My dear son,
I realize you will be serving Christ in a world far different than the one where I was trained and first released into ministry. Your methods, your dress, your vocabulary, the technologies you use and even the problems you face may have little in common with the world I knew, or even the world in which we both minister today. You will be a faithful servant of Christ not because you mimic my words or imitate my ministry style, but because you live out the timeless values we share – values that come to us from the Word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So while I still have the opportunity, I want to take a few minutes to summarize in writing the values and life lessons I have attempted to live out before you and most want to pass on to you.
Never settle for what is comfortable, but remain constantly alert for the enemy’s tactic of lulling you into a life and ministry that is far less than what God has prepared for you. Though change is difficult and can create times of instability, the fear of change will lead to stagnant complacency and decline. The ministry to which God has called you requires action in the present, but demands an eye to the future. Act with urgency, but do not sabotage the church of Jesus for the sake of rapid results. It takes time to turn a ship, so look ahead and allow the time needed to change direction.
Take time to learn the valuable lessons from our spiritual heritage – both the good and the bad, and so avoid repeating those mistakes in the future. Learn from the past, but focus on the future. Do not be fooled or intimidated by glamorous stories of days gone by, for layers of glamour have often been added with the passing of time. Allow the lessons of the past to give you direction in the present so that you may impact the future as God works through you for His glory. Do not allow the ministry structures we have created lead you to feel obligated and restricted, but keep your focus on the goal of what God wants to accomplish through you!
Do not underestimate the power and importance of personal integrity and godly character. Protect and defend it at all times, for many have started to run the race only to fall by the wayside as a result of foolish choices rooted in selfishness rather than honoring Christ. Do not be like them, for many lost souls are turned away from the truth of the gospel because of the destructive testimony they encounter. Infuse your life with people and practices that will protect you and all in your circle of influence from the devastating consequences of sin. The enemy wants to bring you down, so be aware of his Trojan tactics.
Make every effort to pursue and embrace balance in your personal and ministry life. Do not sacrifice your loved ones on the altar of ministry zeal. Focus on your family. Prioritize the investment you are making in them, for you will be accountable to God for how you have led and nurtured those under your wing. Surround yourself with godly, trustworthy men and women who know the real you, and give them permission to speak wisdom into your life. Honor and edify your wife and children at every opportunity. Let them see, feel, and know that they are loved and are of utmost priority to you, especially in the times when life is hectic and ministry is overwhelming.
Be on guard that you do not fall into the trap of engaging in ministry motivated by the praise and applause of men. You are accountable to do what is right before God, not to please people. May your willingness to serve with an attitude of humility become synonymous with your identity both in public and in private.
While happiness is desirable, holiness is essential. There will be times when you feel like Elijah in the desert seated under the broom tree lamenting of your lonely stance. Know that in the times when you feel at your worst, God is working at his best, and the times when you feel you are alone, your brothers and sisters scattered across the face of the earth are still standing with you and praying that you might be strengthened.
Resist the temptation to view people through the lens of pessimism and contempt. Christ died to reconcile them to the Father, just as his grace was poured out on your life. In God’s eyes there are no impossible people, so continually be on the lookout for the opportunities God brings into your proximity for you to share the truth and eternally impact lives with the good news.
Allow your heavenly Father to do whatever work in your life would bring him the most glory. Heed his correction, and make yourself completely available to the One who created you. And may God continue to bless you as you focus on what Christ has done, and as you look forward to His glorious appearing!