Looking Back From 60Related Media
I cranked over the big 6-0 on my odometer last April. It was one of my most memorable birthdays, and not just because of leaving the fifties behind. My wife and I were in Nepal on a ministry trip, and before I spoke that day, we were able to take a one-hour flight to view the Himalayas and Mount Everest. God is an awesome Creator and a gracious Heavenly Father!
Turning 60 has caused me to do a lot of thinking about where I am at, what I have done with my life, and what I will do with any remaining years that the Lord grants me. By His grace alone, I have been a pastor now for almost 31 years. I really mean, “by His grace alone,” because I went into the pastorate overwhelmed with my own inadequacy for the task. I told the Lord that I would try it for three years and see what happened. He graciously has carried me all of these years, in spite of my many shortcomings.
One day in the early years of ministry, I was jogging in the woods near our house. I had been reading the autobiography of the incomparable C. H. Spurgeon, and as I jogged, I prayed one of those “go for broke” prayers. I asked the Lord to bless my ministry as He blessed the ministry of Spurgeon.
I didn’t hear an audible voice, but the thought popped into my mind with such a jolt that I believe it was the Lord speaking to me. He said, “What about John Spurgeon?” The question hit me with such force that I stopped jogging and just stood there thinking about it.
You may never have heard of John Spurgeon, but he was the father of his better known son, Charles. He was a faithful pastor. He lived into his nineties, whereas Charles died at 57, so he lived beyond Charles’ death. If he had not had a famous son, his name would mean nothing to any of us. He would have served the Lord in his day and gone to his reward without much notice. It was as if the Lord was asking me, “Are you willing to be a John Spurgeon, to faithfully love and shepherd your wife, your children, and My church, even if your ministry is never as phenomenal as that of Charles Spurgeon?” As I thought about it, I realized that my focus had to be on being as faithful as John Spurgeon, not on becoming as famous as Charles.
Some time after that, I read an interview with Jerry Falwell. At the time, he was the head of the Moral Majority, the pastor of a 20,000 member church with a TV show, and the president and founder of Liberty University. The interviewer asked him what he wanted to be remembered for. Falwell’s stock went up in my book when he said that he wanted to be remembered as a godly husband to his wife, a godly father to his children, and a godly pastor of his church, in that order. His fame and amazing accomplishments had not diverted him from his godly priorities.
So as I look back from 60, I haven’t pastored a super-church. I am not in demand around the country at leadership conferences. But, I’m not sorry that I spent time many evenings reading to my children and playing on the floor with them when they were young. My kids are all following the Lord, married to Christians, still coming to hear dad preach each Sunday, and rearing their families to follow Christ. I’m glad that we took time each summer to go camping and enjoy God’s beautiful creation together. I’m thankful that my wife and I maintained our relationship during the child-rearing years. Now that the kids are out of the nest, she and I are best friends with each other and we’re friends with our adult children.
As far as the ministry goes, I’m even more overwhelmed with my own inadequacy than when I began. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t exclaim with Paul, “who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). I’m glad that he went on to say (2 Cor. 3:5), “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” I still stand in awe of Charles Spurgeon and try to learn all that I can from him. But, I’m content to keep on seeking to be as faithful as his father, John.