When I joined Cru in July of 1987, I intended to be a “lifer” with the organization. Looking back, I had no clue what that might actually look like over the long haul. In many ways, it was little more than a romantic dream, a well-intentioned but poorly-understood commitment to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth and back, no matter what the cost.
More than thirty years later, reality looks a lot different than the dream. I wanted to do great things for God, be known for exceptional devotion to and love for Him, give my all for the sake of the gospel. In retrospect, my heart for and obedience to the Lord has often wavered, sometimes reaching embarrassingly low levels of commitment.
Back then, I thought that being in ministry for thirty years would have forged in me a more Christ-like character and provided me with some wonderful words of wisdom to share with those coming behind. Truth be told, I do not feel especially righteous, sagacious, or qualified to offer others a stellar example or share anything truly compelling or profound. The milestone came and went without much fanfare or notice. Before and after, the mundane tasks of everyday life in ministry remain strangely familiar. Nothing stands out as fundamentally different than before.
What is most noticeable is not my extraordinary commitment or growing resemblance (or lack thereof) to Jesus over the past thirty years. Rather, it is the immense and inexorable faithfulness of God. As 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Above all else, God has been faithful, and His faithfulness continues to evoke gratitude and hope.
Gratitude comes from reflecting on the ongoing opportunities and graces, all undeserved, which God has granted and continues to give. I’ve had the privilege of serving Him all over the world, of journeying through life with a beautiful, godly, loving, and loyal wife, of enjoying the joys and trials of parenting three wonderful children, of seeing God continually supply our every need, of being used to bring about eternal life change in numerous Christian leaders, and of experiencing the profound presence of God in ways I never dreamed possible.
Hope comes from knowing that no matter how far and repeatedly I fall short of His ideal, no matter much earthly time God grants me, He remains ever faithful, patient, and kind. I am secure in His love and in the riches poured out upon me through the goodness of Christ, and will enjoy these unmerited benefits for all eternity.
I am reminded of some words from a beautiful hymn written by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “My Worth Is Not in What I Own.”
As summer flowers, we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us at the cross
I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ at the cross
Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed, my ransom paid at the cross
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone
Thank You, Lord, for the immense privilege of serving with You for more than thirty years, and for continually demonstrating Your faithful lovingkindness.
Thanks, Lewis, for a very thoughtful reflection on 30 YEARS. God is good. Glad we got to have some time together during your recent “on leave” visit/s. We feel like we know you much better now. May God continue to inspire you to write more. Pleased to know you had V. M.[I can’t remember how to spell his Finnish name] as your mentor. He impresses me. Fuller has several such highly respected Pentecostal scholars on board, Amos Yong is another. Many blessings as you continue on in Singapore. God will provide. Roger (and June)
Thanks for your encouragement, Roger. It means all the more considering who is comes from–a great missionary statesman/teacher and fellow laborer. You are right, I had a wonderful mentor at Fuller, Veli Matti Karrkainen who did much to build into my life. God is good.