About three and one half years ago, I was having a conversation with our Navigator fall conference speaker, Mike Treneer. In between sessions, we had driven to McDonald’s to get away and just visit over a cup of coffee. During our conversation he brought to mind a friend, Lorne Sanny, a former president of the Navigators. This man had impacted both of our lives with his comments on the Christian life and its ministry. Mike gave a brief summary of some thoughts from Ecclesiastes to illustrate what Lorne excelled at in his ministry.
“Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd” Ecclesiastes 12:9-11.
In even his brief comments, Lorne showed evidence of pondering, searching out, and setting thoughts in order. He used just the right words and their effects on our lives were like goads, and like firmly embedded nails. Mike described a goad as something that pricks us, a constant reminder to do something, challenging us to be faithful to the task before us. This mention of a goad instantly brought to mind an illustration from Lorne’s life a number of years earlier.
After retiring as president of the Navigators, Lorne traveled with his wife Lucy to visit all of their known relatives. Their intent was to build and deepen relationships with all their relatives, trusting the Lord to use their lives to either bring the relatives to faith or to deepen their walk with the Lord. On one occasion, as Lorne left an uncle after visiting him, he became certain that the man did not know the Lord. His uncle was elderly, and Lorne was not sure when, if ever, he would be able to return to visit his uncle. As he thought about the situation, he said that two questions came to his mind: 1) If not me, then who? 2) If not now, then when? Lorne said that he promptly returned to the man’s house and was able to introduce him to the Lord.
Over the last fifteen years since hearing Lorne tell this story, the Lord has used this illustration as a “goad” in my life on numerous occasions. The one that immediately comes to mind concerns a patient in the hospital who was terminally ill with lung cancer. Although I had visited with him on several occasions about spiritual matters, I had never taken the time to fully explain salvation to him. Just prior to a surgical procedure I was to do the next day on this patient, his niece came to me with a request. She was concerned about his spiritual welfare and wondered if I could get someone to baptize him while he was under anesthesia during surgery! After explaining to her that I was not sure that worked well if you were anesthetized, I was immediately reminded of Lorne’s questions: If not me, then who?, and If not now, then when? Thankfully, the Lord provided the time that day to share the gospel and opened his heart to begin a relationship with Him. Many times over the years this “goad” has kept me on track, challenging me to be faithful in the tasks set before me.
Lorne also provided us with “nails.” These are truths which help tie together, and cement aspects of life and ministry. These “nails” help us find stability in a sea of confusion and a firm footing for our lives when our path lies through sifting sand. The best example that I can find of this is in Lorne’s description of how we can choose to spend our time. He gave five words to help define our priorities. These were as follows: Essential, Necessary, Good, Delegate and Eliminate. As I examine each day, week and year with these in mind, the following questions come to mind. What is essential? (From a scriptural perspective, I find this to be time with the Lord and time with people). How much of what I consider “necessary” is really necessary? Work is necessary, for example, but how much? Can I limit this to make more room for the essential? Many things are “good”, but do I settle for the “good” and let it rob the “essential”? What can I delegate? What should I eliminate? I cannot think of another illustration from any speaker that has had such a profound impact on my life as these five words from Lorne Sanny. They have helped me concentrate on the important areas of life, to use time wisely, and to be willing to say “No” to the “good”, when it would interfere with the essential or necessary.
In addition to our recollection of how the Lord had used Lorne in our lives, Mike challenged me to begin to share other “goads” and “nails” with our Kansas Navigators and ministry partners. As time permits, I will plan to use the Web site for this purpose.
In Christ, Richard Spann