Dr. Phil: Nearly thirty-five years ago now I had the opportunity to speak at my BA graduation ceremony (BTh. 1985). At the time, I used a quotations that I likely did not fully appreciate then, but has stayed with me all these years. As we look forward to 2019, it again seems particularly appropriate in light of the opportunities and challenges facing us this year.
The quote is from Phillips Brooks (pastor in nineteenth century, also known for writing, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”). He put it like this, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”
It seems that these two – opportunities and challenges – always go hand in hand. Great opportunities in life often mean a challenge to our faith and increasing our trust in God. The fact is that doing nothing takes no great effort or faith and is therefore is seldom accompanied by any challenges!
I don’t know about you, but the older I get the greater the temptation to pray for an easier life, kind of wind down gracefully and fade out stage left! Of course our reality changes a bit as we get older—needing a bit more sleep and perhaps feeling we have done our part. But I am not sure “fading stage left” is how God views our lives. Sure, we do slow down a bit and our main goal should be to making room for the next generation, but this does not mean that God is finished with us just because of the number of birthday candles on our cake (I hope!).
As we look to this new year, in addition to our existing training in E. Europe and Latin America, we are excited about the new training in Africa. It has been five years since our last International Consultation with those who are using our materials and so we are also really looking forward to all of our ministry coaches gathering together in Wittenberg, Germany (August). Though it is not without its challenges, we feel it is also a great opportunity!
As Brooks penned in the nineteenth century, we need to Pray to be stronger; pray for more power to face the challenges, it is then that our very lives become the miracle. I don’t think he is referring to doing something “spectacular” for God, for as Brooks wrote, it is not the doing of our work that is the miracle, but rather we are the miracle. Our lives themselves become those “open letters read by all men” that Paul wrote about. Last time I checked that has nothing to do with geography or plane trips. This is our ministry prayer as we face the new year. As we see the opportunities ahead, we want God to make a miracle out of our very lives. . . even in the face of the challenges. Likewise, our prayer for you is that regardless of what you may face this year, may your very life be that miracle for others!