Dear fellow preacher,
The (exact) phrase above is used only ONCE in the Bible, by Paul to Timothy in 4:6. However, we find the phrase “Take heed to thyself” used SEVEN times in the Bible. What’s the difference? Both ‘to’ and ‘unto’ are prepositions, however, while ‘to’ conveys a direction, ‘unto’ is more emphatic (i.e. right up to and touching!).
In 1 Timothy, Paul was coming near the end of his life, and certainly his advice to Timothy can be seen as Elijah’s falling mantle.
So, what does it mean to “take heed unto thyself”?
Perhaps the FIRST ‘heed’ might be a Health-Heed. Timothy had some infirmities (5:23), and none of us are Supermen. It’s good advice to keep an eye on your health, because you won’t be ministering very long if you ‘run yourself into the ground’. Many a minister has suffered the needless loss of his health, had he been a bit more careful of his diet, and sleep and exercise and stress level. (Psst! You might want to plead God’s promise in Psalm 103:3. I speak from experience here.)
The SECOND ‘heed’ (for many of us) might be a Family-Heed. Has God given you a wife and kids? You lucky dog, you! (Pardon the expression.) Neglect not the gift of a wife and children. Some preachers have ignored their wives and kids in their drive to build ‘the biggest church in town’, and sadly end up losing their precious family. On his death-bed, Billy Sunday is said to have told his wife, “Ma, we won the world to Christ and let our own boys go to hell".
The FINAL ‘heed’ that I would suggest is one that so many preachers accidentally neglect, a Prayer-Heed. Oh, I know that all preachers pray, but not many of us ‘labour’ in prayer. Most of us don’t spend an hour or more alone each day with the Lord. Yet this is what separates those that just FOLLOW God from those that actually WALK with God. If preachers spent the same amount of time with their wives per day, as they spend with the Lord, I think we’d have an epidemic of ecclesiastical divorce! All the apostles GAVE themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). Start reading the works on prayer by E.M. Bounds, R.A. Torrey, Andrew Murray, John R. Rice, Alexander Whyte, Thomas Brooks, and others, and see what you may be missing.
Preacher, take heed UNTO thyself!
Stay in the game!
Your brother in Christ,
Steven J. White
I’d like to invite any Independent Baptist preacher (pastor, missionary, evangelist, or retired) to offer helpful advice, experiences and thoughts that will encourage others in the ministry. I want others to hear what you have to say. If this is of interest to you, please email me your thoughts or suggestions. None of us will get ‘paid’ for any of this, but all of us will get ‘sharpened’.