“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you“
In a sports match the shout goes up, “Just keep your heads” to the team clinging on to a lead.
In Paul’s Charge to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:5, in the midst of the duties that Timothy is to discharge, comes the call ‘Keep your head in all circumstances’ . The ESV translates it “always be sober minded”. It’s in the context of giving oneself to ministering to God’s people: preaching the Word in the midst of itching ears that only want to hear what they want to hear; enduring preaching in good bad times and bad; enduring hardship and doing the work of an evangelist.
Paul speaks to Timothy and he says don’t be shocked and don’t be thrown, be sober minded, keep your head in the midst of that. Don’t be surprised when people don’t want to hear you and don’t like you or what you’ve got to say. Don’t be rocked by that.
I think about once every couple of months most ministers think their world or the church they serve is going to cave in. Very occasionally that is doctrinal in my experience. There’s some issue or doctrine where there’s a need for you to take a stand on. Ordinarily though in our context it is conflict, a complaining text, a relationship that is strained, a meeting that you are anticipating going wrong, even something as simple as someone asking can they meet up with you can cause anxiety. You fear the worst and spend a day thinking how you’re going to respond. The feeling of I have to do something, what can I do? If you’re anything like me, you write and rewrite texts or emails, thankfully without sending them. It’s at this point I think it’s very helpful to remember Paul’s charge – keep your head. It is very rarely a crisis and actually by the end of the week you can’t remember why you were so anxious.
William Cowper who had his own fair share of crisis and anxieties wrote:
The clouds you so much dread. Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head
If you think back to 2 Timothy 2 and Paul’s images of the Christian Minister as a Focussed Soldier, Hard Working Farmer and Disciplined Athlete, in all three pictures the necessity of being sober minded and keeping your head is needed. The soldier who loses his head gets killed, the farmer ruins a harvest and the athlete loses his race. So I need to tell myself and others – Be Firm, Be immovable, Be sober minded. The faithful Minister will fight his nerves.
It isn’t always the case that the fears of a crisis are unfounded. Just occasionally it is as bad as you fear, but still Paul’s advice holds firm: Keep your Head. There are challenging and fearful times in ministry and church life, but rarely is an instant reaction the right reaction. Quick decisions are often bad decisions and being willing just to take time often gives perspective enough to avoid making the situation worse. Be sober minded and keep your head in all circumstances.
Calvin comments, ‘the more grievous the troubles become, the more conscientiously will Timothy labour to cure them, and the more pressing the dangers, the more intently will he keep watch. And since struggles come to the ministers of Christ from the very moment when they begin to discharge their office faithful, he also reminds them to be firm and immovable in enduring adversity.“