by Ramesh Richard
Steam locomotives fill my earliest memories of family travel in southern India. Those fire-breathing engines required frequent stops to replenish the fuel and water. The sound and sights of whistle, steam and smoke fascinated me.
Steam engineers controlled the start, the stop and the speed. The firemen fed the fire with fuel. No fuel, no fire. They let neither the fire die, nor the fuel run out between stops.
Fuel-starvation and fuel-exhaustion present challenges to all modes of transportation. The former has to do with a deficiency in the fuel system; there is enough fuel, but it doesn’t translate into energy. The latter deals with a loss of fuel supply—running out of fuel before reaching the destination.
Hybrid vehicles today overcome both challenges through auxiliary fuel, additional power. Two fuel sources work in combination, converting wasted energy into power stored in a battery till it is needed.
What if I told you that you are a tribrid—a God-appointed ministry vehicle with three elements to fuel your fire?
God established your ministry fuel system. You were called not only to salvation, but also to service. The question is whether personal challenges or difficult ministry environments will deplete your fuel supply before your journey is complete. It can happen.
And that’s why Paul encouraged Timothy to persevere, to continue, to endure. How? Through a spiritual tribrid fuel system that God has built and supplies.
This favorite Scripture from my teenage years, simultaneous to my fascination with steam engines, reads, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7, NASB).
The apostle Paul tells Timothy that, instead of a fear-stalled, fuel-dry engine exhausted by personal and ministry challenges, God has turned him into a tribrid vehicle for His purposes. God has given him a continuously supplied, tribrid fuel-system for propulsion, momentum and accomplishment.
Tribrid element #1: Spiritual power is already given to you by God. This kind of power has no native in-growth. It is neither human, demonic, political, magical, mystical nor miracle-working power. Now what is the spiritual power that God has given us?
It is a supernaturally produced internal fortitude to stand and not run, withstand and not stand still, have confidence and endurance, advance the Gospel and not retreat in the face of danger and difficulty. It is power for boldness and courage. An indomitable, unexplainable spirit, uneasily crushed.
Tribrid element #2: A spirit of love has been given to you by God. This kind of unconditional love finds no natural expression. Love, as you know, is first on the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Since power can be abused, a leader will have many opportunities to exert unrestrained and unconstrained power. Power by itself leads to delusion, pride and arrogance. But power that is balanced and controlled by love keeps the ministry train moving.
Love is the only distinctively Christian leadership trait. This spiritual love reaches out, puts up and keeps no account of wrongs. It helps those who are in need with practical aid and self-sacrificing service.
Tribrid element #3: Discipline. My first Bible version (KJV) translated this word as “sound mind.” Other versions translate it as “self-control.” This word is used only once in the New Testament and comprises disciplined thought and disciplined action—which I will combine under the word “wisdom.” This wisdom eludes naive possession. It preserves us from gullibility, stupidity and even sin. Sometimes power and love will conflict in thought or action, so we always need wisdom to discipline thought and action. One commentator writes, “As used in 1:7, self-discipline means both the ability to control the inner self and a measure of control over one’s thinking and actions.” We might call it level-headedness or sensibility. Not impulsive, but intentional decisions or actions in life and ministry.
All three elements are critical for us to keep the ministry ablaze. Many times I have wisdom and love, but no power. Some times I have wisdom and power, but no love. And all the time I need wisdom to express any power and love. This tribrid fuel system is already ours to draw on and serve others.
I witnessed this unusual combination of power, love and wisdom on a recent visit to the tragedy-stricken country of Nepal. About 10,000 souls perished in the earthquakes of 2015. As part of our Pastor’s Family Care Fund, RREACH hosted a day of refreshment for 100 pastors along with their wives. We wanted to provide some emotional strength and material replenishment to these who had comforted others. They were completely spent from relief efforts around their villages and towns. They hadn’t slept very well, for one sleeps differently if your bed or floor could give way any time. They hadn’t eaten very well, nor sung many songs together, nor smiled much.
Many of these pastors had lost co-laborers; they had lost church members and loved ones; they had lost property and possessions. And yet they exhibited internal power. They were quietly strong in spirit. They were filled with love for their suffering countrymen in the middle of great distress. And in wisdom they sensed opportunities for Christian witness.
Or to steal and apply American actress Pearl Bailey’s format of expression:
Ministry leadership without power is nearly dead.
Ministry leadership with power, but no love, is fully deadened.
Ministry leadership with power, love, and wisdom is most alive.
God’s tribrid fuel system never lacks God’s fuel supply. We can keep fanning the ministry flame in us (vs. 6b) because God has fueled the ministry fire within us.
(This devotional is a condensed form of the graduation charge that Ramesh Richard delivered to the 2015 Dallas GPA in late June. Please feel free to request an audio version by clicking here, and we will send you a link or a CD).