What a joy it is to serve the triune God! It is part and parcel of our identity as Christians. In serving we fulfil the mandate to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, came among us as ‘one who serves’ (Matt. 20:28). And is it not a noble aspiration to serve, seeking the commendation at the end of our lives ‘well done good and faithful servant’ (Matt. 25:23)?
It has been my privilege to be paid to serve for over forty years! Twenty-five years as a Pastor and fifteen years as an itinerant preacher promoting the work of SASRA. But back in 2016, while Pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, Tredegar, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, or cancer of the bone marrow. Though I did not officially retire until March 2017, thanks to the kind support of the church, my service nevertheless was greatly curtailed. I therefore faced the question ‘How can I serve when I no longer can?’
Two truths have greatly helped me.
Rest in the Lord
The first truth was the experience and attitude of the great Puritan poet and statesman, John Milton. It was while working on Paradise Lost that blindness crept up on him. He would write in a later work, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ He stated and lived the truth of submitting to the providence of God and knew what it was to rest in him. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ is royal service (Ps. 46:10). As a pastor, I have been moved time and again visiting those who, although housebound or impeded by serious injury, exhibit an uncomplaining and worshipping spirit. Their ‘service’ speaks volumes to all who observe it.
Not only did Milton complete Paradise Lost, but while totally blind and with the help of his family, he wrote the sequel, Paradise Regained. A reminder that whatever our circumstances, we should use what we still have rather than pine for what we have lost. Not an easy lesson, but a lesson all the same.
The second encouragement comes from the veteran preacher, Derek Prime. In his book, A Good Old Age he writes, ‘Our most valuable assets in old age are time to pray and resources to share and give away.’ If truth be told, many of us are so active in our healthy days that we neglect the ministry of prayer. How many preachers will lament this neglect on their deathbeds? I, for one. Yet such a ministry is now open to those who can no longer be as active. Tennyson said, ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.’
In God’s providence, I have recovered sufficiently to resume active service, not least in the joy of itinerant preaching. The more so as people realise that I am not dead… yet! But I pray that I will not forget the lessons learnt. Submission to God’s providence, a seeking to do what we can with what we can, and last but not least, taking up more fully the ministry of prayer, are all forms of service that delight our God and Saviour. And who knows if in the light of eternity that service, unknown and unheralded by the world, will not prove the most fruitful of our lives?