Twenty-five years ago, Dana and I were newly-weds starting out in ministry. Looking back, the time has evaporated, our family has grown, and God has given us more ministry joys and challenges than we could have ever imagined. I’m grateful to be married to Dana and to take this adventure with her.
So here’s a quick list of 25 life-lessons from 25 years of ministry. Maybe you will find something in this list that encourages your heart to keep serving Jesus! Whatever is burdening you today—it becomes much smaller in the rear-view mirror of faithfulness! Keep pressing on!
Here they are:
1. God’s script and my script differ in ways I can never predict. My plans and dreams are always flawed and small compared to His. Immerse yours into His!
2. God’s script is bigger, better, harder, and more adventurous than mine. It’s better than I dreamed and harder than I expected. You will look back on God’s script and marvel at His ingenious mind and patient heart!
3. God’s grace and strength is always a perfect match to His script. He has never called me into anything that He didn’t also enable me to do. My weakness is massive, but His grace is greater. In God’s plan, weakness is advantage.
4. God’s promise to meet my needs is absolutely reliable. I have worried far too much about things that God always worked out. Worry less, your older self will thank you!
5. God’s call to my family is my greatest call in life. There is no greater privilege than to have a loving family, and no greater joy than to see my children walking in truth. Swim upstream—love your family and protect their time, no matter what!
6. God’s work in me is the prerequisite to God’s work through me. Apart from my personal walk with God and discovery of His truth, I can’t imagine having any way to minister to others. Walk with Him for the rest of your life.
7. God’s greatest, highest value in life is relationships. People always come before projects. Hearts are what matter to Jesus. Ministry is loving people. Put every plan on hold until the relationships in your life are healthy.
8. God’s heart for me gives me significance that nothing else can. No temporal success or ministry victory can touch the joy of knowing who I am in Jesus. Every other quest for identity and significance will ultimately disappoint.
9. God’s call is to stewardship not significance. God enables me to steward my life for His glory, not my own personal fulfillment. My measurement of results—visible success—is not reliable. Obedience to His will is, by definition, biblical success! Results are simply a by-product of obedience, and quantifying those results is up to God.
10. God’s Word is sufficient to do the work He intends done. No strategy, no personality, no program, no plan can do the work in a person’s heart that God’s Word can do. Make His Word your first priority and highest value.
11. God’s power is truly found in the gospel. From saving a soul to transforming a heart to stabilizing my life—the gospel is powerful and inexhaustible. After 38 years of being a Christian, I feel like I’m just beginning to understand it! More deeply understanding the gospel is the answer for every issue I have ever faced.
12. God’s work is my privilege, I am expendable and replaceable. I bring nothing to the table, but a weak but willing heart (even that is a product of grace.) God could use a bowling ball to do what I do, but He privileges me to have a part in His plan!
13. God’s gifts can never replace God’s presence. Whether an ability, a possession, an experience, or an opportunity—none of it is fulfilling without God’s presence. The gift can never usurp the Giver!
14. God calls people to serve in families and community. A healthy local church is a precious, wonderful, life-changing body of loving fellowship! Everybody needs it, and without it, you cannot experience the Christian life the way God intends. Embrace your church fully, and pour your heart into God’s work there.
15. God’s worship is about Spirit and truth more than anything else. Dead worship needs to die. Real worship is transforming to the heart—it deepens, humbles, and motivates the soul in ways that nothing else can. Whole-hearted, corporate worship is pleasing to the Lord.
16. God’s growth in my life is never complete. Spiritually—I’m never where I want to be, but I’m never where I was either. I’m so glad God’s patience will last the rest of my life—for it’s going to take that long for me to mature!
17. God’s goal is my maturity more than my happiness. He is growing me, cultivating me, shaping me by His Word and His grace. And that is a great privilege! I will always look on my “younger self” as less mature than my “present self.” Which should make me more patient with everyone around me!
18. God’s leading leads into valleys just as onto mountain tops. Valleys are His deepest, most transforming, most intimate work. They aren’t fun, but they aren’t destructive either. If you want Him, He is very close in the valleys.
19. God’s church is His to lead, not mine to exploit. Being a pastor is a sacred calling to serve, love, and care for others—not to drive and use them. God’s cherishes His sheep, and calls us to do the same.
20. God’s strength and glory are magnified in my weakness. He isn’t impressed by my strengths, and doesn’t need them. He does His best work when I am weak, and in ways that I cannot see until a later time.
21. God’s people are amazing and it’s a privilege to serve them. Church families hold together, not because they have good leaders, but because they have a Good Shepherd and their hearts are connected to Him.
22. God’s story is unfolding with or without me, and it’s my joy to participate in it. I’m not doing God a favor to serve Him, He’s extending me a privilege in allowing me to! My service is a product of His grace, not my strength.
23. God’s personal work in my life is the deepest desire of my heart. No matter the trial or hardship, if it’s flowing from God’s goodness and for His ultimate purpose, I can rejoice in His work of grace.
24. God’s grace unfolding in the life of others is beautiful to see. Whether in one life or a thousand, seeing someone come to Jesus and grow in grace is an indescribable joy! Helping someone become a committed follower of Jesus is the best way I can invest my life.
25. God’s promises hold me together, no matter what. In the gospel of grace, my best days are yet to come, my valuable things can never be truly taken away, and my personal significance is always secure in His love. His promises are absolutely reliable!
Be encouraged friend… you are on a journey, and God knows exactly where you are, exactly what He’s doing in your life, and exactly where He’s leading you in His grace!
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey!
He’s GOT YOU, and the VIEW is BEAUTIFUL!!