I learned a long time ago that my faithfulness to Jesus is not dependent on someone else's decision. What does this mean? Jesus did not tell me that my reward would depend on how many people I got to heaven. I am not responsible for someone else's decision, only my faithful application of obedience to my Father's will. If I present the gospel to someone and they refuse Jesus, they are responsible for that decision but I have been faithful to my responsibility of presenting Jesus.
This is important to understand in a society that measures success by numbers and not faithfulness. A pastor is considered successful if he can grow is church large, even if he is forced to leave his responsibilities for whatever reason. Yet, the pastor who has faithfully attended to his duties in a small town to a small congregation, is completely ignored. We are the Church of the rising stars not the faithful warriors.
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:42-46)
Faithfulness to the will of the Master is what is highly prized in the Kingdom. We are not responsible for the results; that's God's thing. I have been made more acutely aware of this recently.
I am a pastor. My desire is to tell about, and teach concerning, Jesus Christ. I am happiest when writing, studying, reading and talking about Jesus. I preach, not because I want to but because I have to. I am compelled by the love of Jesus. So what am I doing here, running a restaurant, planning menus, flipping burgers and delivering pizza; a business that looks like it is failing? I have asked myself this question every day for many months but here I am. The answer, I am discovering, is not far from what I have pointed out above.
When I was a young boy I decided to quit hockey in order to watch cartoons on Saturday morning. My father warned me at that time that if I decided to quit I would become a quitter all my life. What my father was wisely saying to me was that if I quit over something as unimportant as cartoons, I would seed a spirit of quitting into my future, and he was right. Any time something becomes difficult or messy my first impulse is to quit. And we all know how difficult and messy life and ministry can get.
I have since discovered that whatever I stick to, no matter the cost, succeeds, or at least I have personal success in it. The trick is not to quit. The trick is to seriously consider my responsibility to the will of the Father and stand by him, no matter the appearance of things. It has become the anthem of my life as of late.
I don't know what else our Father is doing through this business, or is going to do, but I know what he is doing in me. As I come close to completing yet another 15 hour shift, I feel the spiritual muscles growing. I hear my Master's voice saying "steady on" and I feel the strength he lends me which allows me to go to the end of the matter. I am not responsible for the success of this business, my Father is. I am not responsible for anything beyond my all. All my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength poured out in love to my Father. I will not give in to the temptation of quitting, even though it seems the most attractive option right now. I won't quit on the 15 adults and 10 children in my church, even though I can't see what God is doing.
My only responsibility is to say to the Father, tell me your will that I may be faithful to it. I don't need to be a rising star to receive my reward, only to have a faithful and obedient heart.