I don’t know how they do it. Stuart and Jill Briscoe have been ministering to God’s people all over the world for many years and they are still going strong with more energy than I have on many days. This week, I had the privilege of speaking with them via a Skype call despite Jill’s arm being in a sling. She had just fallen the previous weekend and injured her elbow and was about to have surgery the next day, but still wanted to chat. She was so fun and vivacious on the call, you would hardly have known that she was in any pain at all. We were planning the release of their next book, Improving with Age, and as we talked I could see why God had these precious senior saints write this important new title. It is a message desperately needed by many older Christians who feel useless and in some cases abandoned by the church.
This got me thinking about how God chooses to use us and why. Just today, I heard a sermon from Psalm 84 reminding me that “better is one day on God’s courts than a thousand elsewhere.” My grandmother used to say that we will only find true fulfillment and joy in the center of God’s will no matter where that might be in the world. She also used to caution that the most dangerous place we could be was anywhere outside of his will and desire for our lives. Jonah certainly found that out the hard way as he headed in the opposite direction from God’s will and ended up in the belly of a fish. Interestingly, even when he did follow God’s will he did so grudgingly and was not happy when God spared the Ninevites.
There are times when I get discouraged in the work that I do. Making evangelical Christian literature to people all over the world has been getting harder. Bookstores that used to be thriving hubs of activity are closing left and right in the western world. Major Christian publishers have been purchased by secular publishing houses and the number of high quality Christian books seems to be on the decline. At the very same time, young people are consuming content in entirely different ways. Some experts even wonder if reading will decline sharply as people communicate more and more in 144 character sound bites. There are days when it seems like the encroaching tide of sin and evil in our world make my work almost pointless – and yet…
God is still at work. People are hungry for answers to life’s most pressing problems and the truth of the gospel is the only answer that will make any lasting difference. As I wake up from my lethargy and fog of self-pity, I am reminded that I am part of a much bigger plan. Sure the world is a dark place and evil is often on the ascendancy, but this is just a skirmish in a battle that has already been won.
Interestingly books still play a major part in God’s plans too. Every day, He is using His written word to draw people to himself. Bible study resources are helping people all over the globe to understand what they are reading “for the first time” just like the Ethiopian eunuch. Daily devotionals are helping to inspire and encourage personal time in God’s very presence. Deeper life books like the ones that we publish are challenging believers not to settle for milk but to desire meat as they grow in their walk with God.
As I toil in the vineyard, I need to be reminded of this reality on a regular basis. This week, God used Stuart and Jill to wake me up once again. While they have spoken in hundreds of places around the world over the years, their books have touched thousands of lives – many of whom they never met. My job is to keep my hand to the plow regardless of how hard or challenging the task may seem. The great news is that I can leave the results up to Him too. May I not be like Jonah who took every opportunity to complain, but instead be like Joseph who so wisely said “You mean it for evil, but God meant it for good.”