“So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’" Nehemiah 6:3
In 2007, I took my first mission trip, and my eyes were opened as I saw first-hand how God was reaching coaches and athletes in Ukraine. As a 40-year-old, you might say I was a late bloomer when it came to serving outside of the United States. The trip was a game-changer as God captured my heart for the nations, but I had no idea what He would do with it.
During that life-altering trip, we were scheduled to see a basketball ministry in the town of Rivne. As we walked into the back door of an old gym, we saw a young man doing incredible basketball ministry with a group of teenage boys. He was working them during practice drills and scrimmage. They stopped during water break for a testimony. At the end of practice, they circled up and had a Bible study. I approached that young man and said, “Andriy, you are doing FCA in Ukraine!” He replied, “What is FCA?” My eyes were opened once again. Sports ministry is sports ministry. Faith and sports are universal. When you combine those two, you have sports ministry. It doesn’t matter what you call it! My understanding of sports ministry was changed.
Two years later in August 2009, Andriy joined FCA staff to start FCA Ukraine, and their team has grown to 24 staff who are impacting thousands of coaches and athletes throughout the country. I was blessed to take a team of ten to Ukraine to conduct lacrosse camps and clinics this month and to celebrate Andriy’s ten year anniversary of being on staff. Andriy is a living example of staying power. Someone who keeps showing up and stays faithful to the calling God has put in his heart. Year after year, he has kept his hand to the plow and staying focused on the assignment God has given him. And because of his faithfulness, God’s favor and blessing has been on the ministry in Ukraine since day one!
“I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
Andriy has had many opportunities to do something else, but he has pressed in and continued the work. He has thought and prayed many times, “Should I stay or should I go?” Each time, he is reminded of Nehemiah’s words, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
So many people wonder if they should stay or should they go when it comes to every aspect of life: job, church, school, community and friends. Should I take a step of faith and go? Or should I be faithful and stay? Both require faith, but each one comes from a different perspective. Most people think it takes more faith to go, because it involves risk and unknown. However, staying is often harder because you have to press into the known and figure out how to make it work.
When staff come to the FCA Support Center for their new staff training, I challenge them to write a definition of ministry and then summarize it into one word. It is a powerful exercise, and I am always blown away by what they share: serve, relationships, empower, love, others, connect and encourage.
Then I share with them that my one word for ministry is consistency. I want to be consistent by showing up for others and see God build a ministry from a strong foundation of faithfulness. For 29 years, I have I been serving with FCA, and I can’t believe how the Lord has worked. God does amazing things if we keep showing up and commit to staying. Andriy is one of my heroes who has stuck it out for 10 years in Ukraine with enormous problems, crises and struggles—even war. God has blessed his ministry every step of the way.
The heroes of the faith had incredible staying power. They dug in and had resolve that made others sit up and take notice. Joseph, Daniel, David, Esther, Paul and Stephen were just a few. God honored and blessed them for their unwavering commitment not to start over.
Maybe it is time for us to stay and not go.
When you decide to be consistent, it reminds you to stay put when it seems smart to pack up — to stand when it feels like you should run. It reminds us to believe God when it seems far easier to believe everybody else who encourages us to hit the Go button. Off we go to do something that promises bigger, greater and better opportunities. Little do we know that God had begun a great work in us, right where we were; we just don’t recognize it. But how could we see it when our gaze was elsewhere?
You just don’t hear people say, “Just hunker in and see what God has in store for you.” Big faith is always defined by a big jump like moving, stepping out or going on to new opportunities. But maybe big faith for some of us would be to stay right where we are. Our faith will get big by digging in. Maybe, through the routine and drudgery of the current situation, the Lord wants to teach us the way of the cross.
Nehemiah was an incredible leader who rebuilt the Jerusalem wall in 52 days. He hit the stay button over and over. Five times men approached him and told him to stop. They tried to discourage him. But each time, they found him on the ladder working on the wall, and he simply replied, “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” Maybe we need to take the same approach. “I am doing a great work and can’t make a change. I am going to finish what I started. I am not going to quit, move, change, transition or stop. I am hitting the stay button once again, because God has big plans for me.” I am glad Andriy has hit the stay button, because he is transforming an entire country. Just imagine what God could do through us if we decided to stay. What hangs in the balance if we don’t stay? Families. Loved ones. Friends. Co-workers. Church Communities. Even countries. Thank you Andriy for your faithfulness to the calling God put in your heart 10 years ago. Coaches and athletes in Ukraine are eternally grateful that you stayed!
Lord, I ask for staying power in my life. I want to have my life marked by unwavering commitment that will not crumble under changing or difficult situations. You want me to learn from You, so I am coming to You humbly with a surrender heart. You ask us to come to You in our weakness and weariness. Is it too bold to ask that I become a modern-day Nehemiah? Help me to fully understand that I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.