Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
– 1 Timothy 3:1-7
“Aspire to God with short but frequent outpourings of the heart; admire His bounty; invoke His aid; cast yourself in spirit at the foot of the cross; adore His goodness; give Him your whole soul a thousand times in a day.”
– St. Francis of Sales
In the NIV, the word ‘aspire’ appears once, in describing those wanting to become overseers, in the Scripture above. It is rather odd. The word ‘humble’ is not found in the description of such overseers, but these people ‘aspire’ for greatness among their brethren. Seems in conflict between two natures – too aspire a role to guide God’s people seems to be a humble task.
I admit that I got caught up in this aspiration, much to my discredit. My Dad became an elder in the Presbyterian Church when he was roughly 30 years old. My brother was ordained as a pastor a few years younger after completing seminary. My mother would often berate me in that I might have been chairman of the Board of Deacons when I was about 35 years old, but I was not selected as an elder when my term was up. It was a tradition that the chairman had proven himself and would ascend to the higher board. I kept pouring over this passage and similar Scripture in Titus, wondering what I did or was doing wrong. I did not see at the time that God was sparing me from it.
I became an elder at the age of 46. I served for one year at one church and five years at a different church. Although once an elder, always an elder, I have a burning aspiration to not serve on the board again. Too many elders run the business meeting as a business meeting. All discussion of faith is set aside. I cannot attend any church meeting, even if it is the annual budget proposal meeting, without faith entering my thought patterns. It is who I am. So, I clashed with the other elders, often.
And now out of the blue, a friend asked me to write something for the annual stewardship campaign. Of all the business of the church that I try to avoid, the stewardship campaign is the top of the list. In my opinion, stewardship campaigns would be unnecessary if we had a faith campaign accompanied by an anointing of the Holy Spirit campaign.
The following is what I submitted. A sentence about my wife and I basing our giving on the idea that God had given so much for us was added, but this is my original submission.
“There once was a superintendent who did something naughty (possibly illegal). When United Way called, he gave all his guys a chart. If you were at this pay grade or that one, you must give “X” to United Way, but my boss said that Daddy Earl, what everyone called the superintendent, wants you to give based on the pay grade level that you aspire to. I gave according to a double jump promotion. Daddy Earl loved me. But what of God? If God gave us a chart and asked us to give according to what we aspire to, what would be on the chart? Jesus gave us His life. He offers us eternity with Him. Is anything short of everything an acceptable answer?”
What is not written in this short devotional message is that Daddy Earl promoted me one pay grade. I was then transferred to another department, due to reorganization, something Daddy Earl did not want. Daddy Earl went to my new boss and wanted me back. He offered me a double-jump promotion from my new pay grade, but my new bosses blocked the promotion. By the rules sent down from the head of the corporation, my new bosses had to give me an equal promotion since I was ‘too important’ to be allowed to transfer. But my new bosses defied the corporate rules and denied my promotion, even though I was already performing the duties of that level of management. They did not mind me doing the work, but they did not want to pay for it.
Might I also say that when you have a family, an aspiration for promotion is a good thing. We want to provide for your family. I am not saying that this type of aspiration is not healthy, but one must be careful.
I could get angry and bitter about being the victim in a power struggle, but God is sovereign. If I had been allowed to work for Daddy Earl again or been promoted to the level that I was working, I would have probably stayed in South Carolina, and the lives of everyone in my family would be different today. God has me in Pennsylvania with my wife. God has one son and his family in Nebraska and the other son with his family in Tennessee. God has a purpose in all this. That purpose may not be realized for generations, but I trust in God’s plan.
To what do I aspire?
To be more like Jesus every day. He had no property to call His own. He did not have riches. His life was difficult. There were those who rejected His message and wanted to kill Him. They eventually succeeded.
That is unlike anything to which the secular world today would aspire.
Yet, Jesus did all that so that He could save sinners. One of those sinners was me.
So, I am okay with others deciding how much of a raise to give the custodian or figuring out where the money is coming from to fix the church roof.
If I tripped over a suitcase full of unmarked bills or another such windfall, I would use it to glorify God and spend it wisely.
“God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success or cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it.”
– A. W. Tozer, Born After Midnight
But maybe what I aspire more than anything else is to see others learn the Joy which comes from knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, and aspiring to be more like Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.