I have never been one to make annual resolutions. I have always known that if I set one, I would decide a couple of days later that I did not want to do that anyway. I’m not much of a diet guy. Some days I feel like reading a lot, other days I don’t. I already bike because I enjoy it, not because I told myself to do it. I like sugar too much.
It isn’t that I lack discipline or initiative. I know New Year resolutions are not how I give shape to my days and, thus my life. Over my years of pastoring, there are a few things I do every day, to be sure, but I find that if we are not careful, resolutions can come from a place of pressure and expectation instead of being a matter of good habits and divine calling. When we take stock of our lives and ministry and then read the advice of others, we can feel the pressure to mimic and copy instead of drilling down on our faithfulness and seeking wisdom.
A phrase I have taken as my own is “faithful endurance.” It gives me broad but useful direction to my regular patterns in ministry life. This concept of faithful endurance is one of the tenets at the root of the pastoral calling. It describes what God wants from his under-shepherds when culture walks away from God or when the sheep go astray. It explains what we need in our marriages and families when every wave of opposition and conflict hits. It gives me a first principle by which to renew my own life with God.
By God’s grace, this pastor wants to endure faithfully as a shepherd, a husband, and child of God.
An Enduring Pastor
If you start a research project on what it means to endure, the first context you will likely find is marathon running. It takes a great deal of endurance to run over 26 miles, but that kind of accomplishment doesn’t happen in one day. To prepare for that distance, a runner needs to build endurance over shorter distances, over and over. Additionally, athletes prepare their diets, tailor their daily schedules, and eventually set out to complete the marathon. When the day arrives, the athlete has habituated endurance.
I have started seeing my weekly schedule a bit like that kind of work. At least one sermon must be prepped each week, and all my other duties must be taken care of regularly. Persevering in the small, regular things will help provide the strength I need for the long haul or the day when I am openly put to the test. Will I grow faint, or will I stand? This is the warning of the Proverb, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (24:10). And this is the promise of Isaiah 40:31, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
An Enduring Family
When it comes to my role in my home, I must live with the conviction that failure is not an option. Endurance needs to be the norm. Putting it in these terms might make it sound like marriage and family are jobs to be accomplished, but that is not the sense of the Christian’s endurance. We endure to reflect the love and grace of our Savior. God’s love is the paradigm for our endurance with each other. His steadfast love never ceases, and his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 4:22-23). How often must our love for each other be renewed every morning? Regarding our salvation, Jesus “endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2) so that we can be in relationship with him.
The promise of Christian endurance in the home is the beauty and power of relationship. God’s love for us never ceases, and when we learn how to do the same with those closest to us, we reflect the kind of love that endurance makes possible.
An Enduring Faith
I write these words near the end of another Advent season. This season is an important annual reminder of Immanuel and everything it means for God to be with us. But, as the seasoned pastor knows, it can be an overwhelming time. Our days and nights are full of preparation and work, and our services often take more time than usual.
I have needed to stop myself from time to time, break away from the cycle of work, and renew my relationship with God. If we are not careful, we are like lakes with rivers that run out of them but with no streams feeding us. We give out, but we do not receive.
Even while we are working to introduce more people to the glories of Christ, Christ desires our hearts and minds above all else. What value is it to us if we gain everything we desire during a season like Advent, yet our souls have been lost in the shuffle? (Matthew 16:26) Coming up on a new year is as good a time as any to pay more attention to the activities that feed my relationship with Christ. This, after all, is what Christ ultimately wants from me.
May we all, by the grace of God, endure in our faithfulness as we lead the people of God.