“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Cor 16:13
I continue with my thoughts on ministry over the 43 years I have served the Lord. The things I wish I had known in those early days and which I would have given more attention to. I acknowledge that there is so much more to these points and they should only be considered as headings to further exploration. I further acknowledge that these things are learnt as we live life – it just helps to look for them and actively discover their depth and truth if we know what to look for earlier. I continue the numbering from my previous blog
9. My calling. (Gal 1:11-12; Hebrews 5:4) That which has sustained me like no other during the hard times in life’s journey is personally (as against academically) knowing God and having a conviction and knowing His call on my life. These are God’s anchors in my life. In my ministry life, if I had not known I was called I would have given up long ago. “The call of God is a strange thing. If you start to analyze it you get lost. You try to describe it to an old friend who is outside the Kingdom of God, he looks at you blankly and suggests a game of golf!” Anon
10. Discovering God. (Psa 119;12,18,97,103,125) I would have learnt the discipline of biblical meditation earlier. It is a forgotten skill. J.I. Packer says “He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe…” Our knowledge about God must be translated into knowledge of God. Meditation is reflecting on, bringing to mind, thinking about and dwelling on the personality, attributes and being of the Godhead. His person, His works and His ways. We can do this by reflecting and learning about His being and person through His attributes, His Word, the wonder and working of this planet He created, His universe and for me – it ends in me seeking to be ‘God’s praise singer.’ To learn and practice how to proclaim my findings through my voice and my faculties. It is my view that we have spoken too often on the need to love the Lord with all our hearts, without giving instruction on ‘how to.’ Biblical meditation is a virtually unknown discipline today (Phi 3:7-10) and in peoples busy lives they have little time for it. Amongst all the points I have raised, I would consider this one of the most important of all. (Jn 17:3; Jer 9:23-24; Hos 6:6). I would continually remind myself that we know God through knowing Jesus Christ. (Jn 14;6,9) According to Jesus what I think about Him and how I respond to Him will determine my destiny for all eternity and is the most important thing about me.
11. Better understood the issues of life. (Ezra 7:10, 2 Timothy 2:15).I wish I had understood better the issues of God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility and satan’s involvement. I remember years ago, on a starlit night, calling out to the heavens, “Who are you Lord?” How I wish I had sought out that question more diligently. The wisdom with which we impart into the lives of others is strongly influenced by our understanding of these things. I too would have pro-actively sought out a fuller understanding of God’s Sovereignty and the question of suffering and pain because of its profound impact on how we live and care for others. A better understanding of life in a fallen world (1 Jn 5:19). If there is no personal infinite God, suffering loses all meaning. Psalm 112:6 7 ‘ The righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.’ A complex series of questions indeed but essential for those that seek a confidence in Christ. Without some understanding we can but offer ‘deadly personal’ opinions.
12. V.I.P. (Very Important people -Proverbs 18:24) I would have spent time with people of larger capacity than myself and looked for those whom I could trust and have some accountability with. I am enlarged when I am in contact with larger people. I too would have spent more time with some of the ‘little people.’ They are often the ones that live in a reality others only seek for. We need to be exposed – and not seek to copy – those who have obtained a testimony before us. Those from whom we learn. Interact with people who will challenge us, inspire us. Those that grow us, confront us and don’t allow us to get away with things. I would have actively sought and taken more counsel from those that have the evidence of the God-life as their testimony. The counsel of the many.
13. The art of interaction. (Prov 6:2; Matt 15:18) To better learn the art of communication, and confrontation. They play a major part in all of our lives. There is nothing that disrupts the harmony of relationships more than those who are weak in inter-personal relationships. Any fool can find fault in someone else’s life but it takes the grace of God to find the good. A good judge is that “if it is really hard to speak into someone’s life, then it probably is safe for you to do it.” To do right is always worth it. Not always today, but always tomorrow. To understand the R & R principle. Deal with issues timeously and not procrastinate. To learn the art and skill of confrontation that redeems rather than destroys. For it is indeed an art. More is spoken of in Scrioture about inter-personal relationships than most other things.
14. Shepherding. Sadly today it takes 3 years to become a qualified plumber but it only takes an ordination to claim one is a shepherd of God’s people! “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 God’s church is first, last and always people. Pastoral work is a craft and must be learnt. It specializes in equipping people and bringing them through into wholeness to reach their full potential in Christ. I wish I had been exposed to the details of this skill earlier in my shepherding walk. I wish I had known earlier that only being motivated by empathy and compassion often does not help those to whom it is being applied . We are often more Christian than Godly! To now realize that I am not called to meet all the needs – but to make sure all the needs are met. This error nearly killed me Emotionally! I have learnt that I am not the Saviour, God is. When Jesus died on the Cross, He died that He would get both the victory and the glory. He is the Lord, He is the Saviour, and He is the deliverer. Good Shepherds learn to excel in pointing people to Christ. To have ears to hear and eyes to see what He is doing, and do it with Him and direct His people towards Him.
15. I wish I’d known about the delusion of so-called confidentiality. Pity the man who puts his confidence in confidentiality. You can and must control the information that comes to you, but you should never allow others to control the information that comes from you. Once information is out and in the hands of others, never assume it will remain there, notwithstanding their most vigorous promises of silence. Be cautious and discerning to whom you promise confidentiality, under which conditions (it’s rarely if ever unconditional), and in regard to what issues and/or individuals. It’s not that I don’t trust human nature. I’m actually quite terrified of it! What I trust is Scripture’s teaching about human nature.” This is a subject on its own. People often bind what you can do or say to help them by sharing with you in confidence. Don’t do it!
16. Man’s praise. (2 Cor 4:7) don’t delude yourself. We all suffer from this at one time or another. I wish I had known earlier the danger of man’s praise and of others putting you on a pedestal. ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ John 15:5. The greatest tests of how we are doing are in times of success more than in times of trouble. There are not many people who can handle success and too many of us complain in times of trouble! Someone said to a preacher, “that was a great preach” to which he replied, I know the devil has already told me! Learn to assess your performance in the presence of God. It came from God and we are but the oracle. God opposes the proud and exalts the humble.
17. To have learnt that we are but custodians in this life. As soon as we possess some material thing, it possess’ us. Whilst Bernie and I have lost many of our material possessions on our journeys with God, we have become richer in having Christ than anything this world can offer. ‘Possession’ is one of the hardest things for mankind. As with the Levites not receiving any land inheritance in Canaan, God said to them ‘I am thy part and thine inheritance’ and by these words God made them richer than all the other tribes. It is a lesson not easily or willingly learnt. A.W. Tozer says ‘There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It coverts things with a deep fierce passion… the roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die… God’s gifts now take the place of God…’ To be free is to understand that we are but stewards of all God gives us in His creation, and not owners. To hold things lightly.
18. Attacks against me. (Gen 2:24, Eph 5:25) I wish I’d known how much people’s response to me would affect my wife and family. Regardless of a woman’s personality, only rarely will she suffer less than her husband from criticism directed his way. A woman’s deep need is to ‘protect her family.’ I love the church with a passion and understand its imperfections – man made. I will protect it and honour it. I have been ‘injured’ by leadership more times than I remember, and yet I have realised the folly of running to hide. Often unintentionally, and sometimes because of their ungodly motives, I too have had people hurt and they have left the church because of me. We would do well to learn about Godly discipline, and growing up in our maturity so that we can overcome our immaturity when being hurt or having unfulfilled expectations.
19. Faith. Finally – for this blog – it is imperative that we learn that Christian growth and maturity is obtained in the field and not learnt in the classroom. The only way to grow faith is to put faith to the test. You must put yourself in God’s hands and let Him prove Himself faithful. Unless you make up your mind to trust Him, you will never know He is faithful. When we only believe in things we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands, it is idolatry. God’s call on our lives, as we wait for the return of Jesus Christ, is to live redemptively. To acknowledge that we are called and equipped to ‘repossess’ that which mankind has lost, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, by being Christ’s ambassadors in this world. Now that my friends, is a worthy call.