Today we are reading from 1 Timothy 3: 8-13:
8 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; 9 they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. 11 Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; 13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Yesterday we saw Paul give guidelines for overseers or what we would call bishops. Today, we see Paul give guidelines for deacons, or what we would think of as servants. We see the first deacons in Acts, 6-7 when Stephen and others are selected to serve the widows. This is an important, hugely important, task within the church. Service is at the heart of what it means to live out the Christian life. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.
These guidelines are important. And there is something within these that is key I think for us to see as well. They should be tested first. And then, when they have proven themselves, then they can have the office.
Leadership is hard. Service is hard. It is right, is good for us to be tested. That is why it is said that leaders should not be new converts but mature in their faith. They should have been through something.
And I think that is what our testing ultimately does. It gives clarity. It gives understanding. It gives us a sense of what is true, what is good, what is noble. The deacon must be tested first, and when they pass the test, they are there.
No Christian leader should aspire to Christian leadership apart from testing. Do not fear it when it comes, do not dread it when it comes, but stand firm in the grace of our Lord.
Our testing will defeat us, but the lessons we learn, through God’s grace, can define us.
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