We recently returned home to Houston after burying my mother in New York. On January 11, 2012 she had gone home to be with the Lord at the age of 96 years. The Lord had used her in her own way to help us greatly in the work of the gospel since we began serving God full-time in 1978. We continue to miss and remember her.
Early in the morning after returning home fron New York as I stirred from sleep I sensed the words “finish the race” in my spirit. I came downstairs to write. I’d like to share with you what I wrote.
Mom had stayed with Lucille and me in Houston for most of her last 19 years on earth. Over the last few years of her life she needed more and more care from us. During the past year she was admitted to a nursing home facility where we visited her twice a day when we were in town and not ministering overseas. Now she is with the Lord, and no longer needs our care. And just two days after Mom left us, our dear family dog Tuffy of nearly 14 years also passed away. This added to our grief. But we believe the Lord had a purpose in this. There is no longer anyone at home who needs our care. With the Lord’s help, our three grown daughters are now self-supporting and then some.
By the grace of God we have labored for Him for over three decades as missionary, local pastor, and now teaching and equipping the body of Christ around the world. Since The Elijah Challenge began in 2000, ten of thousands of servants of God and disciples have been trained how to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus taught and commanded His disciples when he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. Some disciples and servants of God we have trained have gone on to be very fruitful for the Lord.
With the Lord’s wonderful grace our marriage of 37 years is doing very well. We have learned to treat one another with kindness and gentleness. Lucille who is nearing 60 years of age remains youthful and pretty.
By His grace we have matured in the knowledge of His son Jesus Christ. We are careful to obey the Lord’s holy commands producing good fruit for Him; and to live a holy life to honor Him.
Like Paul, we can now say:
“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)
Moreover, “we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)
I am now 62 years old, and am already considered a Senior Citizen qualifying for various discounts. But by God’s grace I am in very good health; both of my parents lived until their mid-nineties. According to a Blood Pressure Chart on the internet, my blood pressure, which is in the 100s over 60s, is that of a young person. I do not take drugs or medication of any kind.
Since I am a steward of my body which is God’s temple, I take good care of it. I go to the gym about six times a week. I can easily bench press my own body weight several times. I exercise self-control and am very careful with what I eat and drink. We do not have health insurance coverage of any kind and very little retirement funds set aside for the future, but with the Lord’s help we will never need any.
Indeed all this is the wondrous grace of God at work in us.
Now with the Lord taking Mom we are in transition—shall we say, at “half time” in a football game. Our “second wind” is about to kick in. We are to finish the race going away. I sense this is what the Lord is telling us. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded (Luke 12:48).
Brethren, please continue to pray for us and partner with us. We want to be increasingly fruitful for the kingdom of God in the years to come—more productive than ever. In five weeks we are scheduled to be training 300 to 400 Assemblies of God pastors in Indonesia at their yearly nation-wide meeting for leaders.
We again echo the words of Paul the apostle:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
This was Paul’s raison d’être, the reason he lived. He did not live for worldly success, accomplishments, and rewards in this life from God. No, he was straining toward the goal of the heavenly prize—his reward in heaven. Unfortunately, many popular preachers today use the lure of earthly success from God to draw crowds unto themselves, and will persuasively use Scripture—mostly from the Old Testament—to support their teaching for New Testament disciples.
But Paul warned all believers in the very next verse:
“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:15)
Paul’s reason for living was not limited to and applicable for apostles only. It was for “all of us who are mature.” Let us grow up now and mature in Christ. Let us leave behind childish things like focusing on earthly success and accomplishments primarily for the sake of fulfillment in this life. Rather, whatever we do in this life should be for “pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Then some day along with Paul we can all say, “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)