A legacy of faithfulness is the accumulation of an entire life, and I know that I’m still a work in progress. But I am thankful for faithful men who have invested in me, and I would like to share what they have handed to me.
I have tried to practice these seven principles over the last thirty-one years of marriage and twenty-six years of pastoring. I hope they will be a help to you.
1. Begin with the long view.
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…—Ecclesiastes 7:8
If you’re going to be faithful over the decades, you must start right. An early, long-term commitment makes all the difference. For instance, when I asked Terrie to marry me, I had a lifetime in mind; I was in this for the long haul. Likewise in ministry, I didn’t come to Lancaster with a “try and see” mentality. I was in whole-heartedly.
Beginning with a commitment shapes your decisions and affects your approach. It makes room for long-term vision and provides the encouragement to sustain through the ups and downs of life.
2. Expect some changes along the way.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven—Ecclesiastes 3:1
There are basics in a marriage or church that should never change. My loyalty and love for Terrie should be a growing constant. The doctrine and core beliefs of our church should be unshakably rooted in Scripture. And yet, some things do change over time. Our church has grown over the past twenty-six years; some of the dynamics have naturally changed with this growth.
Remaining faithful requires adaptability. It involves a realistic perspective on life that acknowledges change happens and flexes with both growth and seasons.
3. Don’t make major decisions during low times.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.—James 1:3–5
Looking at the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 it is obvious that low seasons of life can dramatically change our perspective. In these times, as we seek God’s wisdom, we are wise to patiently allow Him to work in us before we make major life changes.
Some of the worst times to make decisions are when you hit a low point in your finances, job, or family. During these times of turbulence, we are tempted to make dramatic decisions that will alleviate the pressure. The wisest course of action, however, is to hold fast to God’s promises, trusting Him for the outcome.
4. Realize trials come to everyone.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.—1 Peter 4:12–13
Sometimes we think that our trials are unique to the dynamics of our environment—our family, our church, our career field, our kids’ school. The outcome of this thinking is that we blame others for our losses and seek change.
Trials are a given for every Christian in every place. We can find godly people in every type of environment who are suffering painful trials—family trouble, stress overload, rebellious children, financial deficit. When we enter seasons of trials, Satan tries to turn our focus to the external factors of our surroundings or the people around us. The truth is, sometimes we just need to walk through the trial before we find victory.
5. Seek counsel.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.—Proverbs 11:14, 15:22
I get a lot of counsel—every week. And looking back over the seasons of life and ministry, I’m incredibly thankful for the godly counsel I have received and heeded. When my children began dating, in every church building program, in any major decision, I have asked many godly men to help me.
Getting counsel is a humble acknowledgement that I don’t know all the answers and that I need input and direction from like-minded people who have been this way before. Biblical counsel provides stability and focus. It allows us to gain the perspective of others who can sometimes see further down the road than we can at the moment.
6. Wait on the Lord.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.—Colossians 3:15
No one who knows me well would describe me as passive. I like progress, and I like to aggressively pursue God-given plans. But the older I get, the more I understand that tarrying times are not wasted times.
Sometimes we just need to wait on God—to let Him work in our lives, to wait for Him to confirm His leading in our hearts. When we rush forward into our own agendas—however noble they may be—we set ourselves on a track of ministry in the flesh. The only way to sustain over the decades is to wait on the Lord, allowing His peace to rule in our hearts.
7. Give thanks.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18
As a pastor, I find that I can be in the midst of a hundred ministry blessings…and yet focus on the two or three current difficulties or criticisms. Every Christian faces this struggle. We have been given salvation, direct access to God, every promise in Scripture…and yet we become consumed with the immediate negatives that come our way.
I’m learning that the best way to overcome stress is to simply give thanks. Being in Central America last week reminded me that in the United States we have so much. That trip confirmed that most of our problems are a matter of perspective and focus. God sends hundreds of blessings our way every day; thanking Him for them recalibrates our hearts to meditate on His goodness.
I’m grateful for godly men who have mentored me in these truths, and I’m thankful for the faithful legacy they have left for me. Faithfulness doesn’t just happen automatically or by accident. It is the result of a lifetime of daily decisions.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.—Galatians 6:9