Pastor, Is Your Self-Control Well?
Some aspects of minimal self-control can be readily observed by others: a large waist-line, a short-fuse, and near-sighted planning cannot be missed.1 Yet, there are other elements that may be unknown for a while, including any number of hidden sins which will inevitably be revealed. One must ask; "Can a leader be disciplined in one area and not another, even if the area is publically invisible?" History says that it is only a matter a time before the unseen is manifested.
The issue of gluttony comprises a major role in addressing the body, the soul, and ultimately, spiritual wellness. Gluttony has a broader scope than just the commonly attributed matter of over-eating, as it is multi-faceted:
- Gluttony is the habit of surrendering to appetites (Genesis 25:30; 27:4; Exodus 16:3;Deuteronomy 12:15, 20; 14:26; 1 Samuel 2:29; 1 Kings 20:12; Proverbs
16:26; 18:20; Ecclesiastes 6:7; Isaiah 29:8; 56:12).
- Gluttony is the habit of eating the wrong kinds of foods (Proverbs 23:1-3; 19-21; Ecclesiastes 5:18; 9:7).
- Gluttony is the habit of eating at the wrong time (Ecclesiastes 10:17).
The enemy has always sought to have believers meet natural needs through unnatural means. The needs are not the problem; it is the means of satisfying the needs that must be examined. Whether it is relationships, nourishment, finances, etc., the enemy has not changed his game plan, yet the faithful continue to fall prey. Headlines reveal the names of the popular, thrown from the vehicle of success. They crawl along the roadside of failure, refusing to acknowledge their sin, clearly choosing the world's wisdom over God's.
The book of Numbers reveals that even in the midst of God’s gracious provision of manna, the Israelites’ were exposed for having “yielding to craving” and consequently, were struck “with a very great plague” (11:31-34). Deuteronomy vividly describes the penalty for gluttony (21:20)—death by stoning. “This offense is as grave a threat to the covenant as worshipping other gods.2 Such a warning includes the realization that too much of food that is good for the body isn’t really good for the body.3 Clearly, “Christians are immune to neither obesity nor eating disorders.”4 As an antidote in succumbing to the power of appetites and even governmental/cultural influences, Daniel and the other young Hebrew men taken captive to Babylon serve as an example of godly perseverance:
Daniel was one of several young men taken in captivity to Babylon and chosen to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. The young men were to eat the king’s choice food and wine. Daniel made up his mind that he would not eat or drink that which was offered, because he didn’t want to defile himself. He asked if he and the other young men might eat vegetables and drink water. After a 10-day trial, they were tested. Their appearance was better than those who ate the king’s choice food. They then were allowed to eat vegetables and drink water, which had been proven to be much better for them (Dan. 1:8-16).5
21st Century Leadership
Christian leaders are commanded to be examples to the flock, particularly pastors, who are both sheep and shepherd (1 Peter 5:3). Such modeling is especially needed during the difficult times of Christian living that inevitably comes in an increasingly secular world. New Testament scholar Craig S. Keener notes that such first-century leaders “normally asked disciples to imitate them, and in so doing took the role of father figures.”6
Pastoral qualifications include the characteristic of “self-control,” clearly indicating the necessity of discipline in every area, including the intake of food (Titus 1:8). Such self-control includes the realization that his visual appearance may communicate more than anything that he ever verbalizes. “From the first day a pastor arrives at a new church in a new community until the day he leaves, he is judged as a representative of God” and has the “singular responsibility to demonstrate Christ.”7 This has far-reaching implications, to include proclaiming and presenting self-discipline to believers and unbelievers. A lack of discipline may cause sheep to follow their shepherd down the road of self-neglect, beyond hope of repair, bringing their ministries, if not their lives, to a premature end.8
Examination. Are you willing to look in the physical mirror and the biblical mirror for an honest evaluation? Perhaps you should consider an honest assessment from your wife.
Exhortation. Are you truly listening to the Holy Spirit through the Word? Or, are you telling others what He says to them as an effort to ignore your own need for fresh submission?
Exemplification. Are you willing to truly be an example to the family of God in every aspect of self-control? The high calling of leadership demands attention to every detail.
© Jim Fisher, Ph.D.
Christian Education and Leadership Concepts, LLC.
Fit for the Fight, August 2010
1 Much of the information is taken from the author’s dissertation: The Relationship between Selected Disciplines of Physical Wellness and Spiritual Wellness among Southern Baptist Pastors, 2006.
2 John Walton and Victor Matthews, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 194.
3 Joyce Rogers, The Bible's Seven Secret to Healthy Living (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 106.
4 Jim Wilcox, What Would Jesus Drive and Should You Care? (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2004), 96.
5 Tommy Yessick, Building Blocks for Longer Life and Ministry (Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1997), 67.
6 Craig Keener, The IVP Background Commentary:New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 615.
7 Frank Mirnirth, Paul Meir, Brian Newman, Richard Meir, Allen Doran, and David Giongo, What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 168.
8 Don Colbert, What Would Jesus Eat?, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 64-65.