As many of you know, I was saved in April 1995 when I was 21 years old, and I had, in my estimation, the best Christian childhood ever, even though I had it as a grown man. I was part of a great church full of people who loved the Lord Jesus Christ. This church was chock-full of outreach programs and I was encouraged and included in these outreaches from day one. I preached on the streets when I was only a month or so old in the Lord, and discovered the most exciting life ever. I was encouraged to read the Bible for myself, to think for myself, to feed and sustain myself. The overall sentiment was that church life was merely a supplement for the Christian life that was lived out 365 days a year. The men who took me under their wings ( while tolerating my foolishness) loved their wives and loved the Bible and loved the ministry.
I have no sad stories to tell of strife, or vain-glorying. I'm certain that was going on, since men are still men at the end of the day. I have no tales of how my heroes let me down; no tales of hypocrisy behind closed doors. I'm certain it went on, but I didn't know enough to notice it. Ignorance really can be bliss.
I was taught courage. I was taught boldness. I was taught steadfastness. I was taught maturity. I was taught to war a good warfare, to endure hardness as a soldier of Jesus Christ. I was taught the Bible. I was taught to minister by myself, if need be. I was taught to lead, and taught to submit. I was equipped early on to survive and thrive years before I would need to. I was taught during the harvest how to make it through the famine. I marvel at the wisdom and foreknowledge of God at this precious gift I was given, and I consider the preparations that had to be in place before I ever came along part of this glorious gift.
Consider that when Doug Fisher was walking the streets of Beaufort SC enduring the public preaching of Wayne Fair and Karl Baker, that the foundation was being laid for the gospel eventually reaching me 20 years later . Consider when Gerald Sutek was literally using bailing wire to hold his vehicle together late at night on the side of the highway in California, the foundation was being laid for my own public ministry 10 years later. Consider when Jack Chick was drawing his little cartoons neither he nor I had any idea how much they would factor into my ministry. Consider Peter Ruckman standing on a corner somewhere drawing out a drawing and preaching with no one listening. Consider the nights of disappointment and apparent failure that really weren't, because the point wasn't that day, the point was the next day, or the day after that, or the year after that. My life is the result of thousands of lives gone before me, most of whom had no idea how it would turn out, if it would turn out, or the significance of going one more mile. That is a great gift of God that extends out past salvation to his children.
God uses the steadfastness and perseverance of men and women to whom great things were committed to give the ministry it's only fighting chance at continuance. Paul told Timothy "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" . Paul said that God gave "apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" God gives, to the new convert as well as the old, an entire galaxy of men and women to help them grow, with the intention that the same gift be pushed forward to the next generation.
So now I look at my own life. In the last 20 years I have successfully taught maybe a dozen men to preach in public, with one man in particular surpassing them all. I have taught the Bible to scores of young men, some of whom are adults now. My own son paid me the largest compliment of my life once, in that he told me he had watched me his entire life stand up to people who mocked the Bible, and he's never once seen me back off. A man could live and die the rest of his life off of that compliment. But that's the things I can see, and those are the things that I think are significant. I suspect God would have a very different list. God might highlight chance encounters and offhand comments, or God might emphasize years and years of ministry with no fruit to show for it. Since I can't honestly say what's important from my perspective, I intend to live out my days in faithful service, living the life I was taught to live and honoring those who taught me with it. They were God's gift to me, and what I do with what they taught is my gift back to them.