On 2 September this year I celebrated forty years of public ministry in the service of Jesus. I find myself looking back over these many years with both gratitude and surprise. There is so much to be thankful for.
No Christian – and certainly no one who is publicly engaged in proclaiming the good news of Jesus – can take such a period for granted. Somehow, in spite of myself, God has been gracious not just over days or even years but decades!
For anyone familiar with the Bible, forty years in the service of God inevitably brings to mind Moses. Indeed, there is the perfect text for such a moment in a verse in which Moses tells the people how God has blessed both them and him.
'The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.' (Deuteronomy 2:7 niv)
Now, quickly, let me put a safe distance between myself and Moses.
- Unlike Moses I was not born in a strange land, although as a Greek Cypriot growing up in the UK I was often told that 'over there' was better than 'over here'.
- Unlike Moses I have not been pursued by the armies of Egypt, although I have known my share of hostility.
- Unlike Moses I have not been responsible for managing a vast multitude, although I have had my own share of crowd problems.
- Unlike Moses I have not been sustained daily by manna from heaven, although I have been miraculously supplied with so much from so many.
- Unlike Moses I have not been entrusted with God's word engraved in stone, although I have done my best to pass on truth that God has revealed to me in his word.
- Unlike Moses I have not found myself struggling to speak (Exodus 4:10, 6:12), although there have been times when I have found it hard to say the right thing (and not to say the wrong thing!).
- Unlike Moses I have not passed through a vast wilderness, although I have found myself in some extraordinarily bleak places.
- Unlike Moses the Red Sea has not miraculously parted for me, but I have survived turbulent air flights and perilous car journeys.
- Unlike Moses I have not been barred from entering the promised land, although I've not yet seen the revival that I would like to see. Indeed, lest this sound like some sort of farewell blog, let me say that, unlike Moses, although I look back I'm still looking forward. My journey is not yet over and may God let it continue as long as it serves him. I am pumped up for the next decade and beyond.
No, I have not been a Moses in any shape or form but I can echo his words. I have been aware of God's blessing in all my works. I have sensed God is watching over me and Killy, my partner in life and ministry, in our journeys through this world, and have found that we have not lacked anything.
God has blessed me directly through encouraging me through his Spirit. He has also blessed me with wise trustees, exceptional colleagues and friends who have guided, helped, cautioned and laughed. He has indirectly blessed me through those – perhaps including you – who have supported us both financially and in prayer.
Finally, I rejoice that I have been more blessed than Moses because I have known the fulfilment of all that he looked forward to (1 Peter 1:12). Along with the apostle Paul I find myself able to say, 'But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57 niv).
What I've been able to share over those forty years has been the life-giving truth of forgiveness from the past, new life today and a hope for the future through Jesus. At a similar anniversary, that great preacher of the gospel C.H. Spurgeon revealed something of the secret of his own extraordinary ministry: 'In forty years I have not spent fifteen waking minutes without thinking of Jesus.'
Thank you, Jesus.
And now we keep on keeping on as we commence our fifth decade – may we see a revival.
Rev Canon J John is an evangelist and the director of the Philo Trust. Find him online at www.canonjjohn.com