AFTER 40 YEARS OF PREACHING

After taking some time to reminisce, reflect, and rejoice over 40 years of preaching, I am full of thanksgiving, fulfillment and joy to have been blessed to endure thus far on the way.  From the tender age of 19 to now, fast approaching 60 years of life, I am blessed beyond measure to have not only experienced an abundant life, but to also have the honor of speaking words of Truth to others, many of whom have been blessed to enter into their own ‘abundant life’ of blessing others.

However, at this point I am compelled to consider that after all of these opportunities for service, sharing and sacrifice, among God’s people, where do I go from here and what will be the nature of these latter days?  From that youthful first stance to proclaim my faith before others to a place now where I’m the father or grandfather, literally, and a father to so many faithful, how can I proceed with less strength and energy but overwhelmed with experience, inspirations, and wisdom from these 40 years?

From the pulpit novice, the inexperienced interim pastor onward to various pastorates that cover the spectrum of church life, I’ve come now to the latter days of service in ministry.  And, I have already prayed that as in life, so now in these latter days to grow old gracefully in this work not having a disdain for the younger, gifted servant saints that do follow me.  How can I give assistance and aide to those who like me were treading in waters deep without deep sea skills to handle the depths in ministry?

I once had a person say to me in my first pastorate, ‘when you came here you didn’t know anything:  you didn’t know how to baptize, lead the communion service, or other ritual functions.’  He resisted telling me that I didn’t know how to preach.  But, of course, I knew that he meant that too.  And really, I wasn’t insulted, because he was right.  I had to learn somewhere and there would be firsts throughout that period of my life.  And, I was practicing on him and others in those early days.  That is the reality for all of us who start out somewhere in this wonderful body of our Lord among His people.

But I’ve struggled on through the darkness of youthful ignorance, the perils and temptations of youthful lusts, the challenges of balancing life with family, work, ministry obligations, study time, and pastoral duties.  I learned so much about myself, especially sometimes in my youth, that my puritanical passions and ideas of preacher exclusivity were really too much for what I was called to do.  I was not the only one who knew God and I was not the saint that I thought I was because I was called to this work.  That sobering helped me immensely to be able to not only preach to people but to also empathize with them and to love them unconditionally.

This journey has demanded of me acceptance of myself just as I am and trust that if God called me, He would also speak to me to tell me what it is I should say and do among His people.  Surely, if He spoke to the prophets of old and the prophetic men of this modern age, He could speak to me to make my voice one of those crying in the wilderness.  And, He has done that to me and for me that I might be able to proclaim a relevant and pertinent word to God’s people both in the pulpit and in private encounters.

And, He has touched my life so that my personal humanity did not become such to cause public embarrassments and scandalous disturbances that would cause pain and unbelief among the people of God.  Thank God for His power to save, sanctify, and mold after His will and purpose.

I cherish from whence I have come with so much thanksgiving for what the journey has exposed me to and offered me to help me become a portion of the possibility and potential I possessed 40 years ago.  Thankfully, I am not that 19 year old that was frightened at times by common everyday challenges.  I am not the same youthful novice whose emotions could easily be stimulated with excitement without edification, anticipation without vision, tension when there was no fight, apprehension when there was nothing to be feared.  I’m 59 years old now with vision, though I need reading glasses; with wisdom but still needing enlightenment; with seasoned experience though hoping for new, fresh experiences of grace;  strong, yet weakened by age and health issues.

How shall I proceed?  I shall go on from here with the same trust in God that I started with 40 years ago.  At times, it was all I had!  A simple trust, a belief, a steadfast hope, a stubborn resolve that I would be better and what I was doing would be better, and that God would work out whether things I did would be effective and pertinent to the current hour.  I started with faith, and with little else.  And I shall stay on that course of faith!  And, I will continue to trust that these latter days will be determined by a destiny that is mine and a trust in the one who authored it and put me on that path over 50 years ago.

I shall proceed to be a voice in the wilderness.  Without prominence, notoriety, accolades, or overall acceptance from the masses, I will be a voice in the wilderness.  And I will be a voice to those who reside in wilderness places struggling to find hope in dry and desert places in life.  I will be a voice that speaks simple words of truth that will continue to come as the days unfold.  And this truth will come from Truth Himself, the author and the finisher of our (my) faith, who has set me free to cry in the wilderness of human despondency.

My Intentions for these Latter Days

  1. To approach aging and its challenges the same way a baby faces learning to walk.  I do not intend on giving up; to keep getting up every time I fall; and to crawl if I have to but to keep it moving until I’ve moved from where I fell.
  2. To never take my eye off of the prize. Though there are many real distractions, pain, aches, family matters, money matters, and adjustments to the norms of life,  I don’t intend to take my eyes off of what the Apostle Paul calls, “the prize;” and to keep reaching for it . . . keep moving toward it and stay focused on it.  I’m getting closer to it with every new day.
  3. To be encouraged by the meaning of life brought to me by those who’ve been touched by my ministry. These faces, their voices, their very life is a testimony to my faithfulness to the call to which I’ve answered and served for a lifetime.
  4. To not get angry at those who are coming along behind me and haven’t made it to that place of secure maturity. It took a while to get there in my own experience.  Therefore, I intend to allow youth to find their way to that place where the novice wears off and experience and wisdom takes over; and to reach out and help when possible.
  5. To reach back and help someone that is trying to find their way. Realize in the latter days that someone needs a father/mother or someone to fill the role of patriarch/matriarch to guide them to the place God has for them.  Joshua needed Moses, Elisha needed Elijah, Ruth needed Naomi . . . the list goes on and on.
  6. To stop fretting about what I cannot do. It is a new season now.  One cannot play baseball in the snow and it is too hot to play football in June.  So, I’ll do what I can do while I can.  I will be more effective and more fulfilled doing what I can instead of fretting about what I can’t do and once could do.
  7. Finally, I’ll wait on the Lord. David spoke of his own assurances that could only be attributed to His relationship with the Lord, the same One on whom He’d waited upon through different times and periods, and above all, the experiences of his life.  It’s my turn to wait on Him in these latter days.  It will be alright.

Those are my intents for these latter days.

“I do not know how long it will be, nor what the future holds for me; But I know, if Jesus lead me, I shall get home, someday.”  (From the song, Beams of Heaven)

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