Approved is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as: “to have or express a favorable opinion of, to accept as satisfactory, to give formal or official sanction”. The Word of God defines approved as, “tested by trial, tried integrity, acceptable and thank worthy,” (Romans 5:4, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 2 Corinthians 10:18, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 1 Peter 2:19)
The Apostle Paul is writing a letter. Believers need to be encouraged and strengthen in their faith, just as we need today. As then, God places Christian leaders in our lives to pastor, shepherd, teach, admonish, counsel, guide, instruct, protect, and preserve His sheep. Our Lord sets apart those whom He needs for a season to proclaim the Good News.
“But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as to please people, but to please God who examines are hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4) It is a privilege to read and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only a great honor to preach and teach, but God expects His chosen to shepherd their flock with prayer, integrity, and care. 1 Peter 5:1-5 reads, “Therefore, I strongly urge the elders among you [pastors, spiritual leaders of the church], as a fellow elder and as an eyewitness [called to testify] of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory that is to be revealed: shepherd and guide and protect the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not [motivated] for shameful gain, but with wholehearted enthusiasm; not lording it over those assigned to your care [do not be arrogant or overbearing], but be examples [of Christian living] to the flock [set a pattern of integrity for your congregation]. And when the Chief Shepherd (Christ) appears, you will receive the [conqueror’s] unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you younger men [of lesser rank and experience], be subject to your elders [seek their counsel]; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [tie on the servant’s apron], for God is opposed to the proud [the disdainful, the presumptuous, and He defeats them, but He gives grace to the humble].”
I highlight and underline several passages, which correspond to approve. Approval takes time. A time to study, a time to hear from God, and time to be tested. To be approved with God’s Word means you are guiding and protecting His people. You are not to be motived by shameful, monetary gain, but spread the Gospel with Christ-like compassion. Approved women are not to be arrogant or overbearing, but full of integrity. We are also to cloth ourselves with humility, putting on the servant’s apron. I underline that phrase because many have assumed to be above Christ’s own example of washing feet. Leaders are to lead by example, such as Christ our King.
Jesus’s arms were open to the ones in society who needed help. He hung around some questionable people: prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the dead, and the sick. If our hearts truly desire to be approved and spread the Word of God as leaders, then I believe Christ expects us to love those many would not dare to be near.
Giving our hearts and time to the needy, the approved woman needs a season of testing. Paul needed a refinement season. He writes in Galatians 1: 13-18, “You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried to destroy it. And you have heard now I surpassed many of my contemporaries among my countrymen in [my advanced study of the laws of] Judaism, so I was extremely loyal to the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was please to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with alone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I did go up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter, and I stayed with him fifteen days.” Paul exhibited his own advice to Timothy when he wrote, “Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Studying, serving, testing, and refinement are seasons we may find ourselves before God will allow our heart’s to teach, but we also need our motives checked. James 3:1 reads, “Not many of you should become teachers [serving an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we will be judged by a high standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly].
I have a reverential, holy, healthy fear of God. I know I am in a season of studying, learning, and growing. I dare not ask to moved from this period until God deems it fit. I do not want to teach incorrectly, inaccurately, or selfishly. I want my motives pure and glorifying God. I think this is only achieved during time in the wilderness, for I never want to be as the devil, “If any man seeks the office of overseer, he desires an excellent task. Now an overseer must be blameless, beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not a bully nor quick-tempered and hot headed, but gently and considerate, free from the love of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity and he must not be a new convert, so that he will not [behave stupidly and] become conceited [by appointment to this high office and fall into the same condemnation incurred by the devil [for his arrogance and pride]. And he must have a good reputation and be well thought of by those outside the church, so that he will not be discredited and fall into the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
I hope this has planted a seed in your spirit. Do not despise the days of small beginnings or despise the wilderness testing. These periods are crucial for our growth as Christians, drawing us closer to God. These periods reveal character deep within our hearts. These periods produce godly fruit, service, and pure motives. As John the Baptist LIVED in the wilderness before his own calling, never venturing our before the appointed time, I pray you plant your seed in the desert and watch God grow a harvest from your time with Him.