I remember my excitement at the discovery of a very powerful minister as a 22 year old young pastor. As I followed his ministry closely, a measure of his anointing rubbed off on me as our church services took on the color of his own meetings. I began to follow him very closely and almost excessively as an impressionable young man would. My Senior Pastor (I was a branch pastor then) although appreciative of his ministry, was not as impressed nor shared my youthful exuberance about his ministry. He recommended that I followed people like the late Kenneth E Hagin if I wanted to follow any minister that closely. In his opinion, it is okay to be influenced by the ministry of others but choosing a ministry to follow closely should be based on the longevity and integrity of the ministry.
As a young minister I made a bit of sense out of his counsel but didn’t fully comprehend it. Looking back today after almost 30 years of his advice, I have watched my ministry idol go through very rough patches in life, marriage and ministry which have provided valuable lessons for me but affirmed my Pastor’s position that longevity matters in choosing to follow a man closely. History is replete with stories of mentees, disciples and followers who suffered similar misfortunes as their mentors, masters and leaders. This is more because of our tendency to swallow an idol’s words, manners, lifestyle and practices hook, line and sinker.
The above story underscores the reality of the challenges that dot the landscape of our spiritual journeys. These challenges are common to all believers as there is no temptation but such as is common to man (1 Corinthians 10.13). This realization explains the constant admonition of the early Apostles to spiritual watchfulness (1 corinthians 16.13, Colossians 4.2-3, 1 Peter 5.8). Paul declared triumphantly towards the end of his life ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4.6)’. The declaration of triumph presupposed he had gone through a lot of oppositions and conflicts before his eventual arrival at a victorious end. He described his life trajectory as a fight, a race and a conflict of faith. We must however come to terms with the realization that the fight does not vindicate defeat, neither does the race a failure nor does the conflict validate a fall. We are all expected to end well and we are endowed by the heavens with sufficient resources to win at the end. Starting well is good, but it’s better to end well than to start well and that is why it is pertinent to draw inspiration from those who ended well and indeed had the last phase of their lives more glorious than the beginning. Kenneth E. Hagin did not only live long, he died when his ministry was at its most productive years and left an amazing legacy that has seen the ministry grow to greater heights under the leadership of his son.
Midway into my journey of ministry right now, I know I must remain watchful, keep following the right examples and continue to be consistent with the things that kept me steady all these years. I admit circumstances have swayed me left and right on a few occasions but the solid foundation I had in the faith and ministry coupled with the right support systems have kept me steady and are still assuring me of better and brighter days. I have observed a few things that are likely to cause people to stumble and either stagnate them on the journey or scuttle it all together:
1. Lack of consistent fellowship with God. Therein lies our strength and the busyness of everyday life can cause us to neglect it.
2. Lack of accountability. When there are no mentors and honest friends to speak the truth into our lives, we tend to go in the wrong direction and derail from God’s will.
3. The feeling of invincibility. The feeling that we can get away with anything because we are rich and powerful.
4. Lack of power sharing. When authority is not delegated and all decisions lie with us regardless of the amount of resources we control.
5. Neglect of marriage and family life. No where else is character formed better than within the context of marriage and family life.
He that will end well must avoid these things. Balaam prayed that prayer that is the title of this article in Numbers 23.10 but it went unanswered as he succumbed to his own greed. May you and I not succumb to the flesh but by the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body. May we end well and may we soar from glory to glory till the end of our lives. May we hear ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ some day in the portals of heaven.