I began ministry as a naive simplistic young man. My wife Denie and I joined hearts and hands and we’ve journeyed this road together. How much better our lives would have been had I known more when we started, but I didn’t.
My mistakes are many. I think I’m a slow learner. Thankfully, I am not the same man I was 50 years ago. I actually feel sorry for the people who followed me in my younger years. But God has been so gracious and has taught me much through the Scriptures, the teaching of others, the good books I’ve read. I’ve had wonderful mentors who influenced me. Here I am 50 years later, still blessed to be doing God’s work.
Here are some things I’ve learned.
- God is good. He has never done me wrong, despite my failures. He’s good all the time. Looking back through good times, troubled times, stressful times, I can see that He has always been good.
- The Bible works in all cultures. Its message works regardless of language or culture. What a privilege to preach and teach the living and powerful word of God to the nations!
- People are wonderful. I appreciate the people of God I’ve worked with. The kindness, patience, and faithfulness of believers have often humbled me by their example. I’ve learned much from the old ones, the ones my age, the youth, and the children. My life has been greatly enriched by the lives of the people of God across the nations.
- I’ve been busier than I needed to be. I love work and to be in God’s work is a double blessing. But I’ve worked too much. I’ve traveled too much. I’ve taken on too much—often pushing myself just because I could. My life’s work would have been of better quality if I’d done only what God asked of me, rather than all the extras.
- I’ve learned that all things really do work together for good if you love God and accept His call upon your life. Clearly, not all things are “good”. Some are actually quite hard and painful. At times fear pays us a visit and anxiety robs sleep. But I see the “working together” of God. He was there. He is here. He will always be with me. What a comfort.
- I’ve learned to live with regrets. I haven’t always done things right. I could have been better at marriage, parenting, and ministry. At this point, I leave the past with God and humbly accept the fact that God used me, a very imperfect man, to fulfill His purpose.
- Success puts all of us in great danger. Success, no matter how sincere your faith is, can feed your pride. Hidden in every human heart is a seed of pride. When it’s fed, it grows into a monster. Humility is found in never forgetting where we’ve come from. Humility embraces the grace of God, the power of God, and an eternal dependence on God.
- It can be lonely being a leader. I had little time for friends. I wanted friends, but there was always too much to do. No time to develop deep relationships. That was my own doing. I didn’t prioritize it.
- You have to practice forgiveness or you’ll never make it. Looking back, I’ve had people oppose me who were very sincere. In later years some of these very people have asked for forgiveness. I’ve had many who’ve left me and our churches who later said it was the worst mistake they ever made. Forgiving them from the very beginning saved me years of bitterness and anger.
- You have to always look at the big picture and the long term. I wanted to quit so many times. I remember during one period of my life coming home every Sunday night and saying to Denie, “I quit. I’m done.” I did that scores of times but Monday morning I was back in the office and kept on. Now I can see that pushing through those tough times actually accomplished some good things in my life. I learned never to allow emotions to drive my decisions.
- Gratitude for everything and in everything is a lifesaver. Without some painful experiences, I might not have learned as much. I didn’t enjoy the pain, but the lessons learned in the pain were priceless. Looking back, I’m thankful for God’s promises, God’s grace, and God’s blessing in the midst of difficulty.
- God’s blessing outweighs all the struggles of life. I would do it all over again. I would answer His call and set my face to the ministry without ever turning back.
And I’m still going…