At the outset, I wish to remind you again that most of the godly qualifications mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are the basic qualities of a Christian. We must cultivate godly character, not for the sake of ministry, but because we are Christians, the children of the Living God. So whether we become church leaders or not, we must live a godly life to please and glorify God.
We must know that growth occurs only where there is life. A man must be born-again to grow in godly character. It is to those who have experienced the transforming power of the Gospel of Christ that Peter wrote, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:1; 3:18).
Tim Keller wrote, “Do you realize that it is only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?” A Christian operates from his identity. We function not to become something but from who we already are in Christ. To the Colossian believers, Paul wrote, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved (identity), compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (godly qualities)” (Col. 3:12). Knowing who we are in Christ spurs us to live the way we ought to as a child of God.
Abiding in Christ is a significant practice of a fruitful Christian. Unceasing communion with God and meditation on His Word are essential disciplines of abiding in Christ. Christ said to His potential fruit-bearing disciples, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:4-5).
The Christian life is lived not by self-confidence, self-dependence, and self-efforts but by faith in Christ who indwells us and in whom we have all resources. Peter wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). For this reason, Paul could say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) and “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The “poor in spirit” are those who realize their spiritual impoverishment. He also said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). We must know our lack of godliness with hunger and thirst for it. Without falling into condemnation, it is good to live with a sense of our heart’s wretchedness, constantly repent of our sins, and walk in the consciousness of our desperate need for godliness.
The author of Hebrews exhorts to strive for the holiness of God (Heb. 12:14). To grow in godly character, we must strive for godliness. We must seriously take it to heart. We must fervently pray for it. We must relentlessly pursue it. We must read books on it. We must listen to sermons on it. We must meditate on godly qualities. We must discipline ourselves and make every effort, by God’s empowering grace, to grow in godly character.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the body of Christ. Here we “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). And, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Pro. 27:17). Accountability is a healthy practice to grow in godly character. We must be humble and teachable in heart, having people around us who freely talk about our flaws, correct us, pray for us, hold us accountable, and help us live a godly life.
Change and growth are always progressive. Therefore, we must persevere to grow in godliness. We need not get discouraged when we keep failing. We must not be disappointed because we do not see rapid growth in us. As we practice the aforementioned guidelines with patience and perseverance, we hope to change that we and others would witness. This certainty is not in our ability but in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and His current indwelling presence. So “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Finally, remember, being a pastor is not to be perfect. None can be a pastor if we have to wait to achieve perfection in godly qualities. But just because we cannot be perfect, we cannot be passive either. We must have basic godly qualities described in pastoral epistles and keep progressing in them through God’s gracious means without ever thinking we have arrived. As men show growing signs in godly character, the church recognizes them and acknowledges, “These are the men God has chosen to shepherd His flock!”
C. Stephen David serves as a pastor at Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship, Hyderabad, Telangana. He is married to Chaitanya and they have two children.