Last October we buried our former colleague Ernst Kraeutli. He could go home to his heavenly Lord and Master at a high old age. With his home-going, Midnight Call has lost one of the last witnesses and coworkers of our beginning. He was with us at the time when the work was founded in April 1955. For many years, he was a member of the board of directors. And finally, after the home-going of Wim Malgo, he also exercised the office of president for several years. Now he can see Him in Whom he has believed unshakably and with all his heart.
Such a farewell as we experienced always reminds us of our own transitory state. Our life here on earth is, as Job expresses it, a mere breath. In Psalm 90:10 it is written very graphically: “…for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Whether we are coworkers or friends of the ministry, our active time is limited. This is why it is so important that we devote everything for the Lord’s work as long as we have strength. For every one of us, the time will come when we must transfer the relay baton. But to whom must it be transferred?
It is very important to set the switches correctly for the successors at the right time. In Deuteronomy 30:9, the Lord promises rich blessings to Israel if it keeps His commandments, and then we read, “The LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers.” We too may still participate in the blessings which our fathers, our predecessors, received. And already, the third generation inside our ministry is at work. That encourages us. However, such a thing does not happen automatically. Many a blessed work could not exist any longer, because those responsible could not let go in time and there were no successors. This has concerned me repeatedly these last months. We also see that often in the world: if the CEO of a company does not provide for his successor in time, his lifework usually ends in failure.
It is good for us to know that our ministry work is at the same time the work of the Lord. We know the old hymn of faith: “The task is Thine, Lord Jesus Christ, the task in which we stand; and since it is Your work, O Lord, it cannot leave Your hand.” Nevertheless, this does not release us from the responsibility to take the successor question very seriously. Of course, one thinks first of one’s children, for they stand closest. But children cannot inherit their parents’ faith and become God’s children.
The Bible contains several examples of greatly blessed successor arrangements, which God Himself introduced. Joshua followed Moses, Elisha followed Elijah, etc. But where the succession was determined by men, things often went wrong. Think of the many Old Testament royal dynasties.
Paul knew about the importance of succession. His own mandate and service had begun with God’s words to Ananias: “he is a chosen vessel to me…” (Acts 9:15). Years later, his own succession was at stake. For instance, Paul saw the Thessalonians as his successors: “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God…you became followers of us, and of the Lord…” (1 Thess. 1:4, 6). Even more clearly, we see His farsightedness and his practical procedure with Timothy and Titus, whom he first employed as his representatives: “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). And he called Titus his companion and coworker (2 Cor. 8:23). He encouraged his successors, led them on, built them up, and finally passed the relay baton on to them.
It is our prayer to receive the grace from God to clearly recognize His applicable plan for our ministry work with all its branches in order to make the correct decisions regarding the future.