“holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Titus 1:9
On a commuterflight in 1987,from Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts the pilot, Henry Dempsey, heard an unusual noise near the rear of the small aircraft. Henry turned the controls over to his co-pilot and went back to check things out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket and Dempsey unexpectedly found himself tossed against the rear door. It was then that he quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to take off. So as Henry fell against it, it flew open and he was immediately sucked out of the jet.
The co-pilot, seeing the red light that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting per-mission to make an emergency landing. He reported he was certain that the pilot had fallen out of the plane and requested an immediate helicopter search of the area of the ocean over which they were now flying.
After the plane had landed however, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow he had managed to grab hold of it as he was sucked out of the opening. Somehow he had been able to hold on for ten minutes as the plane flew 200 mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. And then somehow upon landing he had kept his head from hitting the runway–a mere twelve inches away. According to news reports, even once the plane was safely stopped on the runway, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry Dempsey’s fingers from the ladder. Are there values in your life that are worth holding onto with that kind of white-knuckled intensity? Convictions are not just those notches on the belts of prosecuting attorneys. They are those beliefs, those truths, which we clutch in the same way Henry held onto that ladder for dear life. They are values we hold to that have life-altering (even eternal) consequences.
The apostle Paul had left Titus in Crete to set in order the things that were wanting. (verse 5) In other words Titus was given the duty of tying up the loose ends—of making sure the churches in Crete were well established and sustainable. As such Paul immediately reminded Titus that the success of the churches would be very dependent upon the leadership appointed to the task.
With that said Paul then proceeded to lay out for Titus no less than sixteen characteristics needful of believers to be good leaders within and for the church. The sixteenth one that sort of tops all the others off was the one alluded to in the verse above. Good church leaders must always be holding fast the faithful word. They need to be “white-knucklers” not just of their interpretation of the word of God, but of the faithful word. That’s because I have found that without and within every church there will be gainsayers—“opposers” of the church. Those within will be more concerned about their own power and position than they are the health and well-being of the church. And those within and without will often be more concerned with traditions than they are the truth.
Paul told Titus for such people as that, you need to have such a grip on the faithful word that you’ll be able to exhort them. Do you realize that word exhort is the exact same word that is used of the Holy Spirit in other scripture passages. It means to “be called alongside.” In other words good leaders have such a hold of the faithful word that they can pull up right beside someone who’s being ugly and obnoxious and over time convince them of the real truth. That is not an easy task. People like that often don’t really care what the Word says; they just want what they want. Such are not easy to love nor get close to. But it’s God’s calling to good leaders.
Want to be a good leader in his church? How well are you hiding the word of God in your heart? How well are you making his word a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? How well are you drawing near and winning over that gainsayer?