“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28, KJV.
Here’s a good word for pastors … and for all the rest of us, “Take care of yourself!”
The Apostle Paul spoke these words at a pastors conference in Meletus when he called the elders from Ephesus to come to him. He was encouraging them in their work and warning them concerning the dangers and the problems that they would be facing as they cared for the flock. He says take heed, give attention to, watch out … first of all … for yourselves.
The Amplified version says it this way, “Take care and be on guard for yourselves and the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you bishops and guardians …” The truth is that unless we take care of ourselves, we will never be effective in taking care of others. We must have a base, a center, from which to operate. We must be secure in our own relationship with God, and be at peace within ourselves, in order to give what is needed to someone else.
We need to take heed to our spirit, our emotions, even to our physical body. Otherwise, we are likely to fly off the handle, come unglued, miss God, and fail to fulfill our mission in life.
This holds true for pastors, and everyone else. Take care of yourself!
1. Take care of yourself in your time with God.
For me, taking heed to myself begins with the time I spend with God. When I have my time with the Lord in the morning, my day is set in order. My thoughts are aligned with Him and His plans. I have direction and purpose and a plan, and whatever happens during the day, I am prepared.
When I don’t take that time, I can spend my whole day reacting to situations, problems, or people. I’m not operating from that center, and I lack focus.
A morning devotional time is a MUST for me. This time consists of prayer, worship, Bible reading, meditation, praying in the Spirit and more. But there is one other element that makes everything else work—quietness. We just need that moment of peace, where we can “Be still, and know that I am God …” Psalms 46:10, KJV.
Like David said, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” Psalms 27:14, KJV. We need to learn to wait on the Lord and just have peace that His way is the best way. Just trust that He’s got a plan, and he’s working it all out. It’s in the quiet place that He can speak to you and give you rest. There is something about quieting your heart and being at peace within yourself that enables you to connect with God and find the strength and wisdom you need to move forward.
2. Take care of your most important relationships.
Here’s one of the great mistakes we can make in ministry, business, or life in general. Sometimes we get so busy taking care of everyone else, that we don’t have time for our most important relationships. We can become so consumed with saving the world or building our business that we neglect to care for the most important people in our lives.
At a pastors conference we often attend, the pastor continually exhorts the ministers and their spouses to go out for a date. It’s a simple thing, really, but we often neglect it. Just set aside some time to listen to one another, to look one another in the eyes, to encourage and love one another. Keep the romance going. Keep the love flowing. It’s essential, and if you don’t do it, everything else will suffer.
Our children, too, are of paramount importance. All of these things are elucidated in the Bible, if we would just pay attention. It says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4, KJV. Not only do those people in your congregation or other people under your care need attention, but your own children need love, affection, and nurture. Yes, we need to discipline our children, but we also need to have fun with them and guide them gently with both our words and our example. Share your heart with them and your love for Jesus, and help them to be drawn into the Father’s arms through His Son Jesus.
Remember, too, no matter what your age, to honor your mother and father. As the scripture says, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2, 3, KJV. Honor your parents with your time, with your patience, with your ear. If you just take the time to listen, you may find that they have something to say to you that you cannot hear anywhere else. And the Father’s blessing will be on your life as you obey His command.
3. Take care what voices you follow.
One thing you will find out very quickly in the church is that everyone has an opinion. Some think the services should be shorter. Some think they should be longer. Some want more of the gifts of the spirit. Some want less or none. Some people want you to cater to their every whim. Others want you to leave them alone. You can easily find yourself as a slave to everyone else’s ideas.
Not only that, but there are competing voices in your own mind. “I should be praying more, visiting more, getting this project started, doing a new outreach, etc.” Often these are things that God has put in your heart, but the problem is that there is not enough of you to go around. Perhaps you can relate to this even if you are not a pastor. “I should be . . . . . . . . . .”
All of us are dealing with competing interests in our lives. We seek to find the balance between house, family, job, play, worship, and more. Sometimes we feel like we are trying to be 12 different people at once.
The answer is found in our relationship with the Lord. We need to just lay it all at His feet, surrender our will to Him, and let Him put all the pieces in place. Then we can be just one person, serving God. We cannot please everyone. We cannot even really please ourselves. But when we put our focus on pleasing him, whether it’s in the pulpit, or the boardroom, or playing catch with our son, everything will come together and make sense.
We can never satisfy all the many voices that compete for our attention. And we will never really be able to effectively help anyone else until we learn to live our lives from the center, from that place when the Lord rules and reigns in our hearts.
Be blessed my friend … and take care of yourself.