauline letter.
Three other words come into focus also. Joy, rejoicing, and triumph.
How did Paul remain unscathed spiritually, while undergoing such persecution for Christ and for His people? See 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4; 2 Timothy 16:17.
He was filled with the Spirit of God. Acts 9:17, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He was filled with the grace of God. God’s strength has been made perfect in weakness. This more than compensated for his grotesque appearance, and also helped him to live above the unscrupulous criticism of his enemies.
Therefore, the Victor cries, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproached, in persecutions, in necessities, in distress, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12-10.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4-13.
At this point, the disciples had just returned to Jesus after their first preaching tour. They were exuberant about their success. “Rejoice rather that your names are His.” They healed diseases and delivered many from demon powers.
No doubt they were somewhat overwrought because of the stress they had been under. John the Baptist had just been murdered. “So the Lord asked them to come aside unto a desert place and rest awhile.”
It would be beneficial for many of God’s people if they heeded the advice of the Lord, coming apart and resting awhile.
Many who are working beyond these capabilities should take note. If we all took time to rest at the feet of Jesus, there would be fewer nervous breakdowns, ulcers, heart attacks, and spiritual casualties. “Hide thyself,” and “Show thyself.” David said, “He maketh me lie down.” Some of the sheep do not seem to have much sense. They need to come apart and rest awhile. He maketh me lie down, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul.
Psalm 46: “God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” “Be still and know that I am God.”
Alcoholics, sitting at the doorstep, the gun incident.