As a former elder and deacon, I’m excited about this opportunity to share some much-needed advice to others serving in these areas. Before the advice, let me first sound a word of appreciation.
“Thank you” to all the men who have served in the past or are presently serving as an elder or deacon in the Lord’s church. As you have found out, this work is “the toughest job you’ll ever love” (to borrow a catchphrase from the Peace Corps). Thank you for rising to the challenge of the greatest work known to mankind. Thank you for the time you invest, the prayers you offer, the sacrifices you make and the leadership you provide.
To give advice places one in a precarious position. The sad reality is that the self-sufficient of heart do not think they need it and the haughty of spirit will not heed it. Oscar Wilde humorously said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself”. On the other hand, it is still encouraging to know that the humble will always receive and appreciate it. An anonymous scribe once said, “Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” Another declared, “To accept good advice is but to increase one’s own ability.” Thus, wisdom is not only needed in dispensing advice but also in receiving the same.
The advice I want to share was once given to me. It is still among the wisest and the best advice I have ever received or heard. The one who gave me the advice was my father-in-law, Johnny Ramsey. Years ago, Johnny encouraged me to preach the gospel. He challenged me to leave my secular job and begin preaching in a full-time capacity. When I tried out for the work with my beloved brethren in Fruitvale, Johnny was delighted. When they asked me to come and labor with them, he was elated. Before we moved to Fruitvale, Johnny asked me to come over so we could talk.
I knew Johnny would be able to give me all kinds of helpful advice. I was confident he would tell me to “Preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). After all, that is what Johnny was known for and loved to do. I was also certain that he would tell me, “In your preaching and teaching, strive to please God rather than men” (1 Thess. 2:4; Gal. 1:10). I also fully expected him to say something like, “Don’t embarrass me or Iris”.
When we met, I was surprised that he didn’t mention anything I thought he might. What he did say caught me totally off guard. The wise advice he offered was none other than, “ENJOY YOUR FIRST WORK!”.
What??? Would you repeat that, Johnny??? Did I hear you correctly??? Didn’t you mean to tell me something else??? How wise and insightful was Johnny’s advice on that occasion. He knew exactly what I needed to hear in light of my new opportunity and challenge.
“Enjoy!” A forgotten word far too many times. “Enjoy!” Because God fully intends our service to Him to bring joy and happiness (Matt. 5:3-12; Ps. 144:15). “Enjoy!” This still stands among the best advice I have ever been given.
Without enjoyment, the wonderful opportunity before me would have become tiresome, boring and a huge burden (1 John 5:3; Mal. 1:13). Without enjoyment, everything is reduced to sheer monotony and boredom. Without enjoyment, the blessing of serving becomes a curse. Without enjoyment, a shepherd turns into a hireling (John 10). David realized the absolute necessity of enjoyment when he stood before God and begged, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Ps. 51:12).
Enjoy your work because you are…
- working in the Father’s vineyard, engaged in His business (Matt. 21:28; Luke 2:49).
- serving under the Chief Shepherd and walking in His footsteps (1 Pet. 5:4; 2:21).
- laboring in the greatest institution known to man, the church (Matt. 13:44).
- like Nehemiah, doing a great work (Neh. 6:3; 1 Tim. 3:1).
- fulfilling the greatest need of sheep, which is loving leadership (Ps. 23; Matt. 9:36).
- working with the greatest people on earth, your brothers and sisters in Christ.
- looking forward to the greatest of rewards (Ps. 19:11; Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:6; 1 Pet. 5:4).