We’ve Got the Tools … Do We Use Them?
Like most men who have worked with their hands to make a living, tools have been a major part of my life. I’ve worked on the river as a deckhand, in an upholstery shop, in the construction trade (which was non-union, so it included carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and masonry work), automotive, truck driving, school teaching … and maybe a few other trades while trying my hand to accomplish the above. Sometimes in my life, I worked two or more of those jobs at one time. Nowadays, one of my favorite stores is Harbor Freight. And when able, working with my tools in my garage is an adventure I enjoy.
While most of those trades now bring but memories to me, preaching the gospel has been more than a “trade” – it is my life! It is quite scriptural to make a living as a gospel preacher (1 Corinthians 9:14). It is wrong to take advantage of the generosity of the brethren, but it is right for gospel preachers to be supported in exchange for their faithful labors in preaching God’s Word. (see also Philippians 4:10 – 19)
The “tools of our trade” are not many but essential to the achievement of this labor. Obviously, we need the Bible! Without it, we cannot accomplish the task of communicating God’s Word. Since the last miraculously gifted soul died, there has been no other way of learning God’s Word than the meticulous reading, studying, and learning of its content. Study is not an option; it is critical to the use of this “tool” for we preachers must let this word dwell in us richly in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16). Study gains us God’s approval (2timothy 2:15) and it is the only way we learn to use this “tool” effectively!
Another “tool” is time. Managing time is difficult, especially for a busy gospel preacher. Most of us are married and have children, and some of us are blessed with grandchildren. Family merits our time, and we preachers are no less generous with this “tool” toward our immediate family than we are toward the brethren who also demand it as being our family of God. Yet, as Solomon wisely stated (Ecclesiastes 12:10), the preacher seeks out acceptable words. Even his writings must be upright, even words of truth. (ibid.) Therefore, his time becomes another “tool” that requires careful attention. Though he strives to be all things to all men that by all means he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:2), as did the apostle Paul, preachers don’t always reach that degree of time management. It doesn’t mean he’s wasting time: it just means managing it is often difficult to get everything done that he expects of himself, let alone that which others expect of him!
A third “tool” is prayer. Except for his Bible, this tool is undoubtedly the most effective of all tools. It is constantly used, even while using all other tools of his trade (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This tool permits the preacher to ask for help and gain it; to confess his fears and weaknesses and receive comfort; to request the needs of others’ souls to be granted since he cannot grant them on his own; to beg forgiveness of his failures as well as those of his brethren. He realizes precisely how effective this tool is to his trade (James 5:16).
A fourth tool of the preacher’s trade is his mind. Like his Bible, his time, his prayers, his mind is continually active in thinking on those things that true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). As well, his mind meditates upon the things of truth and righteousness day and night. (1 Timothy 4:15). This isn’t just to consider sermon material or articles for bulletins. This constant contemplation is most a self-examination (2 Corinthians 13:5) that he might find himself a righteous example for others (1 Timothy 4:16).
A fifth tool is quite valuable indeed. Unfortunately, it is not always as available and as helpful as it needs to be, but even a portion of it is better than none. This tool is known as “the brethren.” Those with whom the preacher labors are as important to the success of his labors as any other tool at his disposal. The difference here is that he is not in control of them: this tool (i.e., the brethren) must be willing to be used in this trade, willing to strengthen the preacher with their use of the Bible, time management, prayer, and their righteous minds! Many of these brethren cannot stand in pulpits or instruct public classes in the study of God’s Word. But these precious souls can be and should be as busy in study, in the management of their time, in prayer, in thought and contemplation of God’s Word as is the preacher himself! After all, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1) Do you think we preachers are to stand all by ourselves in the declaration of Christ and Him crucified?
Yes, we have the tools. The question is do we (all of us!!!) use these tools to the accomplishment of their intended use? If not, why not?