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Seasonal Rewards

I find myself asking the question, “What am I really looking for in life?” I have gained just enough life experience to realize the answer changes with different stages of development. As I read Psalm 71 this morning, I saw the psalmist seeking the same answers.
“For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.” (v. 5) When I was a young man finishing high school and pursuing a degree with a subsequent career, I was looking for confidence. I needed to believe that I was capable and that my skills were valuable enough to be offered a job. It was easy to wonder if I really had what it took and yet my soul was filled with urgency to figure out what my contribution to life would be. During those early years, I prayed a lot for confidence and the belief that I could do what was expected of me.
As I entered the core of my career, my desire for confidence was matched by a longing for personal power. “I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD . . . do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation.” (v. 16, 18). I had come to realize that I had the capabilities for my chosen career path and now I wanted to know if I would develop the influence and persuasiveness to reach my potential. The career I committed to was that of being a pastor. Early on I proved I could prepare a sermon, lead a worship service and preach coherently. I hadn’t proven, however, whether I could motivate a group of people and rally them to use their talents to pursue a common vision. The need for confidence was now being replaced with a healthy desire for power that would help others discover the greatness of God.
At some point, I convinced myself that God had supplied the power to influence others and my focus turned to honor. Not the kind of honor that would elevate me but the kind of honor that proclaimed I was part of something truly significant. “You will increase my honor.” (v. 21) As more people are influenced by the power God has put in you, a sense of honor develops. Others thank you for what you have done in their lives. Others proclaim the valuable lessons they have learned from you. They point to you as a model worth following and credit you for much of the good that has developed in their lives. This goes beyond power because you have an influence on others without being physically present.
Finally, the need changes to protection. Eventually, our bodies give out and render us unable to do what used to be easy. “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” (v. 9) I am now watching my dad traverse through this stage. He is 82 years old and suffers from visible effects of the stroke he experienced when he was 48. He is mentally sharp and fully informed on the political and social issues of our day. Physically, however, he has no choice except to move slowly. He couldn’t possibly run away from pursuers. He would be helpless against anyone who wanted to attack him or force him against his will. The pressing need in his life is to be protected and taken care of by the people who love him and have been taken care of by him for years.
I am praying for the grace to accept these stages of my growth as they become necessary. I don’t want to be in a hurry to get to the next stage but I also don’t want to be stubborn when the time is right.

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One Response

  1. Bill, there is so much wisdom here. Thank you for clearly spelling out the challenges in the stages of ministry life. I needed this today, to keep perspective. (I’m so glad you are writing … people need to read your insights.) Posting this on Facebook.

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