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Run the race - and watch out for the snipers

October 27, 2020 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

The longer I am in pastoral ministry, the more I feel like I am running a marathon with snipers hidden along the path. I have been pastoring NewLife for 14 years, and during that time I have painfully watched many of my pastoral colleagues leave the ministry – sometimes due to moral failing, sometimes due to discouragement and burnout, and sometimes as a casualty of church conflict or marital troubles. I know that there is an enemy whose desire is to destroy the work of God (Ephesians 6:12), and that one of his favorite tactics is found in the words of Zechariah 13:7: “strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” As someone who has experienced more than my share of times when I have been wounded along the way and close to dropping out of the race, I experience a deep sadness every time one of my colleagues leaves the pastorate.

This past Sunday, we looked at the life of Caleb, who at the age of 85 was still eager to follow God and fight any battle that would bring God greater glory. As I was preparing the sermon, I reflected upon those pastors and servants of God I know who, in the words of Paul, have “fought the good fight” and “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). I felt compelled to honor those men and women who have persevered through every obstacle to serve God until their strength was gone. Men and women who took up their cross to follow Jesus no matter the cost, trusting that the reward would be worth it. Men like NewLife’s first pastor, Peter Dewberry, who pastored NewLife until it was time to step out of pastoral ministry, and then proceeded to start a prison ministry called Free Inside. And women like Peter’s wife Sheila, who served alongside him through all the challenges that come from being a pastor’s wife.

Can I encourage you to take some time today to thank someone you know who fought the good fight and finished the race? Some of you may know a pastor or pastoral couple who served God in ministry until they were no longer able to continue. Others of you may have someone in mind who served God faithfully in other ways, setting an example for you to follow. Whoever comes to mind, take a few minutes to thank them today for their faithfulness. And after you have done that, take a moment to pray for and encourage someone who is currently running the race and trying hard to persevere along the way.

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