by Ken Idleman
God has used elders to lead, guard and bless His people throughout history. Examples abound in both the Old and New Testaments of those who exercised wisdom and discipline to equip God’s people to reflect His character and build His Kingdom. While Jesus is the Head of The Church, elders oversee the health and growth of the church. The qualifications for elder service are detailed in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. These passages paint a word picture of spiritual maturity in Christ to which all believers are called as they mutually encourage one another and are mutually accountable to one another.
I Peter 5:1-4 is our charge: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder… Be shepherds of the flock of God that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be… not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
So, Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we elders are His under-shepherds involved in teaching God’s Word, exhorting believers to live godly lives, praying for the sick, disciplining those who are unrepentant, protecting the church from false doctrine and distributing its resources for God’s purpose.
One of my favorite “all-in” elders is Caleb, whom we read about in Joshua 14:10-11: “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years…while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out: I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.”
I have to admit, I really like this. I’ve always liked how Ashley Montegue said it: “I want to die young at a ripe old age!” Caleb is a young man in an 85-year-old body, but what makes this profoundly amazing is the connective preposition here; the word ‘as’ meansidentical in the Hebrew language. Translation: He could bench press as much at 85 as he could at 40. He was as strong at 85 as he was at 40. Awesome! This is an 85-year-old man you don’t want to mess with! Just try to imagine the conviction in his voice when he said this. I wish we had the audiotape so we could do it justice. This is a Braveheart moment! This is a Gladiator moment!
“Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.” Doesn’t that send a chill down your spine? Caleb was all in. He wasn’t looking to retire at 65, settle down at 70, or take up shuffleboard at 75. If he had the opportunities available to him that we have today, my guess is that he would be skydiving at 80, climbing Everest at 81, hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim at 82, running the Ironman Triathlon at 83, taking up cage fighting at 84, and at 85 he’s saying, “Let’s go after that hill country! Let’s pick a fight with God’s enemies!”
I love the spirit of Caleb. The simple reason that he was as vigorous at 85 as he was at 40 is because his faith never diminished. In fact, his faith grew stronger over time and it was his faith that animated him and energized him in a way that I pray we all experience. I pray that God would give us as elders and our wives the same spirit of Caleb.
I have met a few “Calebs” in my life – and I want to be like Caleb when I grow up!