I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.—2 Timothy 4:1–8
I can’t think of anyone who had more trials and battles than the Apostle Paul. I also can’t think of anyone who finished better than he finished. However, if we believe what most writers tell us, very few spiritual leaders finish well.
Years ago I attended a conference in the Dallas area and the theme of the conference was “The Race of Life” When the pastor introduced me he said, “Dr. Sisk has finished his race” I said, “I hope he is not a prophet. If he is I am already dead.”
I am going to pose a question and then answer it, but first I want to give you a little background. I have been saved for sixty-five years. I trusted Christ as my Saviour the third Sunday night in 1949 in a Youth for Christ meeting in Nortonville, Kentucky. I made public my calling to the ministry in November of 1954 and started pastoring in January of 1956. We were approved as missionaries with BIMI in June of 1964. I have been preaching for over sixty years. Virginia and I have been in full time Christian ministry for fifty-eight years. We have been in missions for over fifty years.
Question: how do you stay happily in the ministry in spite of the battles? I wrote an editorial, which is published in my book, From Where I Sat, which I called, “I Just Keep Breathing.” This was a quote from a man who was over one hundred years old and was asked his secret of long life. I suppose that would be a good answer for me to give you on this subject. Let me share with you some simple things that have helped me.
1. Get in to Stay In
The ministry is not a hundred-yard dash. It is a marathon. In reality, it is a relay race. Paul did not say I have finished the race. He said I have finished my course. I ran well. I am now handing the baton to the next runner.
2. Get Rid of the Messiah Complex
You are only one member of the Body of Christ. You are not the whole body. In this passage, Paul is encouraging a young preacher to stay in the battle. He did not consider himself indispensable to the cause of Christ. God managed without you for a long time and when you are gone He will still be in business. Often when conversing with older preachers one would get the idea that it is all over when we are gone. Thank God, He is raising up a host of great young men.
You do not have to do everything. Find your purpose and do it. Do it well. Do it to the best of your ability. Do it passionately. But don’t think you have to do everything. Every opportunity is not a responsibility.
3. Have a Sense of Humor
Don’t take yourself too seriously. We should learn to laugh.
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.—Proverbs 15:13
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.—Proverbs 15:15
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.—Proverbs 17:22
People have asked why I smile so much. The answer is simple. It takes twice as many muscles to frown than it does to smile—I am lazy.
I think Jesus had a sense of humor: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). He was saying, “You get very upset about a very small thing, but you allow great errors without doing anything to correct them”
In Matthew 7:4 He said, “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” In other words, “You are quick to criticize others for small infractions, but you have great character flaws that are very obvious to others”
4. Admit Your Mistakes
The simple fact is, you are going to make mistakes; don’t try to cover them up. The only person who does not make mistakes is the person who does nothing. By the way, that is a mistake. People know that you are not infallible. Therefore they will not be shocked when you admit a mistake. When you blow it, admit it.
5. Remember That Rest, Relaxation and Recreation Are Not a Sin
Each of us needs something that will free our mind from the stresses of the ministry.
6. Learn to Rejoice at the Success of Others
I don’t understand it, but God often blesses people who disagree with me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would realize that we are not in competition with other ministries, but are team members? The thing that made John rejoice was the success of others: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
A good way to cultivate this practice is to pray for others. On my daily prayer list I have some people on my prayer list who vehemently disagree with me. They have a right to be wrong. I will continue to pray for them.
7. Don’t Assume That Others Owe You Something
Jesus gave an example of our propensity to believe we are owed something in Matthew 20:10, “But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.” If we assume that others will praise us, reward us, or honor us we are going to be disappointed. Thank God we all receive more than we deserve.
8. Be Thankful
Be thankful in your heart, but express your thankfulness to others. We should keep the words, thank you on our tongue and use them often.
9. Learn to Be Content
In Philippians 4:11 Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Most of us would have to say, “I am learning.”
Be content where you are, with whom you are, with what you have.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.—Hebrews 13:5
10. Stay in Love
When questioned about his game plan for a certain game, Vince Lombardi often said, “We will dance with the one who brought us.” In other words we are going to be appreciative of and stay with the ones who have helped us get here.
- With the Lord
- With your spouse
- With your family
- With the people God has given you
- With the ministry
Whether we have been in the ministry five years or fifty years, we must all realize that “by the grace of God we are what we are.” Whatever success we might have experienced is all because of the grace of God. Paul had the right attitude when he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6–7).
We have the glorious opportunity to work together with God, “For we are labourers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3: 9).