My Answer: Our work for God outlives us all

Q: Our pastor just announced that he's retiring in a few months. I guess we shouldn't be surprised since he's been here over 30 years, but he's deeply loved and we can't imagine anyone taking his place. Should we try to talk him into staying? — J.W.

A: No doubt your pastor has prayed about this and sought God's will concerning his future — and if he truly believes God has led him to take this step, then you should be supportive of his decision. Even if he did decide to stay, eventually you'd be forced to find someone to take his place.

No one had a greater impact for Christ than the Apostle Paul — and few ministers of the Gospel were more deeply loved. But even the Apostle Paul knew his work must come to an end: "The time has come for my departure" (2 Timothy 4:6). He knew he wasn't indispensable, and he was confident that God would raise up others (like his young friend Timothy) to carry on the work. May this be your attitude as well.

Thank God for the faithful ministry of your pastor; may your congregation let him know of their love and respect. It can be very difficult to be a pastor, and I'm afraid some congregations fail to appreciate and honor those God has sent to minister among them. King Saul was far from perfect — but David rightly said, "Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?" (1 Samuel 26:9).

Seek God's will for your church's future — and encourage others to do the same. Then trust Him to guide you to the person He has chosen to lead you in the future. When he comes, welcome him and pray for him and do all you can to support him.

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Q: I've had two tours of military duty overseas (Iraq and Afghanistan). I'm out now, but I feel lost because I can't find a job and my family fell apart while I was gone. I guess I should be thankful I survived, but sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. — Z.S.

A: Today Americans are celebrating July 4, the date our nation declared its independence and began its journey as a separate country. In the midst of all our activities today, I hope each of us will pause to thank God for our nation and for His goodness to us for over two centuries.

But our independence came at a price — both in the beginning, and throughout our history. From time to time, enemies tried to bring us down, or cause us to lose our freedoms and change our way of life. But they have not succeeded — and I pray that with God's help they never will.

And you have been part of this, because you were willing to put your life on the line and fight for our country. Thank you for your dedication and service. I hope your letter will cause all of us to thank our veterans for their service, and do whatever we can to make their way easier. The Bible says, "Give everyone what you owe him...if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7).

The most important thing I can say, however, is this: God knows what you're going through, and He loves you and wants to help you. Begin a new life today by committing yourself to Jesus Christ. Then seek out a church where you can grow in your faith. You can trust Jesus' promise: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: http://www.billygraham.org.)

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