By Andy Constable
The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough and tiring in Niddrie. One of our “pre-interns” who was getting his life together in Christ made a very unwise decision to leave the structure of our tailored discipleship programme/life to go back to his home town. The decision was not prayerfully considered, biblically based or with the Lord in mind. The young man in question simply got bored with following God’s will. This was heartbreaking to watch as we had heavily invested the last 6 months into his life. We had prayed with him, walked with him, and taught him the gospel as faithfully as we could. We had him stay in our house and he had become part of the family. The whole process was demoralising and spiritually draining. It felt like we had been punched in the stomach and left winded on the ground. How do we pick up the pieces when this happens?
Firstly, we need to rest in God. The week after the person had left to go back to his sinful lifestyle, I was absolutely shattered. I walked around like a zombie and found it difficult to engage with people. There was a need for sleep on one level but also my soul needed to find rest in God. Investing in any person is a tiring experience and I needed God’s grace to strengthen me.
Secondly, we need to root out any idols. After the person left, I felt like my hopes and dreams had been robbed and that there was no way forward. You see I had put my trust in the wrong things. This time of unrest brought forward the idols of my heart. I had trusted in the ramifications on my ministry of this person getting their life together. I had wanted recognition, respect and glory for the part that I had played in investing in this person’s life. A day after the person had left I read Psalm 62 and verse 6 challenged my heart attitudes. It says this: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” This just wasn’t true in my life at this time and I needed to repent. God was not my rock and my salvation. When difficult things happen we see where our hopes and dreams really are. And if it’s not on God then we need to repent and put our trust in him and him alone.
Thirdly, we need to remember that God is in control. When the person left I was left wondering what God was up to. This was of course an arrogant thought but one that crossed my mind. How could he let this person go? How could all that hard work come to absolutely nothing? Does God know what he is doing? My very wise wife reminded me of this verse from Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” The Lord always knows what he is doing and is always in control. His ways are not our ways and we need to always trust that he is working out his good and perfect will. When people walk away from the Lord we need to trust that God is sovereign and that his plan is perfect. He is just and gracious and far above our understanding.
Finally, we need to continue to invest in others. As Mez said to me several times during that week: “you need to get back on the horse, and get back on quickly.” Even though 5 new people professed faith the same week he walked away, I still wanted to remove myself from investing in anybody else because I was tired and honestly couldn’t be bothered. However, when someone walks away we need to invest our attention elsewhere. Jesus was clear through the Parable of the Sower that many seeds will be planted but only the ones who remain are saved. This is how we need to view ministry. We need to keep spreading the seeds of gospel, discipling people and pray that some seed will fall on the good soil because God will produce a great crop through them.
Ministry in schemes is tiring. We invest our lives in people and when they walk away from God it’s heartbreaking. But we need to keep putting our hope in Christ, remind ourselves constantly of God’s sovereign hand and keep sharing the gospel with people! Please pray as we continue to work in this area.