3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
I think anyone who has been in ministry for several years can identify strongly with this statement. We have no indication that John ever married, but he doubtless had countless spiritual children and grandchildren. Frankly, not all were of the same quality. Diotrephes, mentioned in this letter, seems to have been a real bad actor, but John had people like Gaius and Demetrius to balance that, just like Paul had people like Timothy and Titus to balance some of his disappointments. The thing is, none of us can control anyone else in any real way. All we can do is be faithful with the opportunities and resources that are presented to us, and leave the rest in God’s hands. The Bible speaks many times of personal responsibility, but it doesn’t hold us accountable for the actions of others. As God told Ezekiel, our responsibility is to relay the message we have been given. If we fail to do that it’s on us, but if we are faithful, then it’s entirely up to those receiving the message. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) The joy that John speaks of here is two-fold: joy that his children are walking with God, and joy that his own efforts weren’t in vain. For someone in ministry, that really does take the cake.
Of course, since I’ve been in ministry for over 40 years, this applies fully to me. I have had spiritual children who were a real disappointment – you could almost say they were stillborn – and I have had children who warm my heart just to think of them. I have had rebellious children who later repented, and I have had children who just seemed to drift off. I am thankful to say that I have grown as a spiritual father over the years, but even so I can take little if any personal credit for the successes. At the same time, even some of the more painful failures aren’t necessarily on me. I’ve got to yield myself and my children to the Lord, not just occasionally but consistently, so that He may be free to do in and through each of us what He desires, for our blessing and His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for my failure yesterday as a photographer. That was certainly painful, but it was a lesson in confirming performance of equipment, particularly when that equipment hasn’t been used for a while. I do pray that things would go smoothly in refunding those who ordered pictures on the spot. Thank You that the event itself went smoothly, and was a blessing to all involved. Thank You for Your plans for today. I know what I want to happen, but I can’t force Your schedule. May Your will be done as You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!