EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article previously appeared on LifeWay Leadership’s website

A few years ago, I saw a hashtag trending on social media about healthy pastors. This hashtag often displayed pastors in a gym or working out. These pastors shared their disciplines, progress and commitment to get in shape.

I felt encouraged by these posts. It’s important to guard the bodies that God has given us to carry out the ministry to which He has called us. As 2 Cor. 4:2 says, “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.

This illustration may not seem to be the most complementary picture of the vessel. The treasure we have is priceless, but it is placed in jars of clay. And we are those jars. We are fragile, weak and vulnerable. It is our stewardship to guard the vessel for the sake of the treasure. After all, we only get one vessel.

But when we talk about guarding the vessel, we’re not simply talking about our bodies and physical health. We’re talking about our holiness. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that character matters to God, not just a man’s giftedness.

God wants godly men. We must commit to prayer, integrity and holiness. You cannot blame others when you have missed the mark in these areas. As Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:16, “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

So, how do we persevere in these things? By guarding our character and our convictions. We watch how we live, and we watch how we teach. That’s it. We hit repeat again and again and keep a close eye on these two fundamentals: our behavior and our beliefs.

Second Tim. 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the Word of truth.” There are three questions I regularly ask myself from this passage. Use these three questions and examine your own behavior and beliefs before God.

  1. Is God well pleased with me?

You will answer to God for how you have lived your life and carried out your ministry. You are either approved or not. Do your best to present yourself as one approved.

  1. Is my work well done?

Paul’s concern was not being put to shame before men but being put to shame before God. You can be a smashing success with men and be a horrible failure before God. God isn’t impressed with books, crowds, buildings or programs. Be a worker who is not ashamed before God.

  1. Is the Word rightly handled?

We must correctly handle the Word of truth. We are called to cut the truth straight.

Each of us must constantly and diligently pursue these fundamental principles to be sure our life and our doctrine is pleasing to God. The work of ministry is the overflow of a godly life. You don’t want to just be a preacher. You don’t want to just be a pastor. You must be a holy man of God. Pursue godliness at all costs.