This morning I got up with the sun shining and England having won a football match and I woke up with a smile on my face. Then I realized I wake up with a smile on my face every morning. I watch Ann shower and get dressed, I make and eat breakfast and start my day with a smile.
So what is strange about that you may ask? This last couple of weeks I have had the privilege of chatting with other ministers from our great movement and from other church streams, and have come to realize that I am exceptional as they don't wake up with smiles on their faces. One minister shared candidly that he is stressed and is getting counselling help, another shared that despite having a church with a regular Sunday attendance of hundreds can only get 10 to his monthly prayer meeting, others struggle with the idea of retiring, some because they won't have enough finances to live like they want or others who can't let go of Public Ministry. In a recent Pastor and Wives meeting all the church leaders there said they will be retired within 5 years. For us as a movement that is a huge problem maybe as many as 70% of ministers will retire in the next 5 years without there being the hundreds being trained today to fill their roles.
Ann and I retire in 5 years or earlier; because we retire from Public office won't mean we will stop serving Jesus and we regularly talk about how we will manage financially and what we will do with our time and talents. We won't be rich but have made plans over the years to ensure we will have a home.
OK so why? Why are we different? It's made me think: because to us we are just us, nothing special, just us. We live our lives the way we do and feel content. I guess that's the answer, we are content. Philippians 4:11-13 New International Version (NIV) "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Habakkuk 3 :17-18
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Contentment doesn't come naturally, you have to work at it over years. For Ann and I it started when we were married, we decided whatever we did we would do it for Jesus, we would be disciples, his followers wherever that took it and what ever it looked like. We decided we would do it His way and not our way. I joined the Police because that was His way, the wages were poor, the accommodation was terrible, we lived in a council house on Europe's largest council esate of the time. I remember sending Ann out to buy something to live on with just a few coins in her purse and her coming back with two savoury ducks (a kind of meat pate). We faced hardship and struggles, illness and loss. When we joined Elim's evangelism team we spent 5 years without a home, living in a caravan, a camper van and different rooms at on old folks home. We didn't complain as this was following Jesus, it was an adventure.
We learnt to hold things lightly. Nothing was really ours, we only had it because of God's grace and favour; our home, car, finance, it was all because of Jesus' amazing provision. We recognised we could have been born in a slum, a different country, scavenging in a rubbish tip to find food, we were born here because of His grace.
All this helped to generate a sense of contentment, so the future is just another adventure.
What about you? Ann's great grandfather's favourite Hymn was "Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will suprrise you what the Lord has done" The key is count your Blessings, not your wants and needs.
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