By Rick Rusaw
(From our series “The Best or Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received.”)
I had moved to Fort Myers, Florida, to begin my first ministry in a local church. I was a young man, and I was filled with aspirations, not only for this opportunity, but for other places with other opportunities. It wasn’t that I considered this church to be merely a stepping stone, something to endure until a better situation arose. No, it was a wonderful place with plenty of opportunity. But I also knew that those who do their ministries well are usually offered leadership positions involving larger venues: national ministries, statewide conventions, plum speaking engagements.
Ambition can be a good thing. But ambition coupled with immaturity can be disastrous.
Also on staff at this congregation was a semiretired man who was nearly 80 years old. Dr. Lester Ford, former engineer, preacher, and college president, had moved to Florida to retire. There, one of his “Timothys” asked him to help at the church. So, a few days a week, Dr. Ford gave his time, and he was particularly interested in taking me under his wing. I learned much from him that has served me well over the years, and I recall his friendship with great fondness. It was from Dr. Ford that I received the single best piece of advice I have ever heard.
One day at lunch he asked me, “What are your dreams for the future, Rick?” With plenty of enthusiasm, I shared all that was on my heart. Dr. Ford listened carefully. He helped me shape some of my ideas, encouraged many, smiled at some, and simply laughed at others, as if somehow they were familiar to him. After we had spoken of the future at great length, he leaned across the table and said, “Rick, you have plenty of great dreams, and you should never stop dreaming. But along the way, learn to be of value where you are.”
He told me I’d be of little value in the future if I didn’t learn to give everything I had to what I was doing right then. He said simply, “Don’t worry about being of value where you aren’t.”
I meet plenty of ministers who spend a good deal of time talking about how things would be if they were in a different place. They long for a time everything will come together just right. That’s when they will be valued and their abilities and capabilities will be realized. Longing for a better situation or dreaming of the future, they never realize their potential where they are.
Over the years I’ve had my own share of dreams and opportunities. And they all have been served by that simple piece of advice: Give the best effort, energy, passion, and prayer to what you are doing at the moment. Quit wondering what it might be like to be in another place, with different circumstances, or with different people. Stop spending the best part of your day focused on the would’ves, could’ves, and should’ves. Simply be of value where you are.
Rick Rusaw serves as lead pastor of LifeBridge Christian Church, Longmont, Colorado.