I’m beginning to understand just a little of what if felt like to be Paul. . .
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches…” 2 Cor. 11:28
Tania and I lead a missions network with 45 young leaders around the globe (www.malachinetwork.org). We sing and pray over them regularly. It’s not uncommon to lay awake in the night thinking about these precious leaders, many with beautiful children, living in very hard places. They are strong witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are 10 things I hope they know. . .
1. God’s love is not based on what you do.
There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. Even better…there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less.
2. The work you do in language acquisition is worth it.
At its heart, ministry is incarnational. Learning a people’s language is perhaps the most Christlike thing you can do. Remember, John refers to Jesus as “the WORD made flesh.”
3. God has not intended that any of us make it on our own.
Philippians 2:4 literally commands: “Each of you should look not to your own interests, but even to the interests of others.” Remember, I Corinthians 13 is not really about marriage, it’s about how we relate to those around us in the Body of Christ. Christian community is mandatory.
4. Ministry is really difficult.
I think this is mostly true because we live with the emotions of eternal (heaven and hell) reality. We are effective when we really care about how people will spend eternity. This is heavy to carry. Ministry is also hard because people hurt us. To love like 1 Corinthians 13 commands keeps us very vulnerable. I have prayed this prayer over hundreds of young leaders: “Jesus, give them tough skin and a tender heart.”
5. There’s no shortcut to deep Bible knowledge.
We have amazingly gifted young people all around us in ministry. But your gifts are not enough. At the end of the day (literally), you are to be witnesses of the TRUTH. People really will perish for lack of knowledge. Matthew 24 describes many having their hearts grow cold right before Jesus comes back. This will happen because they failed to grasp God’s big picture plan and there was no one to guide them into truth.
6. Faithfulness is the most beautiful fruit.
The biblical prize is reserved not for those who finish first, but simply for those who finish well. You don’t have to be a world class world changer…God’s looking for those who have a long obedience in the same direction.
7. This is all just dress rehearsal.
Living for the age to come is a perspective that sustains us. The next age is not retirement on a cloud with a harp. It is real life in which we will rule and reign with Christ. What happens in the next age correlates to your daily faithfulness in this age.
8. Family matters.
If you are married and if you have children, they come after Jesus and before ministry. I actually had a mentor tell me when I was in my 20’s that we are to put our kids on the altar like Abraham did for the sake of ministry. Jesus, the Son, is a once and for all sacrifice. Give time to your spouse and your children. Make sure you keep a sabbath and please do family vacations well. Ask for help from a trusted friend/counselor when you need it.
9. Gratitude is contagious.
Scan your New Testament and see how often the Bible speaks of being thankful. A. W. Tozer writes about people who live “under the penance of perpetual regret.” Let’s discipline ourselves to be a people who live under the delight of daily gratitude.
10. Prayer is #1.
Prayer is absolutely “last but not least!” I’ll be as blunt as I can be: You will not be sustainable of the field of missions without a cultivated prayer life. Prayer is your source for revelation and it is the method by which you become Christlike. We become what we behold.