A Letter to the Staff of Youth for Christ Sri Lanka On My Thirtieth Anniversary in My Job
Written in June 2006
My dear colleagues,
July 15th is my thirtieth anniversary as National Director of YFC. I will be in Minneapolis in USA in the home of a pastor friend. I am hoping to spend the day fasting and with the Lord mainly praying for YFC, for my family and for my own life. I thought I will send our staff this message to mark this anniversary.
First, I must say how proud I am to work with a group like you. Your dedication has been an inspiration to me. Many of you work very hard, and my challenge has been to make you rest rather than to make you work harder. That’s a happy challenge to have.
I am a person with huge weaknesses which disqualify me from leading an organisation. The only way I have survived is through the wonderful staff and volunteer teams that God has given me to work with over the years. You have compensated for my many weaknesses, and God has seen us through the crises we have faced, many of which got much more serious because of my poor leadership. As we face further crises at this time let me express my assurance that God will see us through just as he has seen us through before.
Let me reflect a bit on the work God has given us of reaching unreached youth. It is a glorious work. Youth work is not regarded highly today by Christians. But we know that most people make those all important decisions that determine their future while they are still youth. What a privilege it is for us to influence individuals at such a crucial period of their lives.
I feel so privileged when I get to speak to youth. Here is this old man getting a chance to influence young people with all the potential they have—it is a glorious privilege. Still, like in the early days and sometimes perhaps even more, I am very nervous when I speak to youth. I want to do the best in the world that I could possibly do, and I know that my age makes doing that a real challenge!
I want to share some of my deepest desires for you. These are the things that I am constantly praying for and hoping will be seen in my life and yours.
- I am praying that you will be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). And if you do not sense this fullness, I pray you will stop everything and agonise with God until you know that God has all of you and that he can use you by filling you. Without the fullness of the Spirit all our great work is wood, hay and stubble which will be burned up at the judgment (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
- I am praying that you will battle—like fighting a fire that has threatened your home—those sins that hinder the fullness of the Spirit in your life: prayerlessness, bitterness and anger, lying and dishonesty, revenge, too much activity, sexual sin, selfish ambition and laziness. I could go on, but these are the ones that come to mind as I think of myself and our YFC staff.
- I am praying that you will never forget that our biggest challenges are spiritual. We are battling for the lives of people who have been blinded by spiritual unbelief and sin. So we must never forget that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). This is why our most powerful and effective method of ministry is prayer. This is why it is so important to follow spiritual principles in all we do even though these principles may temporarily hinder our growth. So we will discipline and not use in our programmes those who need to be disciplined. We will not give prominence to people who, though greatly talented, are not godly people. We will be scrupulously careful about the way we raise and spend money. We will maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) and do all we can to bring peace (Heb. 12:14) even when we do not seem to have time because of busyness with programmes.
- I am praying that you will be known as people who are joyful (Phil. 4:4). Our young people come from such unhappy backgrounds. The temptation to sin is so great for them. May they see us both as godly and joyful and realise that this combination is the greatest treasure they could have on earth (1 Tim. 6:6). Then they will find that sin loses its attraction. Of course, if we are joyful and contented no one needs to feel sorry for us. True we may not be well paid; but we are happy! That is the greatest treasure one can have on earth. If you take home a small pay packet and if you are also unhappy—O boy, you are someone to be pitied.
- We are joyful because we are thrilled by God and what he has done for us in Jesus. I am praying that you will every day be thrilled by God (Luke 1 46-47). Then, as you face blows, they would not devastate you because you know God’s love is greater than all those blows you get. Perhaps you will have some fleeting and silly regrets. That happens when you want to find satisfaction by feeling sorry for yourself. But may you soon find out that you do not have enough material to feed your self pity! No meditating on our misery! The love of Jesus is greater! Paul uses a wonderful word meaning “pour” or “overflow” when he talks about God’s love being poured into hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Actually Paul’s Epistles are full of such words when he talks about God’s super-abounding grace (see Rom. 5:20; Eph. 1:6-8; 1 Tim. 1:14).
- I am praying that each and every one of you will have at least one accountability partner and that that partner knows what your biggest weaknesses are and checks up on you on how you are faring in your weak areas (Jas. 5:16; 1 John 1:7-10). If you don’t have such a partner; find one. If you can’t find one; make one. Don’t blame YFC for not providing this for you. You can’t ruin your life because of the shortcomings of YFC!
- I am praying that each of you will be happily involved in your local churches. A good measure of YFC’s success is churches filled with people reached through YFC who are now serving God within these churches. But our youth will not want to get involved in church if they know that our leaders are unhappy about church.
- I am praying this for those of you who are married. May your spouses know without a doubt that you are devoted to them with utmost dedication (Matt. 19:5; Eph 5:25). May they know that they are the most important persons in your life—your king or queen. Finding time to devote loving attention to them is hard when we have such heavy schedules. But if we don’t do that we are wicked people. We have taken vows to care for the most important person in our life and we are not fulfilling that vow. That is wickedness! God will give you strength as you give attention to your spouses even though you are very tired. The balanced life is not easy. It is tough and tiring. But, by God’s grace, it is possible.
- If God has called you to the great calling of singleness, may you be happy in that despite all the insensitive things that people say to you. May God give you patience to forgive your family members and friends who do not try to understand your call. May you find friends and spiritual children who will be your family even though you will not raise up your own physical family. And may you always be happy with the full life (John 10:10) which God gives you in Christ Jesus.
- If God has called you to marriage, may God give you a spouse who loves Jesus totally, who always tells the truth to you, and who loves the ministry of YFC. These three make for a happy marriage in a YFC staff-worker’s life. Many of us have not seen happy marriages when we grew up. So we do not aim very high in terms of happiness in marriage. I must testify that I have not been a very good husband. My heavy schedule and insensitivity has made it very difficult for Nelun. I am careless and absent minded and make many mistakes which do not help in giving us a happy home. But my marriage has been unbelievably happy. This is possible, because God created happiness, and he wishes Christian families to be happy places. He alone can give us such happiness. Plan on having a Christ-centred and happy marriage!
People without Jesus are lost. Lost means eternally lost and headed for hell. We can do a lot of things to help them—and these things we must do. That is why we are committed to the balanced life or to holistic ministry. But when we introduce youth to Jesus we are securing an eternity of well-being for them. Would that not be the most loving thing we can do for a person—securing a happy eternity for them? Yes, bringing a person to Jesus is the most loving thing we can do for that person. Never forget that.
The work is hard. We are misunderstood, rejected and persecuted. Often we feel all alone. People we pour our hearts out to end up rejecting Christ and scolding us. But this is a great work.
It is an amazing privilege to be called to something so great, even though we are such weak and unworthy people. It is in this context that Paul burst out into his great cry of praise in 1 Timothy 1:17. This is my favourite verse in the Bible: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” That came as a result of reflecting that God had called him despite his unworthiness.
I would love to be released from the job of national director as soon as possible. But I am committing myself afresh to do all I can, for as long as I can, to see the youth of Sri Lanka confronting and yielding to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s go and reach our nation’s youth for Christ.
Your fellow servant of Jesus Christ,