Today, I am not writing to you; I am writing to myself. If you want, you can read along.
I don’t usually write to myself, but maybe I need to do it more often. I don’t know why I am sharing this. Maybe one of you is in the same place I am and will find comfort in having met another struggler.
In a few weeks, I will hand over the reins of the ministry I started 25 years ago. I decided to exit on Aug. 9, 2018, five years to the day I summited Mount Kilimanjaro, carrying the cross. On that climb, God spoke clearly to me about letting go of the cross and passing it on to the next generation. I needed to step away from what I have done for 45 years, laying down what I have known all these years and beginning to walk in the shadow of the next generation.
Yes, there is a shadow ministry, but what does that mean for me? These last five years have been difficult, because when God reveals something, He only reveals one-third of it at a time. He showed me what I need to do but didn’t reveal the when or the how.
I wish God would send His will all bundled up nice and tidy in a beautiful box topped with a bow. Inside would be all three components: the what, the when and the how. But God rarely does that. Look at Moses’ experience at the burning bush. God was showing him the what, but it took years upon years for him to fully discover the when and the how.
Most of us love the what. We run out and tell others, “God has called me to ___________” (fill in the blank). Friends and family rejoice—and then comes the waiting. I hate the waiting. I really hate the waiting. But it is also in the waiting that God prepares us for the when and the how.
I say to God, “Let’s get going!” and He says, “Wait.” I even remind Him of what He wrote in the book of John, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). God isn’t impressed that I know a verse from John’s Gospel. In fact, He isn’t much impressed by anything I do.
Suddenly, He quotes the last few words of John 15:5 to me: “apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ugghh, God, I am just trying to accomplish your will.
But God is teaching me five things in this season of waiting:
1) Waiting does not mean doing nothing. Waiting is not sitting. Waiting is a time of being in God’s Word and praying. It is about removing yourself from the world and scooting a little closer to Him. In the waiting come great truths that will guide you when He reveals the why and the how.
2) Waiting reveals my weakness and a deeper need for God’s strength. I have found that when you are waiting, it’s not your accomplishments but your weakness that looms larger. The greater the weakness, the greater need for God’s strength.
3) Waiting is a lonely process. In the past, I have been very assured about my direction. I was a man on a mission; I had purpose. Then I found myself like a man adrift in the sea without a sail. God takes you on a journey, and you realize that you are the only one He invited.
4) Waiting is about deepening my relationship and dependence on Him. It is not about a plan or purpose but about a personal relationship with Jesus. When the relationship comes, the rest will fall into place.
5) Waiting can be a blessing. I have become more family focused during these last five years. I am not in such a hurry to save the world. I find myself desiring more time with my family, especially those two little boys who call me “Poppy.”
Yes, I am beginning to come into this new season of my life. I am going to publish many of my teachings; I am going to continue to write for the Baptist Messenger. And if God will allow me to, I am going to walk in the shadow alongside pastors as they seek to build kingdom-minded churches.
I am going to call this new path “Back 40 Ministry.” I have worked the 10/40 Window for many years; now I am coming home to work the back 40. As I work the back side of the mountain, I find myself at peace.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).