Tag Archives: perseverance

I still believe

I still believe

In 37 years of being a Christian, I’ve seen lots of friends tap out. They go through disappoints, failures, humiliations, emotional abuse. Out there, there are ravenous wolves disguised as sheep. Jesus warned as much, but it’s still pretty hard to swallow  bitter pills.

I haven’t given up in part because of the alternatives. As Peter said, Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Where else can we go? Jesus had just shown a horror flick, and His popularity took a nose dive; He had just told people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Grisly material. Not even the disciples understood, but the stuck with Him.

I read articles and opinion pieces galore about trends of people leaving the church. They are “spiritual but not religious.” That sounds nice, but Jesus left just one institution. The gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. He did warn that there would be corruption in it.

Hitting up against corruption doesn’t feel particularly good. Or getting hit by it. Whichever. How much can a normal person stand? There’s no trite answer. All I can say is, “I still believe.”

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I quit, and we lost

Colegio cristiano guatemala

Hanging out with the guys in Guatemala. (If you notice, only my feet are on the ground.)

The two things are absolutely related. It’s hard to beat Banner, even though his older brother Mario is almost as good at soccer. I was on Mario’s team, and we pretty much trailed Banner’s team by one goal the whole game.

But after two-and-a-half hours playing in the sun, having fasted breakfast, I suddenly found myself, somewhere between heat stroke and exhaustion, on the bench in the shade. I needed water, and there was none. I was breathing quickly.

“Pastor, come and play. This is probably the last time you’ll play in Guatemala.” Ordinarily these words would shot energy into me. But this time this 48-year-old body wouldn’t budge. I didn’t care any more. I was really dog-tired.

As poorly as I played (about 20 turnovers), still my presence on the field counted for something. I made it a little bit harder for them to score, a little bit harder for them to defend. My absence proved our demise by simple math: one less player favored them.

When you quit the church, you cause the team to lose. Keep playing.

Don’t give up today

don't give upIf you give up today, you give up everyday for the rest of your life.

Prayer: Moses ‘rocked’ until he threw stones

frustration and prayer

Stop striking out in anger and calling people “rebels.” It won’t bring any good. Instead, pray.

Moses brought 40 years of ministry to a depressing demise because he acted out of frustration instead of faith. “Speak to the Rock!” God had told him. “And the waters will gush out for their thirst in this dry desert.”

Instead, Moses struck the Rock with his staff. And he called the people “rebels.” He upbraided them and appropriated the miracle to himself instead of giving God the credit.

As a result, waters came out and the people quenched their thirst. But Moses wasn’t allowed to to into the Promised Land. He was deprived of the crown jewel to complete his ministry. He was cut off from the flourish finish. In short, he was cut short, and 40 years of effective ministry became ineffective.

moses and prayerSuch a disappointing denouement is a high-pitched warning to those of us who want to persevere in ministry. Did he just burn out? Did he stop believing in prayer?

The New Testament identifies the “Rock” as Jesus. Did Moses lash out at God because “one more trial” was a critical mass for him? It is sobering to think. Let’s stick with prayer and faith and avoid frustration.

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Patience

patience

Old soldier

His acts of heroism are forgotten now. No longer honored, the old man is a target for  kids’ sport. He moves slow and can be easily provoked. What do they care about some war he fought in before they were born?

In his breast, he knows what he has been through. He is tired, cast off from society. But that doesn’t take away the satisfaction. He has served his country — and he has served it well. The kids are free because of his sacrifice.

Though the world scorns an old soldier, God never does.

TODAY… keep serving God. Anonymous. Unappreciated. Never forget where your true applause will be.

Always traveling towards

My complaint with The Lord of the Rings is that they’re always traveling towards and never arriving at. In the first book, The Hobbit, the last battle with the Big Bad Dragon is anticlimatic. Every other battle along the way is much more exciting.

Upon reflection, however, this is the way ministry is. We are always traveling towards revival, and few of us actually every arrive at it. Tolkien’s journey genre is an accurate reflection of ministry.

You’re in a journey. People join your ministry, people leave your ministry. Sometimes, it moves forwards, sometimes backwards. There are discouragements and incomparable satisfactions that make it all worth while. I’ve learned to not despise the journey. It is long. But it is an adventure.

Worse off are the people who only live for money. They have no adventure, no conflict with the forces of darkness to wrest souls free for the kingdom of God. No matter how small your ministry is, it is vested with dignity and glorious triumph. God is pleased with your battle, your battling.

From reviled to revered

The Tuskegee fighter pilots were, initially, despised for being black. But as their escort missions saved bomber crews over Germany, they became greatly appreciated. At first, black pilots would be kicked out of officers’ clubs. Soon enough, the white bomber crews invited them to the drinks.

The airmen and their support crews are a lesson in perseverance. They won a hardfought victory, not only to stamp out Nazi oppression, but also to stamp out racist oppression.

Be a hero. You’re in ministry. At times, you are despised, unappreciated, unapplauded. Though no one thanks you, God does. Not a sparrow falls outside of His knowledge. So too, everything you do — EVERYTHING — is being filmed by the camera in the sky. Every time you clean the church bathroom. Every time you pray, and no one else comes to prayer. Every time, you forgo a treat to scrimp on behalf of church finances. It ALL gets a reward.

There were times when the Tuskegee Airmen bristled under official racism. They were tempted to quit. Why put your life on the line when you’re overlooked and even despised? But they remained faithful to their mission. And they wrought a great advance for the cause in World War II and for the cause of equality. Today applause thunders for them, tomorrow for your selfless sacrifice.

Apparent no

He was told to shut up. He clamored all the more. She was told she was dog. She asked for a crumb off the table.

What do you do when God appears to say no? Bartimaeus kept asking. In fact, he yelled all the louder (Mark 10:48). The Canaanite woman didn’t get mad. She said, “Yes, but…” Jesus tested her strongly. First he didn’t even talk to her. Then He mistreated her. She kept insisting. Even the “dogs” get crumbs off their masters’ tables.  This impressed Jesus. Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted,” he said (Mat 15:28).

It’s hard to know when “no” is truly and definitively “no” from God. So if what you are asking for doesn’t contradict the Word of God, keep asking and patiently believing. You could ask for something that God won’t give you. But the other extreme is worse: you could lose heart and faith and stop believing.

End of the drought

Droughts can´t last forever.

Droughts are painful. Droughts can bring death. Nobody likes those times when finances are short, attendance is down and trials outnumber blessings. We can whine, complain, blame God and even quit ministry.

During the times of drought, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: Droughts DON’T and CAN’T last forever. Just pray for the end of the drought and hang on.

Joseph oversaw seven years of grain distribution in Egypt during a drought. Those seven years came to an end. Elijah prayed for three-and-a-half years of drought. They came to an end. The early church’s persecution came to an end.

The devil tries to get you to quit in a season of drought. He reminds of a time when your wallet was flush with cash, when you weren’t doing ministry. He wants to get you to sell out on the Almighty God in search of the Almighty Dollar. Don’t quit. Hang on until the end of the drought. Rain will come. God will prosper you again.

The worst year

We spent almost 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. There were good and hard times. But it´s easy to remember the hardest year. It was the year I scrimped on prayer. No coincidence at all: I prayed less, and God moved less.

Somehow, I decided that I would help the kids with their homework during morning prayer. Bad decision.

What was once an hour of prayer because a few minutes. I thought I was doing a good thing helping my wife help the kids with their homework. But my priorities were wrong. I should have found ANOTHER time to help my kids without cutting down on prayer.

At the year´s end, things looked bleak. In hindsight, I scanned the shambles and assessed the problem: prayerlessness.

In later years, I wound up adding to my prayer times. Those were bumper crop years.

So are things not going well for you? Maybe you´re overworking —  to little or no avail. Keep in mind that when God works, things work. I know He works all the time, but it sure seems like He works MORE for us when we are praying. You might shoot me down in the realm of theology, but no one can shoot me down in the realm of practice.