My wife and I were recently at the annual Maranatha Ministerial Fellowship International Fall Conference in Williston, Vermont. This is one of the highlights of the Fall for us where we reconnect with ministers from all over the world, and get to spend time with those we love and appreciate. The guest speaker this year was one of my favorites, Dr. Ron Cottle. He is an elder-statesmen and a spiritual father to many in the Body of Christ. Beyond that he is a brilliant theologian who speaks 7 languages and has an amazing ability to birth revelation from Scripture like no other man I know. I could listen to him teach God’s word for hours on end.
What hit me this year during one candid moment, was something he shared from a life experience. It was about a man he had once been very close with, and even hired to help build his Bible college. However, the man’s character had clearly demonstrated less than sterling qualities. When confronted there was no repentance and because of this breech, Dr. Cottle fired him on the spot. It was a difficult but necessary thing to do in order to safeguard the integrity of his ministry, both present and future.
Just recently this same man, now pastoring a small church near by, had written Dr. Cottle to renew the friendship and re-associate himself with the man and the ministry. However, people who came from his church were also connected to Dr. Cottle, and their report about this man was not good. It seems as if little had changed in the man’s nature, vision, methods of serving God or personal practices. This in turn prompted Dr. Cottle to write the man an honest but firm, fatherly letter.
In that letter he stated the problem at hand and that he still loved him as a brother in the Lord. However, he would not renew any kind of friendship with this man because things in him had not changed. In other words Dr. Cottle so highly valued what God had given him to do, that he refused to invest any time, or build any friendship, with someone who was not walking correctly, or was not going where he was called to go.
I have to tell you, this statement troubled me for a few moments, and then the wisdom of it hit me very hard. When we have a vision from God, and are answering the call that fulfills it, our time is like precious gold or priceless jewels. It is given to us with purpose, and God expects us to invest it in the lives of those who are going to help fulfill or support that purpose. This means they are going in the same direction, and we both benefit from what is invested in the relationship. The friends we associate with, the events we attend, the things we say and the people who get our time are all interwoven in the fabric of our life and ministry. Unless we stay focused and are deliberate with purpose in all these things, any of them can become a thread out of place that weakens what we were called by God to do.
Family will always come first on my list. They are with me forever and much of who I am is passed down through them. This is because I have invested so heavily in time and relationship with them over the years. They have my heart and hold my personal family legacy. Ministry or business associates come next since they connect the dots and provide my financial base. That means people, not business plans or five year visions, hold the key to my future. For me these are the spiritual sons and daughters I have raised up that will carry my anointing and my legacy to the next generation.
Finally there are my friends. These people are the ones I want to hang with, and they enjoy being with me. I can be who I am when we are together and we really see each other for who we are. I am especially blessed because my closest friends happen to also be fellow ministers and my spiritual sons and daughters, and that is powerful. I know that the time I invest in them is good seed in good soil and it will bring forth a huge harvest in all of us. I count these relationships as a great honor and I know it pleases God.
There is a forth group as well. These are people I meet on occasion, but we are not really connected at a gut level to anything that is significant. There is a disconnect between us and we are not going in the same direction. It’s nice to be with them and we can get caught up on mutual friends or family. However, we are not going the same way and we have different visions so nothing of real substance is transferred. That also means there is no forward momentum or change that happens in either of us when that time is spent. In other words I know I don’t add anything to them and they have nothing to add to me. This interaction is kind of like social debris that just floats along in the river of my life. This is not an insult, it’s just the way things are and I doubt it will change.
The first three of these groups we need in our lives and the fourth is optional. Of the three, the last group holds very special significance for me. This is because these people are close enough to make a difference. I can bring them correction or challenge them in any area when it’s necessary. They listen to me, they respect me, they apply what I say and we grow together each time we meet. It is a joy when we connect because I feel a forward momentum rising up that moves us all in the right direction. This means every moment I invest in them propels us both into our future. In case you missed it, this is the real substance of life that I am after, and it is what God is calling me to nurture in this season of my life.
How, and with whom, do you invest your most precious possession? Is it squandered on those who don’t listen, and don’t change? Is it given to those who are not walking with you on the same road, but they demand your attention and time anyway? We are stewards of this great treasure called time. How we invest it will determine where we, and others, end up. When you don’t invest it with wisdom and truth, you are wasting it on those who don’t value what you have to offer. If you don’t feel that mutual forward momentum when you are spending your treasure, perhaps it’s time to follow Dr. Cottles lead. This is the season to just let some things go.
In this concluding portion of the year, you may find it necessary to cut some relationships free. You may also realize it’s time to hold close those people who hold your future. Will it be an easy thing to do? Probably not, but in the end you will both be better off for it. Take the time to examine how you are investing the treasure of time God gave you. My suggestion is to abundantly lavish it on those those who see you for who you are and want it. Those that value what you offer are to be encouraged and those who don’t just let them go. When you exercise the power of letting go, life becomes focused and you will find satisfaction like never before. I am convinced that now it the time to just let go, and the rest will take care of itself ! Now go have a great day!