“We speak often of the wonder of being married till one of us dies. It has not been trouble-free. So we imagine ourselves in our seventies or eighties – when divorce is not only sin, but socially silly – sitting across from each other, perhaps at Old Country Buffet, and smiling at each other’s wrinkled faces, and saying with the deepest gratitude for God’s grace: ‘We made it.’” (John Piper, This Momentary Marriage)
“We made it.” Three simple words that summarize the dream that one brother in Christ has for his marriage. I confess that I have a similar dream for my ministry as a pastor.
If you had asked me years ago what my dreams were for my ministry, I imagine that the things that would have made the top of my list (at least in my mind) would have included the souls that I desired to see saved, the numbers of people I hoped would be helped by my ministry of the Word, the churches that would be planted, and a ministry of some obvious breadth.
That was before ministry had made me bleed.
Nowadays I would answer a question like that much differently. What is my dream for my ministry as a pastor, you ask? In all honesty, I just want to make it.
I simply want to make it to the end of my ministry still running the race and fighting the good fight of faith (2 Tim 4:7). I want to make it to the end of my ministry without falling into disqualifying sin. I want to make it to the end of my ministry still loving Jesus, still learning his Word, still committed to my family, still tender-hearted toward the church, still praying for and sharing the Gospel with lost souls, and still wanting to grow in my faith.
If I make it to the end of my ministry in this condition I will be a very happy man. And if I make it to the end like this it will undoubtedly be the work of God.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
Making it to the end of your ministry still walking with and faithfully serving Christ is not something any pastor (or any Christian, for that matter) should ever take for granted. Finishing well is no small thing. The ease with which a man can fall into sin, become embittered with the church, and become cold toward the Lord and his Word, is sobering. Many who started well have not finished in like manner. Many have given up and have not actually finished in any meaningful sense.
An old, gray-haired, growing, devoted, soft-hearted pastor is a rarity in this fallen world. It is altogether an uncommon sight. They do exist, but they are the exception to the ministry rule. My dream is simply to be one of them by the time the Lord makes it clear that my ministry race is over.
That, and simply that, is my great ministry dream. All the other goals I once envisioned are just details. My prayer today is simply this:
My little bark sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbor with flying pennants,
Hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled…
Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross,
And every oncoming wave the fountain in his side.
Help me, protect me in the moving sea
Until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.
(The Valley of Vision, “Voyage”)
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer and grant me this lofty dream.