Titus 1: 7-9 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Elders are men who are to stand firm. He is to hold fast. That term hold fast is one we take for granted that everyone knows. To hold something fast though is not the opposite of holding something slow. It means to hold something securely. Think of the word fasten your seat belts. You put your seat belt on and lock it into place so that you won’t be tossed out of the car if it crashes. You are tethered in. It means being securely tied to something. It means being unable to be moved. It means standing firm.
The elder must be dialed in, fastened in, locked in, secured, and standing firm to the word of God. They have a deathgrip on the truth and won’t let go. Nothing mentioned in the previous virtues should lead you to think of anything less than firmness. When it comes to a hospitable and loving man who is not pugnacious or self-willed, we cannot see that as a weak man. So often in media, pastors are portrayed as mousy effeminate men who are soft spoken and tender like a gay therapist. We think that being hospitable and loving must mean that a man is timid and soft.
Nothing in these qualifications are about weakness, rather they are a display of masculine humility. Elders are fathers and they therefore will love their flock like a father loves his child. A masculine father can care for his child with tenderness while still being able to protect his family. An elder must be a man who holds firm to the faith.
Even when the scriptures say that God is made strong in weakness, we don’t turn that as an excuse to make a virtue of weakness. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul was not a weakling. He faced shipwrecks, wild animals, hatred, foul weather, and he was beat, left for head, and returned right back to the same place to preach again. He is not a soft man. He doesn’t boast in his own strength but rather that it is the strength of God which makes strong even where he is weak. He does not make a virtue out of being soft, rather he writes in 1 Corinthians Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
The apostle Paul though was not writing anything new. For example we learn from another man of God about standing firm in Joshua 23:6 Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left.
Therefore an elder must be and we all must aspire to be people who stand on the word of God firmly. We must hold fast. We must latch on, fasten, secure ourselves to the truth. We are to know whom we have believeth and not turn from him to the left or the right. We must be men of the word, not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. We don’t chase after every latest fad but are firmly planted in God’s word. We are to delight in God’s word so that we will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Paul says that the man who is to be an officer in the church must stand firm, hold fast, to the faith word which is in accordance with the teaching. He is to be a man of the word. Not an effeminate man who is always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. There are people who read and read and read theology and they trade doctrines like baseball cards. It is a hobby where they chase all kinds of fads. They are no more secure than pop up tent in a tornado.
On the other hand, the characteristics of humility previously mentioned also means that we cannot be brittle in our holding fast. We must be correctable by the word of God. When we read it and it convicts us of sin or presents to us something we have not practiced before, we need to be able to bend our will to the scripture. A brittle person is just as fragile.
Stand firm and hold fast. Don't be soft or brittle.
I have this tin plated picture I bought that has one of my favorite quotes on it. It is a quote from a western philosopher you might have heard of named John Wayne. It says “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyways.” I love that quote and it is an encouragement to me in a lot of the battles that we do. Sometimes when we are called to go out and engage in different things at the abortion mill or street preaching, I am reminded that even though you are afraid, you do it anyways because it is the right thing to do. I think of the quote when I am doing pastoral counseling and I need to say something, and I am scared to say it, but I know have to do it anyways.
When we think about courage there is more truth in this quote than I think the good cowboy knew and that is this: We will all fear something. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is having more fear in the right object than you do the wrong one.
We live in a time when I think that many in the church in America are scared to death. We are. We're living in a time when it seems as if the enemy is gaining ground. In such a short period of time, it seems as if morality has and is rapidly changing. I say seems because we often have a short sighted view of history. But it does seem that the enemy is taking ground. Persecution is on the horizon and already here.
Fear has captivated the church and keeping it from being effective. Fear in combination with a love of comfort has made so much of the church ineffective. These two things have captivated the church: Comfort and fear.
We are comfortable with the world and the world's things. We are comfortable in our positions. With that comfort comes fear of the loss of it. We fear being hated. We fear being persecuted. We fear the loss of reputation or loss of friends and family. We fear man. This fear makes us ineffective.
This love of comfort and a fear of loss of it has created a new reformation in the church with its own five solas. Instead
Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Glorie, we have today because of cowardness and comfort embraced Sola feelings. My feelings dictate everything. How I feel is the determiner of what is right and wrong. How I feel determines how I will act. With that we have embraced Sola Relationship. I feel that I have a relationship with God. Its all about me and him alone drinking coffee. Christianity has become void of the commands of Christ and hyper individualized in such away to have eroticized it. Salvation is me and my relationship alone and who are you pastor to tell me about my relationship with God.
We get there through Sola Pragmatism by Sola Niceness for Sola Ego- my own glory alone.
Cowardliness makes us unfaithful. It was fear that kept the Israelites from taking the promise land. The twelve spies entered the land and ten of them came back only seeing how wicked and evil and big the people and their gates were. They were afraid and did not believe what God said and so they wondered around the wilderness for 40 years rather than taking the promised land.
Fear led them to not belief God and therefore they wasted away their lives. Fear will lead us into unfaithfulness and compromise in order to not be hated. Fear of man and love of comfort and ease make our love of God grow cold and cause us to compromise on the battles we face.
Yet God calls us to be courageous. He calls us to be bold. Over 50 times the scriptures say “take courage.” 143 times the scriptures say fear not. God calls us to courage and boldness. He calls us to faith. This courage is as I said earlier not the absence of fear. It is fear in the right object that will lead to courage. It is the fear of the Lord. When we fear God rightly and above all else, we find that he upholds us and strengthens us to take courage. He will enable us to take the promised land and to disciple the nations.