Monday, September 10, 2012

One out of ten

When I was embarking on a life of ministry a decade ago I came across a book called Finishing Strong. If I could give a copy to every man I know (it is written with men very much in mind) I would. A friend bought ten copies after he read it and gave them to all his friends.

If you know your own heart you know you can fail, wander, deceive and stumble so very easily. We entered a spiritual battle at conversion even if we didn't at the time know it, want to acknowledge it or you may indeed not yet have been tested in it. The most anointed, ambitious, driven, dynamic and gifted individuals are so often, it seems, those who don't make it to the end of the race. So if you are one of those you are probably most at risk.

The truth is few finish well. It's a constantly sobering thought for me.

When was the last time you went to a conference and found the keynote speaker to be someone in their seventies? How many impassioned, fiery, Spirit-filled, running the race full-tilt wise and elderly Christians do you know? There are some, but sadly far too few. I can't guarantee that I will be one either but for mercy and grace.

This story shared by Steve Farrar struck me so hard when I first read it and it has stayed with me ever since. It is on my heart to share it with you now.

"John Bisgno has been pastoring First Baptist of Houston for a number of years. When John was just about to finish college, he was having dinner over at his fiancee's house one night. After supper, he was talking with his future father in law, Dr Paul Beck, out on the porch. Dr Beck had been in ministry for years, and that was inevitably the subject toward which the conversation turned.

"John, as you get ready to enter ministry, I want to give you some advice," Dr Beck told the younger man. "Stay true to Jesus! Make sure that you keep your heart close to Jesus every day. It's a long way from here to where you're going to go, and Satan's in no hurry to get you."

The older man continued. "It has been my observation that just one out of ten who start in full-time service for the Lord at twenty-one are still on track by sixty-five. They're shot down morally, they're shot down with discouragement, they're shot down with liberal theology, they get obsessed with making money......but for one reason or another nine out of ten fall out.

The twenty-one year old Bisagno was shocked.

"I just can't believe that!" he said. "That's impossible! That just can't be true."

Bisagno told how he went home, took one of the blank pages in the back of his Scofield Reference Bible and wrote down the names of twenty-four young men who were his peers and contemporaries. These were young men in their twenties who were sold out for Jesus Christ. They were trained for ministry and burning in their desire to be used by the Lord. These were the committed young preachers who would make an impact for the Lord in their generation.

Bisagno relates the following with a sigh: "I am now fifty-three years old. From time to time as the years go by, I've had to turn back to that page in my Bible and cross out a name. I wrote down those names when I was just twenty years of age. Thirty years later, there are only three names remaining of the original twenty-four."

There is a page later in the book where Farrar says that if you have read it thinking that will never be you then you are precisely the sort of person who it may well happen to. If you are married or single, male or female we would all do well to listen attentively to How to commit adultery by Craig Groeschl however secure, holy and model your marriage and ministry looks to you and to the outside world.

The stunning statistic three minutes in is worth reflecting upon and it may encourage you to listen on.

'Up to 65% of husbands and 55% of wives will commit adultery before the age of 40'

Source: Journal of Psychology and Christianity

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