Jeremiah 20:9. ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones and I am weary of holding it in and I cannot.’
Whilst the fire that burns within me may not be the biggest, I trust it may ignite some others. I remember my first day in eldership (Pastoral ministry in the church) in 1990, wondering what I was expected to do and how should I do it. I only wish now I had sought out those of maturity and wisdom who had walked before me and learnt some of these lessons to shorten my journey. Sadly it seems today that many younger saints are elevated to responsibility before having ‘earned their stripes.’ I have captured below some of the things I wish I had known as a young man that may have helped me in my walk and ministry with God. I regret that I have no space to explain or expand on the details.
1. The issue of vision. I would have narrowed my focus and better understood – and pursued with vigour – God’s calling contained in two Scriptures – and directing me to 3 things:
- Mat 22:37-39 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
- Mat 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
For God. To love Him with all my heart, soul and mind and to seek ways of doing that. For each other. To seek to love and honour others and to live in the ‘one another’s’ of Scripture. For the nations. To live with an activity that reaches beyond our self-interest, into the nations, and going beyond making disciples to obedient followers.
2. Knowing God. My greatest regret is that my growth in knowing God was more through an evolutionary process than active pursuit. To know God is not an academic exercise but the experience of depth in a personal and intimate relationship. This pursuit needs be a life-long practice. For too long I knew God as an argument and a theology rather than an experience. My greatest need was to learn how to love God with all my heart, Soul and mind.
3. Faiths passion. Following a deeper walk with God I would have set myself on fire, earlier, with appropriating scripture that captures my soul. I believe more now than ever before that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God with genuine meditation, reflection and worship on the Godhead.
- Some Scriptures that God sets my heart on fire with. Acts 20:24; Jos 14:10; Jer 20:29; Phil 3:7-13; Rom 1:11; Rom 8:28; Rom 8:31; Col 1:28; 1 Cor 9:13; Psa 50;10.
- Teaching preaching inspirational scriptures: Eccl 12:9-10;Is 50:4, 55:10;Mal 2:6-7;Luke 24:45;John 7:18;Jer 23:16-29; Deut 32:2.
4. A life of worship. (John 4:23-24. Message) I would have better learnt the art of worship and adoration of the Godhead.
- In song and by becoming God’s praise singer, for in this is the upliftment of the soul and man’s great purpose. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever”. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:3. Worship is the evidence of a love for God. To be ‘God’s praise singer’ I mean that I would have sought to discover the reality of His attributes and His names and used them as an act of worship back to Him.
- To live with the principles given in Brother Laurence’s book ‘Practice the presence of Jesus.’ To live in the practice of the presence of Christ. That my daily time with Him would not just be an event but a day long journey. The lack of ‘longing’ for God, and to know Him experientially, is the basis for every man’s anaemic condition before Him.
5. I would have “ordered” my private world better. A psychiatrist once said that people don’t so much break down as ‘fall to pieces.’ “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” Prov 4:23. Also “not be conformed to this
- 3 segment days – work two of the three segments and use the third for personal time.
- I would have focused more on my family in terms of time and building relationships. My kids grew up too quickly. We tend to give imbalanced attention to our public worlds at the expense of the private. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Fred Mitchell. (World missions) The importance of a good solid family and social life. Families work as a team together. Men, with all that you do make sure that you bring your wife through with you. With your kids make sure that you spend quality time with them. The years go so quickly.
- I would have learnt to ‘drip feed’ myself better and give more attention on those things that motivate me. I would seek not to appease men nor be ‘driven’ by men or by a sense of ministry obligation. I would have ‘thought for myself’ more than following blindly the enthusiasm of men and ministry.
- I would have attempted to continuously define the boundaries between being driven and called. Saul was driven, David was called. God works with called people. He called those who were drawn to Him and avoided those who were driven and wanted to use Him. Knowing the tyranny of the urgent as against the important.
6. I would have taken greater care with and of people (Acts 20:28-31):
- I would strive to remind myself more often that I am but a eunuch for Christ, invested with responsibility to care for His bride.
- To be careful not to invest too much time and energy into people who are not on the same mission.
- I would continue to remind myself to remember that we are shepherds not sheepdogs. We are the signposts to show God’s way.
- I would be careful to remember that must never allow people to make me ‘accountable’ for their lives. I have but opinions and perspectives (Godly ones I trust) – they must make their own decisions. Man is responsible for his own life.
- Everything is not as it seems. No man should judge a painting when he can only see the back of the canvass. Most of my mistakes have been through judgments made too quickly, or presuming I know ‘the story.’
- I wish I had learnt the truth about friendships earlier and the differences between functional relationships and genuine friends. There are many more differences in relationships we should know how to define. Our maturity demands we understand them. I write more on this below.
7. Seeing things – my worldview. (1 Kings 3:7-9) I would have trusted God for:
- Greater wisdom in leading His people. The greatest need for leadership is to seek God’s wisdom and to labour under His compassion. To understand how to live redemptively.
- Making calls of judgment concerning them. I desire to live, understanding that the first law of discernment is that “everything is not as it seems” and that “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
- Ensure others succeed by opening doors for them. (2 Timothy 2:2) To make every effort to help others succeed in their calling. I have often extended myself in going in support of another just to be with them for support or to help them succeed in their gifting’s.
- To remember my ultimate success will not depend on how good I look nor on how many great sermons I have preached but how many people’s lives I have impacted and opportunities have I created for them.
- We have no right to expect to succeed in our calling unless you are prepared to help another succeed in theirs.
8. Better understood relationships. I wish I had understood the different types or relationship.
- I wish I’d known about the inevitable frustration that comes when you put your trust in what you think are good reasons why people should remain loyal to you and the ministry you are in.
- I wish I’d been prepared for the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment that came when people in whom I’d personally invested so much love, time, and energy simply walked away, often with the most insubstantial and flimsiest of excuses.
- How important relationships are in our walk with God? The basis of Jesus team was not their function but their relationship. Impartation came through relationship. In our busyness we can lose sight of how important relationships are through which ministry flows. We can’t be in deep relationship with everyone but there must be interaction and friendship. Maturity comes from understanding the differences in relationships for example: Functional relationships as against friendship relationships and also accountable relationships.