The role of leadership is a gift to those they lead and it is a responsibility entrusted to a leader of great importance. Every leader must know that being a leader is not a position of hierarchy, but one of service. It is an honor to serve those you lead. For a leader to lead well, a leader must stay well. It is important for a leader to take care of his or her life – spirit, soul, and body. Paul told Timothy to take care of himself physically. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he wrote to him in regard to drinking a little wine for the sake of his stomach. I don’t believe that Paul was merely giving Timothy instructions about wine. It was not meant to be a license for drinking or a law against it. These were the words of a spiritual father to a spiritual son as a matter of love and concern for his wellbeing.
1 Timothy 5:23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
This verse of Scripture implies that Paul was aware of a digestive problem that Timothy struggled with. Paul was concerned for the health of his spiritual son Timothy. Paul was telling Timothy to be sure to take care of himself physically. Let’s consider an even greater scope of possibility here. In Scripture wine is also a metaphor for a happy and prosperous soul.
Psalms 104:15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.
Ecclesiastes 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything.
I believe that it is important for a leader to take care of themselves. Life is not about ministry, it is about relationship and when we are not healthy in spirit, soul, or body we are often hindered in our ability to lead. Being unhealthy in any aspect does not disqualify us from leading; it merely creates a personal challenge in our ability to lead. Surely there are many times in life where the circumstance and situation causes us to have to press through hard times, but we should not seek to religiously inflict pain upon ourselves. If we seek to live godly lives we will suffer persecution, but we must not be lazy, negligent, or irresponsible in taking care of our own spirit, soul, or body in our walk in life. When we experience the consequences of not taking care of ourselves we can hardly blame the devil or some sort of tribulation when things go awry. In such cases we can only blame our own foolishness.
In my first years of ministry I was very serious about my responsibility of leadership. I put my whole energy into ministry and leading others. I had virtually no time to do anything that was of a personal pleasure nature. I didn’t have time for such things! In truth, I was overweight, overtired, overworked, and unbalanced in my personal humanity. When I turned 50 a friend of mine encouraged me to take some personal time to bless my own soul. When I was young I used to hunt and I enjoyed it very much, but a life of ministry focus gave me no time for such personal pleasure. My friend gave me a hunting rifle and encouraged me to go hunting again. He also gave me an archery bow and encouraged me even more! When I was young I used to hunt with an archery bow and the thought of being able to easily go to the woods and use a silent weapon for practice enticed me enough to take the challenge. For the past ten years I have taken personal time to hunt and it has enriched my soul and empowered me to have a more healthy perspective on life and ministry. It has also provided some great grocery supplies of an organic nature! I have had many God experiences in the woods, but just the health that has come to my soul has enriched my abilities as a leader. About the same time in my life I began to do a morning run and do some physical exercise. In previous years I always gave the excuse of being too busy to do such a thing, but I discovered that waking a bit earlier in the morning gave me all the time I needed. At age 50 I began to become considerably healthier spiritually, emotionally, and physically than I was at age 40. At age 60 it is even better! I continue with my daily exercise, I eat to be healthy, and I enjoy some time in the woods now and then. For me, these things are the same as ‘drinking a little wine’. These are physical things I do that empower me to be a healthy leader and thus I can continue in my responsibilities of life in a healthy way for the sake of those who look to me as a leader. As a spiritual father in the lives of others, I say to them, take care of your life. A ‘little wine’ is good for the stomach!
In addition to taking care of himself, Timothy was to be aware of the condition of the lives of those in his charge. He was to even be aware of men’s sins. He was to be aware that some sins are easily seen ahead of time while others are revealed later. Leaders lead a community of people to be a testimony of the character, nature, way, power, and authority of Christ. This means they must inspire, challenge, and lead those in the care to embrace the testimony of Christ in their personal lives.
1 Timothy 5:24-25 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
Timothy was to teach those in his care how to be good servants. In modern terms this would be to teach people how to be good employers and employees in the everyday world. People who are part of the community of Christ must represent the family well in the communities of the world. It is part of the responsibility of leadership to instruct those in their care in the way to live as family members in Christ. These include teaching them to be good, honest, diligent, and hard workers in their jobs and responsibilities of service in life.
1 Timothy 6:1-2 Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.
The role of leadership is very practical. It is not about leading others in church programs, church ministry, or church projects. It is about leading others in a way of life. It is about leading others in being a testimony of Christ’s community in the communities of the world. For a leader to be concerned about the personal lives of those they lead is part of a leader’s business! They must set an example to follow and also take charge to lead those in their care into the testimony of Christ in all things!
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson