I recently cleaned out some files and came across this letter. It struck me that the same advice I gave to her, is relevant for you as you launch into this next year of ministry! So I have rewritten the letter as a charge to you for 2014:
Dear Fellow Leaders,
Guard your affections. Make sure your love is well placed. Jesus said it best when He said that all of life is summarized in two commands, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22). Make sure that your first love is not your spouse, parents, work, friends, not even your own life, but your God. It is only when that love is focused that you will be able to discern how to love the other important people in your life. Listen to God and His Word and obey it carefully and you will never, never be disappointed.
Stay humble. Remember this when you achieve the honors and successes ahead of you. I know you will experience many. It is humility that turns you to praise God when you succeed. Without it, you will fall prey to pride, which has ruined many successful men and women in all walks of life. Also, remember to appreciate the others in your life who serve with you in your ventures. No one wins in life alone. It is a team support so appreciate your teammates.
Expect pain. It is a part of life in a fallen world filled with people free to choose good or evil. Always know that joy is available, however, to those who learn from their pain and don’t become bitter. Your disappointments will make you either bitter or better. The difference is in your attitude and response.
Think eternal. Some will tell you that the real world is only what you can test, taste, or touch. Remember that the real world goes far beyond the natural realm of your existence. You are a spiritual being, a beautiful person created in the image of God. You have an eternal side to who you are, so think and live to imitate the God who made you. Nurture not only your body, but also your soul.
Be quiet. I’m not just talking about speaking less. You have a beautiful voice and great ideas. But be sure and spend quiet times in silence, solitude, and reflection. The world is far too noisy a place. You must work to create opportunities to slow down, shut up, and listen to the voice and mind of God. If you take time to think, think hard about life, then pray and listen for guidance, I believe you will never lack for clear direction. Yes, at times the choices and decisions will not be easy. However, if you are still, and want to hear, I am confident the answers will come.
Keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you begin to dry up and die. I’m not just talking about formal education. I’m talking about life. Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow in some small or great way. Evaluate, adjust and keep trying new things. Never settle for good enough.
Be full of grace. Don’t expect perfection of yourself or others. We are all sinful, imperfect creatures in need of a lot of grace. So be sure and forgive yourself and others when they fail. They, and you, will indeed fail. That’s why grace, modeled by Jesus Himself, is so amazing.
I am proud of you all and I am blessed to serve with you in God’s kingdom. To God be the glory in 2014!