We are in a year of the spectacular – the London Olympics and much sooner, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. A small number of our members will remember the day of the Coronation quite clearly, having grown up under a number of other monarchs. For many of us though Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch we have known. She has governed and served our country and the Commonwealth for 60 years and shows no signs of weakening. By any standard this is a great achievement.
In a similar way, we have just observed our Annual General Meeting, at which Richard Jones and Mr Capel stood down after a number of decades’ service as deacons in our church. They had both served in various roles. A few months ago we also spoke appreciatively of the respective roles of Robin and Naomi Drayton. They are people of their generation. It used to be the practice in some companies until relatively recently to present someone with a gold watch after 50 years of service. We however live in quite a different era. People change jobs frequently and often at interview prospective employers look for numerous job changes in order to demonstrate experience.
What lessons can we learn from these situations? It is common practice in our churches to play down the service of people, because we should do nothing to hinder the glory of God and that is right. The Old Testament however records for us the years that a number of people served the people of God, Judges, Prophets and Kings. In Rom.16 and other places, Paul has no problem listing those who have served faithfully with him. It is good and right for us to acknowledge the faithful service of God’s people, because if they have served faithfully they have only done that by the grace of God.
As I’ve stated above, we live in quite a different culture from that of our forebears. We move by choice and sometimes necessity in order to find employment in a jobs’ market that is increasingly difficult. At times health, our own or that of relatives, requires that we re-locate. Does that mean that we are any less faithful in God’s service than those who have clocked up the decades? The only true answer is that we cannot see the heart of anyone, therefore have no grounds for judgement, but again we need to go back to Scripture. Paul is a classic example of a man who very rarely put down roots. He would preach, see people converted, leave some of his helpers to continue the work and then move on to serve God in another context. He rarely stayed anywhere longer than 2 years.
What lessons do we learn from these facts? Length of time is no measure of faithful ministry. At the end of his life Paul could write, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7). His illustrations are helpful, but his final clear statement is the one that we need to consider, he had kept the faith. In all our decisions is God central? Are we concerned to serve Him wherever He might ask us to locate?
The promise of Rev. 2:10 is “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” When we have lived all the years of our life, will it be said of us that we have been faithful to the tasks given by God irrespective of location, until death?
May God give each of us grace to serve Him all our days.
Bernard Lewis June 2012