“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15:58 NAS)
On Saturday I was vividly reminded of the truth of the above passage as my church family surprised me with a 30th anniversary celebration of my ministry at Cornerstone. I have been truly blessed beyond anything I could have ever hoped or imagined. I was deeply touched by the testimonies, the memories, the sacrifices of those who traveled far to be there, and the efforts made at pulling it all together. I love you all and am grateful beyond words.
Some Pastors complain about the hardships of the job. I could never understand that mindset. Of course every job has its unique challenges, its unpleasant responsibilities and its difficult moments. The pastorate is certainly no exception in that regard. But the reality is that the vast majority of the time I get to devote myself to studying God’s Word, conveying the fruits of that labor to the people God has entrusted into my care, and occasionally watching it take root in their lives over time. What could more rewarding than that? And on top of it all I get paid for it!! Needless to say I am deeply grateful to those who give generously to make this ministry possible. It is I who should be putting on a celebration for you, the congregation.
But above all I am thankful to God who alone deserves the credit for whatever good has come from my ministry. I read recently the preface for a book by Ronald Knox that was unfinished at his death and was never published. Rather than dedicating the work to a family member or mentor, he made the unusual move of dedicating the work to God Himself. What Knox says about his book expresses perfectly my thoughts regarding my own ministry so I will end by quoting a portion of it - changing only a few words (marked by square brackets) to make it fit my situation:
“What I have [achieved] does not belong to me. If I have [spoken] the truth, then it is ‘God’s truth’; It would be true if every human mind denied it, or if there were no human minds in existence to recognize it… If I have [preached] well, that is not because Hobbs, Nobbs, Noakes and Stokes unite in praising it, but because it contains that interior excellence which is some strange refraction of your own perfect beauty; and of that excellence you alone are the judge. If it proves useful to others, that is because you have seen fit to make use of it as a weak tool, to achieve something in them of that supernatural end which is their destiny, and your secret. Nor is any human creature, in the last resort, competent to receive the poorest of our tributes. When we [celebrate a person’s work], we owe it (so we tell ourselves) to the love we bear him, or the admiration he excites in us, or the aid he has given us in the [fulfillment of his task]. But all we can love or admire in him is only some glimpse of your glory that peeps through the ragged garments of humanity; all the contribution he has made is only a part, and a small part, of the sufficiency which is your gift… And you who need nobody’s service, can use anybody’s. So I would ask that, among all the millions of souls you cherish, some few, upon the occasion of [stumbling upon] it, may learn to understand you a little, and to love you much.”
Amen and Amen.