A few years ago I attended the funeral of a friend of mine who had spent his adult life passionately teaching the Bible to others.
But over the years he got burned out in ministry as an associate pastor in a church. It’s not unusual: stats show that 60-80% of those who enter the ministry leave within ten years.
I had only been a Christian a couple of years when I first met him; he had recently become one as well. Over the years, he moved away and we lost touch. One day out of the blue he contacted me—we hadn’t seen each other in many years, but arranged to get together for coffee.
After catching up, he told me about his depression with ministry and was considering stepping away from it all for a while. I suggested he pull out, get a civilian job, and simply attend a friend of mine’s church in his city. I thought it would be a safe place for healing as he sorted out his next steps with his Father.
It turned out to be terrifically healing for him…and for several years he regularly taught a Bible study there as a volunteer, thoroughly enjoying it. The leaders at the church said he was the best Bible teacher they ever had. And he was one of the kindest and funniest guys I knew.
He and his wife were taking part in a 5k run on New Year’s Eve. She was the faster of the two, so at the start he kissed her and said, “I’ll meet you at the finish line.” When she got to the finish line, he never showed up. He had had a heart attack and died suddenly early in the run.
She spoke at his funeral and said some of the most beautiful things a wife could say about a husband—how loving he was, what a fantastic father he was, how he had given her twenty-five amazing years of marriage, how he was totally surrendered to Jesus, and how so many people were touched by him to draw closer to God.
She then ended her eulogy by simply saying, “I’ll still meet him at the finish line.”
Leadership is never a “straight-up-and-to-the-right” run. It comes with painful decisions and setbacks, sometimes confusion, often a sense of aloneness, challenging relationships, and difficulties of all sorts. But there is a finish line.
It sounds a bit kitschy and corny, but it’s true: I want to finish well.
Paul’s happiest and most hopeful letter was curiously written from prison. After he describes his former comfortable life before meeting Jesus, he writes thoughtfully these words from Philippians 3:
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. PHILIPPIANS 3:8–17 (MESSAGE VERSION)
Stick with me, friends. That’s what leaders say. And I’ll meet you at the finish line.
Dave Workman | The Elemental Group
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