A fond memory of my teen years is my church youth group. While having fun with friends was essential, I’m grateful our leaders were convinced the study of God’s Word and its guiding principles would have the most lasting impact on our lives. For two years, I had the joy of participating with three other teens in a Bible trivia competition. To increase our chances of winning one year, we each memorized one chapter of II Timothy. The strategy worked, but even greater than being champions was the truths God impressed on my heart. Despite life’s peaks and valleys, my desire has always been to follow Paul’s testimony to the younger Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (4:7)
Recently, I have been reading the book, “Faith Enough to Finish” by Jill Briscoe. [i]After many years in ministry with her husband, Stuart, she reflects on what it means to “finish strong”.[ii] By exploring the life of the prophet, Jeremiah, and his scribe, Baruch, she draws out truths that I can apply to my own circumstances. Along the way, she allows me to glimpse into the transparency of her own experiences.
Born in England, Jill grew up during the turbulent times of WWII. She was uninterested in God and didn’t realize He had a personal interest in her.
“I appreciated all that the adults in my life had done for me up to that time, but I thought ‘growing up’ meant relieving them of their responsibility and charting my own course. It was going to be my own business to choose my path, partner, and philosophy of living. I had never opened a Bible so had never read any biblical concepts on the subject.”[iii]
Listening to Jill speak at a conference on March 22, 1983, I would never have guessed this is her testimony. It made such a huge impact on me that I have never forgotten she spoke on “Jonah”. As I began writing this entry, I searched for the cassette tape I had recorded. Thankfully, I still have a cassette player! As I once again listened to her message thirty years later, I wish I had replayed it every five years!
Even though Jill’s eyes were not on God as a child and youth His careful watch never left her.
“In God’s mind,” she says, “we were finished before we were started, and God knows in advance what He wants us to be.”[iv]
As Jill entered college to pursue teaching, she met a girl who had real meaning and purpose in life. This girl helped Jill to see how God had the same desire for her life. Once she surrendered her heart to Christ, she began on a journey of discovery that took her where she never imagined – teaching underprivileged children in Liverpool, serving together with her husband as missionaries, being available 24 hours a day to minister to people’s needs, enduring lengthy times alone raising her children while Stuart was away on speaking engagements, moving to the U.S. to accept a pastorate, and becoming involved in women’s ministry. She says,
“I resisted getting involved with women’s work at the church. I didn’t particularly enjoy women and much preferred working with teenagers. However, God does not allow us to choose to work with those we much prefer! He wanted me to work with women.”[v]
This resonates with me personally as God called me two years ago into a ministry with women. Like Jill, children were my preference and had been my ministry focus for 34 years. But, God changed my preferences to align with His. I’m so glad He did!
As I again listened to Jill’s “Jonah” message, I smiled and thought, “God planted seeds in my mind all those years ago which enabled me to follow Him in obedience even though my attitudes and emotions may not always have been appropriate. I can identify with Jill when she says,
“I’ve lived my life being frightened. I can’t ever remember not being frightened…If you can’t do God’s work un-frightened, do it frightened! Just do it!…We often pray for courage, but sometimes we need to go through the door before we find that courage is waiting inside…You have to do God’s will with whatever attitude you’ve got and let God change your attitude as you do it.”[vi]
I believe the reason Jill has such an influence on my life is because we share the same passion in ministry found in II Timothy 2:2. She says,
“I have had the privilege of teaching the Bible for years. But if I can teach others how to teach it, I have doubled my usefulness. I have studied the Bible for years, but if I can teach people to mine its treasures for themselves, I have enriched their lives much more.”[vii]
Until next time,