“Stick and Stay”

Philippians 4:11.  “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Back when my husband and I were starting out in ministry, we couldn’t imagine what would cause someone to stay in the same pastorate for twenty-five years or on the mission field for thirty years! It was literally a lifetime to us then.  How could they stay fresh?  How could they keep from getting in a rut and being bored to death?

For over forty years, we have had the privilege of working with many people who have had long ministries—people who have “stick and stay”—people who are resilient, joyful, long-term servants. What has made the difference between them and the ones who have changed to secular vocations or “gone back home” from the mission field?

  • A strong sense of identity in the Lord—not in the ministry position. We have to find our pleasure, our approval, and our purpose in our relationship with the Lord and not in the success or failure of the ministry work. Nurturing our relationship with the Lord is not an option.  Everything we do should flow out of our time with God and His word. “For out of the overflow of [her] heart the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
  • Being a learner. A ministry worker must be continually learning.  We have to learn to love people whether they mock us, irritate us, or just oppose us.  We have to ask God to give us His view of people.  It won’t come naturally to us. We can learn new ways to worship, new evangelism and teaching methods, and most importantly, we can learn from our mistakes and failures.
  • Being adaptable. Paul learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself.  The woman who is in ministry for the long haul will learn she doesn’t have to always have things just one way.  You can lead a group in singing acapella—no piano, guitars, or drums necessary! Christmases can be celebrated in many ways and with many customs.  Your family can learn to eat different foods.  You can learn to color your own hair or make your own mayonnaise.  One of the funniest substitutions I discovered on the mission field was that you can make banana pudding with Ritz crackers!
  • Being joyful and grateful. This is a choice.  Our joy is in the Lord.  Our gratitude is a sweet praise to him at all times.  I remember having a strong sense of the Lord’s presence as I trudged down a dirty street in a tropical climate carrying my teaching materials in my arms.  I had the same sense of peace teaching a bunch of squiggly, squirmy children in a hot park.  I reminded myself at those times that I was there under God’s calling and authority.  I had chosen to be obedient, and I was not “going back” until I was sure He had called me back.


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