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Posts Tagged ‘well done good and faithful servant’

This week marks a big milestone in our family, as we celebrate my husband’s eightieth birthday! To keep things COVID-safe, we are staging ‘The Festival of Lionel’, several small get-togethers over ten days or so with friends and family members. It all seems a little surreal—as one kind friend wrote when invited to come and celebrate with us, ‘But … are you sure he’s eighty?’

Yes, Lionel was born in 1940—a very long time ago indeed, although in some ways, it seems to have flown. And what a lot he has packed into those many years! After ministering at a small church in Brisbane where our first daughter, Jane, was born, Lionel accepted a call to a church in Sydney, where our son Andrew came along.  A lecturing role at the Bible College of South Australia in beautiful Victor Harbor followed. We loved those six years of living near the beach and surrounding farms and our third child, Tina, was born there.

But then the college relocated to Adelaide, where we lived until Lionel’s role there finished a year later. We returned to Sydney, where he became a local church pastor again, until he was offered another lecturing role, this time at our theological college, which necessitated a move across town for us. Twelve years later, after that role ended, Lionel joined our church’s pastoral team full-time, before training as an intentional interim minister. He then worked in this capacity at several different churches, helping them find their feet again, and trained others in this ministry too.

Can you imagine the number of sermons Lionel has preached down through the years, often two different sermons each Sunday? And what about all those lectures—and the thousands of hours of preparation that went into them? Lionel already knew his bible well when I met him way back in 1968, during his own time at theological college, but along the way, he added to that knowledge with further study in the USA. He was—and still is—convinced of the truth of the gospel. His desire was to equip others well for their own ministries, whatever shape or form these might take, and to this day, even at the ripe old age of eighty, he still enjoys doing that.

Lionel has touched many lives through the years—college students, those who made up the church congregations where he ministered and also friends along the way, as well as family. His life has been well spent, serving the Lord and equipping others to do the same—and we hope and pray he can continue doing such things for quite some years yet.

Right now, however, what fun we are having, celebrating this milestone birthday! Yet it’s wonderful to know that one day a much more joyful celebration will take place for him when he meets Jesus face to face. On that day, I’m sure he will hear the same words the faithful servant who used his talents well heard when his master returned:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21

What a celebration that will be, sharing in the Lord’s happiness! Are you looking forward to that for yourself too?

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P1030779You might find this hard to believe, but my husband and I are both getting a little older as each year passes—at least, he is! Occasionally, in my smug state of being a number of years younger, I remind him of this. Whenever we pass an elderly driver doing something a little dangerous on our roads, I have been known to comment, ‘Oh, don’t worry. He’s just an old guy of about seventy-four!’—which is, of course, is my husband’s age!

But last week marked a different sort of milestone for him. Fifty years ago, in March, 1965, Lionel began theological college, which involved a student ministry placement as part of the training. He has been in some ministry role or other ever since, including several local church ministries but also two longer periods as a theological college lecturer and registrar, firstly at the Bible College of South Australia and later at what is now the Australian College of Ministries.

Yet that is not all. Even now, he mentors several pastors, meets with others for coffee and a good dose of encouragement and understanding, occasionally preaches, and pastorally cares for various friends via visits, phone calls and emails. Also, he still provides background support in training others for intentional interim ministry. On top of that, he continues to support me in my writing and speaking ministry as my bookkeeper, computer expert and general ‘roadie’, as he likes to call himself!

During those fifty years of ministry, there have been many interesting experiences, both encouraging and discouraging. Many sermons have been preached. Many lectures have been given. Many people’s lives have been touched. Only God knows the end result of all Lionel’s efforts in sharing the Good News, in caring for others and in training others to minister. Through it all, Lionel has remained faithful. He has kept going when I would have wanted to give up. He has persevered when I would have lost interest in doing so. He has kept the main thing the main thing. And I honour him for that.

Recently, a man in our street became seriously ill. Since then, Lionel has made a point of visiting him, talking with him, praying with him and sharing about God with him, both at home and then in hospital—to the point that now he has been asked to take this man’s funeral when the time comes. He has spoken with this man’s wife too because he cares about them and about their eternal destiny. That to me is the mark of a true pastor and man of God.

So I would say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ to my husband for staying the course and completing that ministry marathon of fifty years. More importantly, however, I know this is what God will say to him one day—a day I know Lionel is looking forward to as he continues even now to run the race marked out for him until the very end.

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 3:13-14

May the Lord strengthen us all to remain faithful and finish our own, unique races well.

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I suspect I’m about to incur the wrath of some of my friends with the following statement: I am a Queenslander.

Yes, there it is—out in the open! Granted, I have lived elsewhere for over forty years. Yet something interesting happens whenever we head north and cross over that border. There is somehow a different feel about Queensland I seem to recognise from my growing up years. Perhaps it’s the warmer weather and the tropical vegetation everywhere. But it’s also a certain ‘laidbackness’ in the people, with their casual clothing, easygoing ways and warm friendliness—not to mention those occasional flattened Queensland vowel sounds so familiar to me and that ‘hey’ at the beginning of some sentences!

This visit, I had the privilege of speaking eight times, mostly in places where I knew very few people. Yet I was welcomed warmly—and God was there, often with an agenda I had not envisaged. In one smaller meeting I had almost written off as a waste of time, God arranged for two people to be present via an amazing sequence of ‘coincidences’.  One girl had looked up my website at a friend’s suggestion and found I was speaking that very week in her own suburb—and on her only day off! Someone else was invited on the spur of the moment by a mutual friend who wasn’t even sure why she was inviting her. But God used what I said and my book Soul Friend to encourage this person in a special way.

I also paid author visits to four Christian bookstores where again God had special appointments for me. In one store, a lady shared her great grief over the loss of two husbands and a son, then came to hear me speak on the 23rd Psalm at a local church the following Sunday. Such heart connections in my home state will not be forgotten in a hurry.

And of course we caught up with family members and friends as well, including one school friend I had not seen for forty-eight years. What a delight to hear how God had continued to nurture her faith throughout that time! Other friends offered us such warm hospitality where we were able to pick up just where we had left off with them.

I loved these home state experiences of mine. But they have led me to wonder about my real ‘home state’ and the reception I will receive when I reach heaven one day. Can you imagine what that will be like? One thing we do know is that Jesus himself has a place ready for us. And he will be with us there forever.

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me … John 14:2-3

We know too that those who love and serve God will be greeted with a warm ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ and welcomed with open arms to come in and share the Master’s happiness (Matt 25:23). How wonderful that will be!

I can’t wait—can you? Then I’ll know I’m really home.

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