Some stories stick like mud. Whether it’s because it is shocking, sad, funny or surprising, you can hear a story just once and then recall it easily for months and years ahead. For me, one such story was told by the preacher of when he was a young seminarian who began to date a daughter of a prominent pastor. Having had dinner at the family home one evening, the father called the young seminarian out onto the porch and said to him “Make a list of you class mates. In 30 years time, out of your class of 20, only 5 will still be Christians and in the ministry – the rest will have fallen away.” The preacher did make that list and 30 years later he tracked down his former class. His late father in law was right – 6 remained believers and in ministry. This story, or illustration (or maybe warning) has remained with me. It reminds me, that as one wise person said, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, and the key is, how will we finish!
We can have the passion, call, desire to preach and minister the gospel now, but will we in 25 / 30 years time after times of hardship, persecution, attack and disappointments. Such words (hardship, persecution, attack and disappointments) are not on the vocabulary list of young, new pastors. However in “Stand: A Call For The Endurance of The Saints” edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, John MacArthur writes in his chapter “I’ve been in one church long enough to see just about every kind of attack on my character, life and ministry.” Indeed, MacArthur shares how 5 of his young interns, men whom he had mentored, tried to have him unseated as pastor – or the 250 members of his church, including elders and leaders, who left because they found his preaching too long and irrelevant. Why did he stay? He writes “there wasn’t anyone handing me any invitations. That was by the grace of God however.”
Other contributors to this small book are John Piper on why retirement is not biblical and that we are not to be a people longing to stop – Jerry Bridges encouragement to keep the four essentials for finishing well (daily time of focused personal communion with God; daily appropriation of the gospel; daily commitment to God as a living sacrifice; firm belief in the sovereignty and love of God), Randy Alcorn who gives the challenge that endurance requires brave courageous decisions on the daily basis on how we live and Helen Roseveares on endurance on the mission field.
This book is only 154 pages – short enough to cover in a devotional time each morning. Yet its contents should be an encouragement to us to think about the future – and this prepare ourselves for the long haul – to prepare ourselves to finish well.