The Story of a Lifetime

Over the last few years I’ve read most books on my iPad. I love the library-in-my-pocket convenience. There are sacrifices, for sure. A significant part of the book-reading experience seems subtly connected to the simple act of turning the page.
In the early chapters it often seems the story could drag. There are few things more disappointing than predictable storyline, but one is a storyline that just doesn’t matter. When the story matters, on some secret page I begin to delight in connecting story lines. The better the story, the harder I’m willing to work. The wonder becomes fun of some sort. The story takes on depth. Color.
There is a tension point with every consuming read, when I realize the end is nearing. I want to know, I want to “see” but I kinda don’t. It would be worse if it didn’t. If I never knew. If the back cover were never to be closed.
Of course, these are the musings of a man living well past the middle of this life’s story. We’re near the culmination of 2017, and at the dawn of an infant year. But with the culmination of every chapter I treasure the realization, this is a story written by God, in me, through me, not by me. The author of grace, writing in love, with His finger, showing Himself amazingly.
I’m mindful of the 2017 plot twist, yet to unfold in 2018. Few but those who have experienced the neck-deep “people-stuff” of pastoral ministry can hope (or fear) to know the realities of withdrawal. I suspect every story is unique with common elements. Some filled with greater joy. Some with greater pain. Some with gaping wounds. Some with life-giving memories. All capable of serving as an offering to the God great enough to use the best and worst to a good end, for those who love Him for His purposes. He is good, and great, and able. He is our promise and our confidence in every chapter.
January 3, 2018, Lord-willing, I will join my friends Stu Dix, and Larry Szyman at MSP to begin the long flight to Uganda. That week of training will be graduation week for about thirty leaders we’ve been privileged to study God’s Word with over the past three years. God has mingled our hearts. I will never be the same.
When we open God’s Word in that week, we will be studying what God wrote in and through a servant’s last letter, to his son-in-the-faith. 2 Timothy is the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the young leader he poured his life into, as Paul’s journey neared home. It’s a final chapter. It feels like a friend to me in these days. I find great joy and increasing confidence in the Lord of the Church.
I treasure the “true-north” direction God gave through Paul. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV) You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
I love that God is committed to pour His life into those who follow faithfully, and into new generation He has called. I treasure the great privilege, with life’s book joyfully lightening near the back cover, a clear focus. Entrust the treasures of God’s Word to faithful servants who will pour themselves out, for those yet to come.
As I write, I’m at a table along the Minneapolis skyway. Separated, by design, from the team I have joyfully served for a long, long time. Working, but not yet part of the team God has called me to for the season ahead at Training Leaders International. It is tempting to long for the past, but instead I’m learning to treasure it while I long for the story ahead. I long for the Author I love to have a free hand to write whatever He wills.
I love the people I have known, but God has been kind enough to give a glimpse of what lies ahead. God has positioned my life to share the Gospel of Grace with faithful men half a world from here. Men who have been called to serve the church of Jesus, who long to be trained, encouraged, and commissioned.
Just two months ago I taught for a week in Uganda, then the following week in Tanzania. There’s no way around the challenge (I don’t know why I would want a way around it). In both places God kept giving me a vision, not just of those in front of me, but of those they would teach. The forty leaders in Uganda The eleven who became “sons” in Tanzania, represented churches, maybe 1000 people, maybe 2000, maybe two, three, four generations yet to be. And, I stood to teach resting in the faithful care of the Spirit of God who is the Teacher.
Perhaps before the last page of my story is turned God will write… 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Please pray to that end.
I’m so grateful to the many who willingly sacrifice to allow this story to be written. If you would like to move some of your treasure from earth to heaven, God has given a way for that to happen. After you have given faithfully to advance the ministry of your local church, would you consider investing in works like this? If you would like to know how you might invest in training through my work with Training Leaders International shoot a message to me at: mike.evans@trainingleadersinternational.org and we’ll talk.
Here’s to a 2018 to remember forever.

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