1 Timothy 3:1 – The Hardship Of Spiritual Leadership
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1 ESV)
1 Timothy 3:1 is a verse that is often glossed over. We tend to focus on the verses after it that describes the attributes of an overseer (we won’t argue about what an “overseer” is, we will just put them in a place of spiritual leadership). We overlook it because we don’t really understand the context of Paul writing to Timothy here. 1 Timothy was probably written in mid 60 AD. This was when the persecution of the Church began intensifying and then escalated under the reign of Nero and the emperors after him. By 70 AD, James, Paul, and Peter had been martyred. Think about this: three of the first spiritual leaders of the Church had been killed only 5 years after Paul told Timothy that it is noble to aspire to be a spiritual leader. We read this verse and think of the mega preachers and guest speakers who fill auditoriums and forget the spiritual leaders in non-Christian countries and those who died for the Church today. A spiritual leader in Timothy’s day was in constant danger and faced real persecution. They did not look forward to a packed house or book deal, they looked forward to hardship and constant struggle. Jesus is referred to as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53) and he told his disciples they must become slaves in order to lead (Mark 10:42-44). Big churches and speaking gigs are not bad, but when they become the reason we lead, they become sin.
Here are two questions to ask yourself today about spiritual leadership:
- Am I willing to be a spiritual leader who will endure hardships for those I lead?
- Am I following a spiritual leader right now who is like the spiritual leaders of the New Testament?