Have you ever wondered why so few people finish well? Reading through the Old Testament I am constantly in awe of how many of the Kings did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, even if they started out following after God. After a combined 78 years on staff, we are finding ourselves in an interesting place – looking at the last chapter of our years in ministry.
This summer Dave had a 3 month sabbatical and I went back to work after a 6 month medical leave. During the time away from the routine of the ministry, we had lots of time to reflect and talk. It’s discouraging to see other staff who had a zeal for ministry either just rust out, or burn out, or fizzle out. Too often pride gets in the way, or there is a sense of entitlement. After all, doesn’t God owe us something for all the years we gave Him?
As I reflected on what God would have me do, I was reminded that He has called me and showed me that Acts 20:24 is still true of my life:
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Three things are important to remember at this stage of ministry:
1. I've learned that life goes on without me!! I'm not indispensable. The ministry that I birthed carried on without me and continues to reach thousands of people around the world every month. As Dr. Howard Hendricks once said, 'Put your finger in a glass of water and then pull it out. The hole that is left is how indispensable you are!' So very true. God is at work whether I am there or not! I can entrust the ministry and staff to His more than capable care and the leadership of younger staff.
2. I need to ask myself the questions, “Where can I have a maximum impact with limited energy and physical limitations? What is the unique set of gifts and experiences that I have that can impact the next generation of staff? Where can I best use them?” This means that I may or may not be ministering where I have for the past decade or two or perhaps I will no longer be in leadership. But my identity isn’t in the ministry, my title, or my job description, but in who God has made me to be.
3. How can I encourage and mentor others to carry the baton once I’m gone? God has been incredibly faithful to us, to our family and in our ministry. Now is the time for me to encourage others to ‘keep on keeping on’. Regardless of whether He gives me a year, another 5 years or another 10 in ministry, my role has to be to mentor and disciple others.
At the end of my life, I want to be able to say without reservation that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”(2 Timothy 4:7)