Notes & Quotes Oct.2017
As I reflect on the lives and ministries of those that God has greatly used one common thread can be detected. We have family and friends who love, affirm and encourage us. Their kindness expressed in words and actions uplift us and spur us to do greater things for God and his kingdom.
From time to time I leaf through a note book, in which I have recorded the names of over 300 people who have impacted my life and ministry. Over half of these beloved saints are now with the Lord. Without their love, friendship, wise counsel and encouragement, I will not be the man I am today. I constantly thank God for using them to deposit seeds of spiritual hunger, bold faith, transparency, authentic relationships which have borne fruit over the years. I am of course aware of my imperfections. The signs over my life today are “Under divine construction” and “God is still not finished with me yet.” I am profoundly grateful that God in His wisdom and providence uses human agents to richly bless me. I have emulated their faith, their preaching and experience the awesome presence of the Lord in private and collective prayer. Team- building and the exercise of spiritual gifts are invaluable assets that I have picked up from them. Their influence has been considerable.
When I was embarking on my international ministry in 1967, a wise mentor gave me two adages. “If you hang out with ducks you are going to quack but if you hang out with eagles you are going to fly.” “If you want to fly with eagles stop swimming with the ducks.”
Epictetus the ancient philosopher said it brilliantly. “The key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
I have sought to be in the company of such people and they have brought out the best in me. But I have to admit that I have sometimes allowed negative and critical people to set up stalls in life. I recall an incident where one IFES Executive member, gave me a dressing down for not doing my homework as their chief executive. In my eagerness to persuade them to appoint a staff who became unexpectedly available to us, I did not have time to circulate a paper with his CV and a detailed job description and proper budgetary costs. Having a civil servant background, this person expected me to punctiliously observe the protocol of circulating well-documented briefs ahead of time. I was not against it but sometimes in life, one has to deal spontaneously with the unexpected. What upset me, was his tone and his pontification on the virtues of good management. My own focus was on leadership: doing the right thing whereas in management one does things right.
I was shocked and ashamed with what happened a month after that incident. This time I was a Council member of my local church. The pastor was a godly man but weak in administration. I took him to task and criticised him for his shoddy preparation in chairing the committee meeting. I had humiliated him publicly and I was appalled by my attitude. I had imbibed the spirit of my IFES Executive committee member. Bad influences can be contagious!
Years later when I was senior pastor, I noted that the most difficult members that I had to relate to, were those who carried unresolved anger against their parents, teachers or bosses. Their rudeness, critical and judgemental words stemmed from past hurts. So I appeared to them as an authority figure and someone to hit out. Any opinion expressed that challenged their defensive value-system would be met with stinging attacks. Each time I left them, I sensed a dark cloud hanging like a shroud hanging over me. I had to call on the Lord to send the wind of his Spirit to clear deadly and negative air around me.
I have endeavoured to choose friends who radiate faith, hope and love. Their company affirms and encourages me and provides me with greater motivation to exercise a godly ministry. They are the God sent eagles who welcome me to soar with them and to cherish their friendship.
Above all, we need to seek the Lord’s company. I’m always reminded of Ps.16:11 “In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has aptly observed, “Joy is the infallible sign of the Lord’s presence.” Let’s be contagious joy spreaders influencing others to draw closer to Him and motivating others to be the best for Him.