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God’s Word is so rich that it often gives encouragement and exhortation at the same time. Consider God’s declaration, through the prophet Jeremiah, to His people who were being led by ungodly prophets and priests: “ ‘I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 23:4). Hear the great encouragement for weary sheep who long for faithful shepherds—God will raise up shepherds after His own heart. At the same time, this is a great exhortation for those who have faithful shepherds. Think of what God provides for you through them and be thankful for godly pastors.
What is a godly pastor? He is a man who loves Jesus Christ and seeks His glory above all else (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:12–18; 2:19–21; 3:7–14; 1 Peter 1:6–9). He can say, with Paul: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). The godly pastor not only loves the Lord Jesus, he also, of necessity, loves His Word (2 Tim. 3:14–17; 4:1–5; Heb. 4:12; 1 Peter 1:22–2:3). The godly pastor hears the voice of Christ in the Word (John 10:4, 5, 14–16, 27; Rom. 10:9–15) and longs to follow after the one whom his soul loves. Not only does the godly pastor love the Lord Jesus and His Word, he loves the people for whom the Lord Jesus gave His life (John 13:1–17; Acts 20:17–38; 1 Cor. 16:23–24; Phil. 1:3–8; 1 Thess. 2:7–12; Philem. 8–11; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1–4). At times, by the grace and Spirit of Christ, he is able to say honestly, “I will lay down my life for these people who are so dear to Jesus” (Phil. 2:17–18; 1 John 3:16).
The blessing and privilege enjoyed by a congregation that has such a pastor should be obvious, but just in case it is not, here are a few things to consider. First of all, the pastor who loves the Lord Jesus, His Word, and His people will be a man whose faithful preaching exposes the congregation to the voice of Jesus (look again at John 10 and Rom. 10). When he studies and prepares his sermons, and even while he is in the pulpit delivering the fruit of his labor, his constant prayer is “Lord Jesus, feed Your sheep!” His goal is not praise or recognition from men but the faithful proclamation of the Word of the living God. What Christian can remain unmoved when hearing from the Great Shepherd?
Second, the pastor who loves the Lord Jesus, His Word, and His people will be a man whose faithful shepherding exposes the congregation to the loving care of Jesus, whether it takes the form of encouragement, rebuke, counsel, prayer, or simply being with them. The passion of his heart is that the people to whom he ministers might know the mighty power and tender mercies of the One who calmed the sea with a word and welcomed children on His lap with a smile. The pastor who has experienced the presence of this Lion/Lamb wants others to know that same sweet awfulness.
Third, the pastor who loves the Lord Jesus, His Word, and His people will be a man whose faithful living exposes the congregation to the Spirit of Christ. He will constantly affirm that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who works mightily in his heart by the Holy Spirit not only to bring him to faith but to sanctify him, to bring him into conformity with the image of the Son of God. It is the Holy Spirit who enables him to pray, to fight sin, to proclaim the truth, and to lead and love his family. The godly pastor’s constant testimony is that the godliness of his life is the product of the Spirit of God and not merely his own efforts. At the same time, he shows how, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Both the process and the product of godliness are lived out before the people.
In the current climate of the church, open spirituality is increasingly rare, which tells us something about the need for reformation that begins in the pulpit. But it also should convict us of the sin of neglecting to recognize and be thankful for godly pastors. Christians under the care of godly pastors hear the voice of Jesus, experience the love of Jesus, and see the work of Jesus in their pastors. Their pastor is, in fact, a gift to them from Jesus (Eph. 4:11).
So, how can Christians show their gratitude for godly pastors? First, remember that godly pastors are still men. They, and their families, have the same physical needs as everyone else. Be creative and sincere, and share with those by whom you receive spiritual benefits (Rom. 15:27). Be sure that your giving is motivated by a proper attitude of the heart (1 Thess. 5:12–13). But don’t stop there. I know no pastor, who truly understands his responsibilities, who does not also long for his people to uphold him in prayer (Rom. 15:30–33; Eph. 6:18–20; 2 Thess. 3:1–2). Pastors are weak, frail, sinful men who are entirely dependent upon God. Finally, and perhaps most important, the followers of Jesus best show their thankfulness for godly pastors by their own growth and progress in grace (Phil. 2:1–4; Col. 1:3–8; 1 Thess. 4:6–9). As John writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
Of course, a trip to Scotland is also a good way to bless your pastor, right?