Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don't give up the ship

Thousands of people have given me advice over the years. Some of it was very good, and some of it was rather poor. But, there are two pieces of advice I've remembered that have served me well.

In 1967 I enlisted in the US Navy and was sent to Great Lakes for Boot Camp. The first week there was mostly filling out forms, taking tests, and becoming prepared for the real training that would begin the next week. Another boot about half-way through his training was in charge of us that first week. I hated him. He was constantly yelling and asking us to do things I thought was stupid. It was a miserable week.

On the last night before we would cross the highway to where we would meet our Company Commander and begin training in earnest he called us all to the front of the barracks. He admitted he had been hard on us and assured us that we hadn't seen anything yet! He asked if we had questions about what our training would entail and tried to answer everyone's questions as best he could. He almost seemed human! His last comment to us was, "Just remember, the Navy will never ask you to do anything that is impossible to do. It may be difficult, but it will be doable." I reminded myself of that throughout my tour and beyond.

About ten years later I was being ordained as a deacon in our church. The final part of the service was the "Laying on of Hands." As I knelt in the front of the church all the ordained people in attendance formed a line and one-by-one came by to offer words of encouragement and/or a prayer. I have no idea what anyone said to me except for the last person in line. One of our deacons was from Scotland and as he leaned in to whisper in my ear all he said in his rich accent was "Don't give up the ship."

Ministry is often difficult and frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times in my 34 years of ministry I have thought back to that first week of boot camp and reminded myself that God also will not ask us to do the impossible. Difficult, yes. Challenging, yes. Impossible, no. "With God all things are possible."

There have also been many times when I've been tempted to leave it all and just walk away from the ministry. But, how can anyone walk away from God's call on their lives? This is who I am. This is what God has gifted me to do. I can't give up the ship.

It's funny that two people whose names I long ago forgot has had such an impact on my life through just one sentence each. In His wisdom God branded those words onto my spirit to encourage and strengthen me for the task He would give me.

Perhaps they will encourage and strengthen you today.

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