True Friends in Ministry

True Friends in Ministry

We see Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah standing the test of time. They are wise and godly. When they needed to stand in the face of temptation, they stood while everyone else bowed. Together they kept the faith, even in the middle of Babylon.

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
Without counsel plans fail,
    but with many counselors they succeed.
(Proverbs 15:21-22)

Throughout the Proverbs, the author urges us to seek wisdom. We could even say that repeatedly wisdom “calls out” to us so that we might gain knowledge and understanding (Prov. 1:20-22).

Why do we need wisdom? Why do we need knowledge and understanding? The answer is simple: so that we might live to the glory of God. Therefore, the Proverbs speak about several practical aspects of our daily lives. They talk about the incentives of living wisely concerning wealth, power, and social status. However, at the same time, they teach us about wisdom concerning more intimate matters like familial and friendly relationships. I want to focus on this idea of friendships, especially regarding pastors and ministry leaders.

Often the temptation for ministers is to be stubbornly individualistic. We are good at keeping our heads down and our hands on the plow. We are, probably more than we like to admit, wading through rough and rugged waters while thinking, “I will do this on my own, and I will do it my way.” Besides, wasn’t this how the Apostle Paul “did” ministry? No, it was not how the Apostle planted churches, evangelized, preached powerful sermons, and the like. Paul wisely surrounded himself with godly friends. One New Testament scholar has pointed out that Paul identifies more than 65 people as friends in ministry or members throughout his letters. This can be seen in the closing remarks of his letters, as he repeatedly makes mention of men and women with whom he enjoyed gospel partnership and deeply committed friendship.

If you reread the above proverb, you will notice that it bluntly states that those who seek to go their own way, the stubborn individualistic minister, is one who “lacks sense.” However, the one who surrounds himself, like Paul, with godly counselors has understanding, walks intentionally forward, and finds success.

Why is it considered wise to have godly friends as a host of counselors in ministry? Here are three reasons:

They stand as an encouragement against temptation and sin.

Evangelical authors have spilled much ink regarding the hardships of ministry; therefore, I do not feel the need to spend much time convincing you of that truth. Nevertheless, with trials and tribulations comes overbearing temptation. Our great enemy, Satan, knows it is the opportune time to attack when we are at our lowest points. Therefore, he moves swiftly and convincingly, attempting to bring shame and despair into the minister’s life.

I think about Christ as the Spirit drives him into the wilderness. There he spends forty days and forty nights fasting and praying. Matthew 4:2 says that Jesus was “hungry.” What an understatement! Jesus was physically exhausted, and in his flesh, he was low. It was then, in this moment of weakness, that the tempter came to him.

That is the scene that I am painting for the minister, too. When we are at our lowest point, the spiritual battle rages. We must, like Christ, always be ready. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we often do not look to Christ when Satan tempts us to despair and tells us of the guilt within. Instead, we find ourselves looking to our circumstances; we look for instant gratification. In the low points of our ministry, we long to feel acceptance, success, and affection. Therefore, when temptation comes, we are often weak.

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