Working Harder Than Any of Them
In his Meditations On Preaching, Francis Grimke writes, “A man who is not always willing to make the proper preparation has no business in the pulpit, and the sooner he gets out the better.”
This statement conveys a simple, yet striking message: pastors must be hard-working and diligent. That might seem obvious; after all, Paul exhorts pastors to be “disciplined,” “hard-working,” and “train [themselves] for godliness” (Titus 1:8, 2 Tim. 2:6, 1 Tim. 4:8a). If you’re a pastor, ask yourself: do you feel the temptation to be lazy? Are you distracted more than you are diligent?
Below I will offer three reasons pastors must pursue diligence, and then two practical ways to grow.
REASONS FOR PASTORAL DILIGENCE
1. The pastor should pursue diligence for his own sake.
In 1 Timothy 4:15, Paul passes onto Timothy a principle of personal spiritual attendance. In other words, the pastor must tend to his own soul even though he is responsible for the souls of others. One qualification for the pastoral office is the management of one’s household (1 Tim. 3:4), which entails care and concern for oneself.
Reflecting on the obstacles that keep us from beholding Christ in his glory, John Owen describes “contrary vicious habits” which lead the Christian to be “slothful and negligent in the contemplation of that glory which transforms our minds.” More so than other callings, personal holiness is essential to the pastorate; therefore, a pastor who is slothful in attending to his own soul will likely be slothful in attending to the souls of those under his care.
2. The pastor should pursue diligence for his people’s sake.
Paul instructs Timothy to “practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:15).
What’s the purpose of progress? It’s not merely so Timothy might grow in self-confidence, given his apparent misgivings about his calling (2 Tim. 1:7). Rather, the pastor’s hard-earned progress should accrue greater respect and trust among the church. This growing respect and trust will enable the pastor to deliver hard teachings. So pastor, work hard so you can deliver the hard word.
3. The pastor should pursue diligence for God’s sake.
God doesn’t need our efforts; he could simply say the word and convert all his elect and sanctify all his saints.
But God typically works through saints. God receives glory through weak vessels—pastors. This is exactly what Paul says in Colossians 1:28–29: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Contrary to the idea that grace is incompatible with effort, God’s power is demonstrated when pastors, weak and feeble as they may be, strive and toil for the upbuilding of his church. In fact, our need to work hard in order to be faithful demonstrates our dissimilarity with God. God has no need to work hard or toil or labor. Our creatureliness demands our diligence.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO GROW IN DILIGENCE
1. Seek accountability for how you spend your time.
It’s not uncommon today to get on social media, take one quick glance at a pastor’s Twitter account, and see he has been tweeting several times throughout the day. I’m not suggesting that is necessarily sin or unfaithfulness, but I am raising the question of accountability. Dear pastor, to whom are you accountable to with your time?
2. Consider how little time you have with your people before they will meet God.
This should cause us to tremble. When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an accounting of your ministry, what will you regret? What will cause you to rejoice?
So, brother pastor, as you think of this coming Sunday, what distraction do you need to lay aside in order to prepare diligently to run the race of gospel proclamation? You will not regret your labors because laid up for you is an eternal crown of glory, which the Chief Shepherd will give you when he appears (1 Pet. 5:4).