Editorial: Who knows what you are doing?
Others do not know much of what we do. It’s not so much that we want to keep it a secret—although there are issues that we must keep confidential. However, many things that we do are not done in the public arena. How do you tell others in the church that you have spent many hours helping a family going through a crisis? Who will know that you have invested time assisting a family living near your church deal with addiction issues? And what about . . . ? The list could go on and on.
We must recognize that often we do not see the outcome of time invested in various forms of ministry for many years. Individuals have told me of the positive outcome of issues that I helped them address many years ago. No doubt you have had such experiences.
Joseph Leininger Wheeler, the author of one of this month’s lead articles, tells a personal account of a family accepting an appointment to be missionaries to a foreign land. This family invested much time in a new land, and in some ways they had to wait for many years to see the value of that investment.
Every one of us has received time as a gift from God, and clergy do not have less or more time than others. Rightly used, time remains as one of the greatest gifts we can share.
Be generous with your time. “Pastor, do you have a minute?” Or, “Chaplain, do you have a minute?” Seldom is it only a minute. While there are those who abuse the minute, most come to us with issues important to them, and those issues should become important to us. Jesus was generous with His time. John 3 highlights the glorious gospel story, but often we focus solely on John 3:16. The story begins with Nicodemus asking a question. It’s almost one of those “Do you have a minute?” events. Jesus—in spite of all the demands on His time—spent a considerable amount of time with Nicodemus.
Be patient with the outcomes. What happens when we spend time with people? On some occasions the immediate outcome can be seen as positive, but most likely we are not certain about the outcome. The story of Jesus and Nicodemus is an example of one of those experiences. Once we finish reading the story in John 3 we have to wonder about the outcome. John certainly does not end the story by telling us that Nicodemus made a commitment to be a follower of Jesus. In fact, Nicodemus’s last recorded response (John 3:9) has the aroma of sarcasm. If the story of Nicodemus ended with those words, it would not be much of a story.
But the story of Nicodemus does not end in John 3. We meet him again in John 7, where Nicodemus asks a positive question about Jesus (John 7:51). I realize that we cannot call this a record of full commitment to Jesus, but certainly the words of Nicodemus reveal a change from the John 3 story. If the story of Nicodemus ended in John 7, I would be delighted to witness the positive change in his attitude. We know, though, that the story of Nicodemus does not end there. By the time we meet him in John 19, he has become a public follower of Jesus Christ. As the world marched past the Christ on the cross and mocked the One who taught, healed, and comforted, Nicodemus publicly identified himself with Jesus Christ (John 19:39). What Nicodemus did that Friday afternoon was not popular, but these were the actions of a changed heart.
Be kind to yourself. What are you doing today? What will be the outcome? How will you spend the time God has given you? My appeal to you: Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are faithful in your ministry—and I assume that most who have responded to the call for ministry are faithful—God will bless what you do. God knows what you are doing, and God will bless that work. The outcome of our work may not be immediately evident, but God does not depend on human assessment. God has His own assessment method, and we can trust His conclusions.
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