Last month I had the privilege of participating in my father’s retirement celebration. I use that word lightly, as my father is “retiring” from 41 years of ministry involving one specific church, but his years of ministry will not be over until God calls him home to Glory. But the event has caused me to reflect on ministry in general, and finishing well in ministry, in particular.
My husband and I are late-bloomers in the full-time ministry field. We are in our mid-forties and are just now moving into that category. I have often found myself regretting the late start, but then I remember that were it not for the experiences that God has brought us through up until this point, we would not be prepared for the ministry to which God has called us. I can’t, however, shake the regret that, relatively speaking, we have so little time left to serve the Lord “full-time”. Maybe we’ll reach 40 years of ministry…but that puts us in our mid-80’s, and I’m not sure what condition we’ll be in by then!
When I allow myself to slide down the slippery slope of regret and self-sorrow, God is quick to remind me that I have no business there! Everything that God brings us through in this life–the good, the bad, and the ugly–is meant for our good. The problem is, good doesn’t always feel good. Remember the story of Joseph? He was hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and wrongly accused and imprisoned before God revealed “the rest of the story.” But he ultimately understood God’s purpose when he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Lara Williams, in her devotional book entitled Fruitful Affliction, says it like this: “God defines good from an eternal perspective. He defines good as holy and pure. Which is why He allows things into our lives that chip away at the things that ultimately steal from us.” We don’t ask for the hard stuff. We usually wish it away. But what if wishing away that hard stuff meant wishing away becoming the person that God intends us to be? Or, what if wishing away the hard stuff meant wishing away an opportunity to meet a need in someone else’s life?
At my father’s retirement celebration, my sisters and I sang a song entitled “God’s Been Good” by Sue C. and Belinda Lee Smith. The refrain goes like this:
God’s been good in my life. I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams when I go to sleep each night. Though I’ve had my share of hard times, I wouldn’t change them if I could, ’cause through it all God’s been good.
And that brings me back to my reflections on finishing well. For, you see, life is hard. Really hard, in fact. And although I’m just starting out in this full-time ministry thing as an adult, being a PK and MK my entire life has given me a pretty good idea of just how hard being in full-time ministry can be. But through it all, God is good. And when we embrace that truth, and press hard into Him when the trials and tribulations come, we can say “through it all God’s been good.” And that, my friend, is how we finish well.