Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching;
persevere in these things, for as you do this will ensure
salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
I Timothy 4:16
Pastors, when you pray for your people, pray for yourself as well. Your prayers for the people under your watchcare should include you as well. Yes, we are shepherd's of the flock that the Lord has assigned to us; but we are undershepherds who have been called out from among the sheep to shepherd the sheep, so we share the same weaknesses and proclivities that our people do. So the admonition to pay close attention to himself that Paul gave Timothy goes for us as well.
Paul was not telling Timothy to be self-absorbed or narcissistic, but to be self-aware. It was a warning to be on the look out for his own spiritual well being, to be on guard for his own holiness, to be sensitive to his own weaknesses. He was telling Timothy not to be so focused on those he was ministering to, so as to miss his own sin.
Our personal holiness not only affects us, but it affects our ministry as well. It affects those to whom we minister, and those whom we lead. The leaven that begins with us can affect the whole flock, and can have a ripple effect into the broader church. This is another area that James 3:1 speaks to.
So how do you watch over yourself? Here are a few ways.
1. Pray for yourself, just like you pray for your people. Pray for discernment. Pray for sensitivity to sin. Pray for protection from temptation. Pray that evil will not ensnare you. Pray for your own spiritual growth and your own spiritual needs.
2. Don't become enamored with your own holiness, or think that you are above sin. The admonition that he who stands should take heed lest he fall is particularly applicable to pastors. Humility regarding our own spiritual condition is a safeguard here, which means you must never think you are above temptation, never think certain sins will have no draw upon your flesh.
3. Never become content with where you are spiritually, never think you have arrived spiritually, but seek to be constantly growing. A growing faith is a flourishing faith, and a flourishing faith is more sensitive to sin, and therefore less prone to fall prey to temptation.
4. Stay fresh in the word, so that the word will stay fresh in you. The continual treasuring up of the word in our heart, the continual exposure to the word provides a protective shield for our heart and mind against sin.
5. Be on your guard, and be aware of the schemes of the enemy. He is constantly on the look out for whom he can devour, whom he can cause to fall, so we must be constantly vigilant against his wiles. Do not let yourself be put into situations where temptation will lurk. Part of praying that you will not be led into temptation is the realization of the areas in which you can be tempted.
Fellow pastors, the bar is set high for us because the spiritual stakes are so high, not only for us, but for those the Lord has assigned to our care. So let us be diligent in our own spiritual life so that the example we set will be equal to the word we preach.