A good minister of Jesus Christ
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ. 1 Tim. 4:6
Philip Ryken, in his commentary on this passage, tells the story of the funeral of the nineteenth century Princeton theologian Charles Hodge. A champion for Biblical orthodoxy in a day when many people were giving up on it, he was a very gifted man and he used his gifts to teach and defend the gospel. His Systematic Theology is still read to this day. Another famous theologian, John Murray, read Hodge's theology until its pages were well worn.
But Hodge was more than a brilliant academic. More importantly, he was a good and godly man. On the day of his funeral, all the shops in Princeton were closed in recognition of his life. One of his former students, William Paxton, gave this tribute to Hodge: “When due allowance is made for his intellect and his learning, after all his chief power was in his goodness. Christ enshrined in his heart was the centre of his theology and his life. The world will write upon his monument GREAT; but we, his students, will write upon it GOOD.”
On the other hand, it is said that Napoleon claimed he would do anything, as long as there was a medal or honor attached to it. Some men live for greatness. But that is not what Paul encourages Timothy to strive for. Instead, he says, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.” In other words, it is goodness, not greatness, for which Timothy is to aim. One is reminded of the words God spoke to Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah's scribe: “And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jer. 45:5).
In the end, goodness is the only thing that counts. God is not looking for great men and women, he is looking for good men and women. In the parable of the talents, the lord says to the servants who did their master's bidding, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Clearly, in the parable, God is the lord and we are in the place of the servants. So what we should want to hear from God, above all things, are the words “good and faithful servant.”
John Stott has written that he “cannot imagine a nobler ambition than to be a 'good minister' of his [Christ's].” It is truly a noble calling. But it contains within itself its own blessing. For to be a good minister of Christ means that one is a godly servant of Christ, and a godly servant of Christ is one who knows something of the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14). It is not just a noble calling for preachers and pastors but for all who follow Christ. A minister, strictly speaking, is a servant (the Greek word is diakonos, the word from which we get "deacon"), and we are all called to be that. May the Lord bless each of us to aspire to and to become more and more good servants of Jesus Christ.