Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Titus 1:2
I know a lot of men who are temperate and worthy of respect. They are good to other people and are good fathers and husbands. I know even more who are self-controlled and infinitely patient. All these traits can be cultivated in us whether Christian or non-Christian. But then the list of qualifications Paul lists for elders gets steep.
He must be ‘sound in faith, in love and in endurance.’ No matter how intense his own personal trials are, his faith will not waver. He is sound in his knowledge of God and steady to trust His promises. No matter how many times he hears others talk of their trials, he can be depended upon for a response that reflects unshakeable trust in God. Putting platitudes aside, he weighs in with answers that have substance and credibility because of his life-long walk of faith.
Think of your steepest problem right now. Is it a relationship that is stuck? Is it your health? Is it a set of circumstances that, when grouped together, point to a disastrous outcome? Think of how much you churn inside about it. Think of what the thought of it, right now, does to your spirit.
What if a man of God, the kind I’ve just described, invited you to open up and share your burden? He would be a great listener. He would not be distracted, giving you undivided attention, with his face open and eager to hear whatever you’d like to say. He would be relaxed and would not rush you to condense and conclude your story. You’d empty your heart and afterward, you’d await his response. You’d hold your breath, wondering if you would hear Romans 8:28, but instead, you’d hear soft assurances that God can be trusted. He’d tell you a story or two of his own, reminding you that God is unchanging and gracious, no matter how difficult the path. He’d wisely ask you a few questions that would cause you to dig deeply for an answer. You’d gain an expanded perspective of your burdens and realize that you are not really hemmed in like you thought.
He’d offer to pray for you and would take his time. He’d talk to Jesus in a way that revealed he’s really been listening. He’d ask Jesus to pour out His love in practical ways that would let you know you are not forgotten. And the best part is ~ after the ‘amen’ ~ he’d offer you a listening ear whenever you might need him again.
You have just met a man who is sound in faith, love, and endurance. This kind of person is not fashioned overnight. He’s been seasoned by life, by living through sorrows and mountaintop experiences. He’s faced a myriad of moments where he stood in faith for his own places of unbelief.
These men are rare but I can think of some and am grateful to say that I have. It would have been easier if Paul would have said ~ ‘Find someone with intermittent faith, conditional love, and one who is likely to quit.’ The pool of possibilities would have opened wide.
The call to develop these sterling qualities is upon me too, Lord. Keep me steady. Amen