Dear pastors, teachers and church leaders,
We wish to see Jesus (John 12:21).
One of your sheep
I spent the day catching up with people, writing, and preparing to teach. But off and on, my mind wandered to the Sunday school lesson I had listened to. He was a good speaker, especially for his age. His body has served him for over ninety years, but it’s a struggle for him to get to the podium now. When he arrived at the front of the class, he sat down and taught with a strong voice and a strong mind, bringing a strong message to the faces in front of him. He knew that, like him, most of the listeners were in the last season of their lives too. He explained the history and meaning of a few verses from Mark, then helped everyone in the room know with certainty that heaven is real and our job is to help others believe that, too. Some class members left that day knowing the spouse they loved and had shared life with is joyfully peaceful in heaven and living each day with Jesus. Those who were still lucky enough to have their spouse with them held hands, grateful for the promise that they too could grieve with hope one day. All of us felt the teacher’s grief for the separation he feels from his own wife of 60+ years . . . and all of us felt the comfort he receives from his Lord while he waits to join her. As I sat in the Sunday school class, I felt the presence of God’s Holy Spirit ministering to the people there, as the Bible was taught and God was exalted.
I also thought off and on about the sermon I had listened to after that. The pastor was out of town, so another staff member did the preaching. He too was a good speaker, especially for his age. He was young and ran up the steps in tennis shoes and jeans, anxious to share the message he had prepared. It was a well thought out message, and he said some good things. But, I couldn’t help but contrast his words with the message I had heard in Sunday school. The difference was wisdom.
The Sunday school teacher didn’t have anything to prove; he just wanted his class to encounter a word from the Bible. The elderly man was relevant because of his message, not because he had dressed carefully in casual fashion. The older man was dressed in a way that didn’t draw attention to himself. I’m sure he wore a tie, but I have no remembrance of it. On the other hand, the young preacher pointed out his clothing during the sermon and asked people not to send him letters about it.
The young man will probably be a great preacher one day. He studied and worked hard to deliver a thoughtful message. Everyone knows a lot more at thirty than at ninety. Part of that is the changing world, but the larger part is the wisdom and humility that comes with age. Older people have usually experienced more and therefore gained a measure of humility that only comes with advanced years and learning from countless mistakes. Older people aren’t just wise because they have learned more, they are wise because they have accumulated more consequences, and therefore, more humility. That could be why the Bible includes these verses about the elderly:
Leviticus 19:32 – “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
1 Peter 5:5 – “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So, for this middle-aged preacher’s wife, this is the thought that I’ve contemplated off and on today. This is the thought that I would share with anyone who is a pastor, a teacher, or a spiritual leader: You have amazing abilities, given to you by God. But, the way to measure a message is quite simple—did you lead those who were listening to see you, or did they see Jesus?
Sir, (or madam), we wish to see Jesus (John 12:21). And, thank you Lord, for giving all of us the much-needed grace for a “next time” so we can serve again, with greater wisdom. To all who lead:
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed” (Proverbs 3:13–18).
Sunday is coming. Help them see Jesus.
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