Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3.1
Most of us at sometime or other in our lives have found ourselves taking on new responsibilities or had them thrust upon us. It might be a new job. Marriage. Children. Church. Or we find ourselves picking up the pieces for someone else’s mistakes. In any of these contexts we can feel the pressure of entering territory we haven’t been in before. It stretches us. And because we feel the inevitable tension that comes with stretching, we can wonder where on earth God’s grace is!
But the tension isn’t unusual. And the stretching isn’t ungodly.
Speaking in the context of church leadership, Paul says that whoever desires to be an overseer (leadership role) desires a noble task. The word translated aspires literally means to stretch oneself out to touch something. We could very loosely paraphrase what Paul said in the words “whoever is prepared to strech himself out to be an overseer…”.
People who aspire to any kind of role of responsibility have to be prepared to stretch themselves.
Let me give you three ways in which we will be stretched if we want to take on more responsibility, especially spiritual responsibility:
Firstly, there is the stretch of self-discipline.
One of the pictures Paul uses of the Christian life, on more than one occasion, is that of the athlete: run in such a way as to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9.24)
No athletic success is gained without self-discipline. The body and its desires have to be mastered and trained. Effective Christian living requires that we train [ourselves] to be godly (1 Timothy 4.7).
Secondly, there is the stretch of the Spirit.
The Spirit sometimes takes us places we wouldn’t normally choose to go. The Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Luke 4). The Spirit led Philip out of a revival to talk to one man making a journey to Africa (Acts 8). The Spirit challenges our thinking. He stretches us as He takes us into new locations and new experiences.
Finally, there is the stretch of circumstances.
Incredible apostle as Paul was, his whole apostolic career propelled him into circumstances that sometimes stretched him to breaking point. 2 Corinthians 1 records that when he was in Asia, he despaired of his life:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1.8-9)
There he was in the centre of God’s will – at breaking point!
You might wonder what the upside is in all of this. Simply this: stretching releases God’s grace into our lives. We train ourselves to be godly – and we experience the grace of God. We open our lives up to the Spirit – and we find we are flowing in the grace of God. And even in difficult circumstances we find that His grace enables us to build faith.
Go on – stretch. It will make a bit more space for the grace of God in your life.