As we approach the end of the year, many of us take an inventory of the year we are leaving behind and begin to make plans for the year to come. With only three blog posts left for this year, it would seem to be the time to do this on this blog. But rather than a generic look back, I want to structure my focus on three gifts that God has given to each of us, with the focus being on how these gifts have impacted me this year. I will cover each of the three gifts in a little detail over each of the next three Fridays. (These three gifts were the primary points of my most recent sermon. They are the gift of time, treasure, and talent.) This exercise is meant as an opportunity for me to reflect, but also to publicly thank my Lord for the opportunities He has given me.
This blog was moved to this site in October, but if you have been a reader of my blog when it was hosted on Blogger, you will remember the series I did earlier this year on being stuck.* As I wrote over the summer months I am usually a very focused person, but beginning late last year, I began to lose some of that focus. That loss of focus intensified early this year, and I really needed to find a way to get back on track. As I mentioned in the posts this summer, I was still accomplishing what was most important, but I was not making progress on long-term goals.
*The old posts are still on that site and can be viewed at fotonni.blogspot.com. Some of the posts from prior years will be reviewed, updated, and posted on this site in 2019.
If we fast-forward from those posts that began in the late Spring, my focus has returned. And, I am thankful that it did because my schedule has become increasingly full. Many readers will know that I am a full-time pastor (Fairfax Baptist Church), an adjunct professor at a seminary and college (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary/Spurgeon College), and lead a non-profit training ministry which seeks to train pastors/church leaders in under-resourced areas (Pastor Training Community). I must state at this point that I am thankful that the church I serve allows me the freedom and flexibility to serve in the other areas. I realize that many pastors are not so fortunate to be entrusted with such freedom, but the church has honored my call to not only lead this church but to help lead others to lead their churches as well. Although I realize that ultimately my overall ministry is from God and therefore He has made it possible, I must never take this for granted the fact that the church I serve is gracious enough to give me some time each week to fulfill this calling of God.
Between these three professional areas of my life and my time with family, my plate, like many of yours, is particularly full. Most recently, my busy-ness has increased in preparing for some items in the new year for our church, in teaching back-to-back months for the first time for PTC, and in teaching more than the equivalent of a full-time load the MBTS/Spurgeon, including my first doctoral class. All of these items plus a mission trip and celebrating 25 years of marriage have made for a busy three months.
But do not hear that as a complaint. Indeed, I am grateful for the opportunities God has presented (and a few more unmentioned for now). I may be busy, but I am managing, in part, because God helped me through my slump, and mostly because of the strength He provides (particularly on a week like this when my PTC training is done each night (overnight) because it is daytime in Kenya while their class can meet). This strength of God supports my NT life verses which come from Colossians 1.28-29. Verse 29, specifically, says that my labor (like Paul’s) is done with God’s energy supplying my need. Thank you, God.
But to accomplish what I must, I also need to say, “No,” to several things. Perhaps, I must still learn to do this better, but I have a filter to try to ensure that when I commit to something it fits my calling from God, my personal mission statement, and is within the context of my strategy for fulfilling my mission which, ultimately, leads to achieving my vision. (Again, a series on these items is on the former host for this blog, and I suspect they will be among the items reviewed in 2019.)
The reality is that all of us have the same number of hours in a day. The gifts God has given us may include different amounts of treasure and different types of talent, but we all have an equal amount of time. The question is: What do we do with the time that we have? Paul wrote in Ephesians 5.16 that we must make the best use of our time (redeem the time, purchase it back) because the days are evil. The days themselves are amoral – that is, they are not good or bad on their own. But we must choose to use our days, and use them for good, if they are not to be evil. Even wasted days are evil in the sense that too many days wasted leads to a life of missed opportunity and regret.
So, if you are too busy, it is not God’s fault. It is yours. The same holds true for me. And, in the moment, I sometimes wonder if I am not too busy. But then the cloud breaks and I see exactly what God is doing. In fact, it happened to me today (at 4:06 am), when I received confirmation that the video training session I recorded yesterday afternoon for PTC (which allowed me to sleep until 1:30 am today!) worked extremely well in Kenya! So, I have a great deal more work to do to record all of the necessary videos (more than 100), but in the long-term, I should not have to be up overnight teaching AND we (PTC) can more easily expand to multiple countries!
I do not yet know what 2019 will bring as far as opportunities. But each opportunity will require an investment of time. So I am grateful God gave me the gift of time. And, the best way I can show my thanks is to work for Him while I can so that He receives glory (John 9.4; Matthew 5.16).
Next week, I will discuss the gift of treasure which includes not only my relationship with Jesus, but also to my wife and family.