Burn Long, not just bright
In 2015 in Livermore, CA there was a party like no other as the Livermore-Pleasonton Fire Department celebrated the “Million Hours Party.” This was in celebration of a single light bulb that had been burning for over 100 years. Visitors come from all over the world to see this oddity and take pictures of it. You can even go online and view a dedicated webcam that will let you see the miracle bulb for itself. People are amazed that something made to be temporary has lasted now for over 117 years. The handblown, carbon fiber filament bulb was probably manufactured in the 1890’s, was recognized by Guinness as the longest lasting bulb known in existence in 1972, and has been burning for over 100 years now.
What makes it so remarkable is that the bulb wasn’t made to last that long. For whatever reason it simply has managed to hang on. It doesn’t burn as bright as it used to, but it still serves it’s purpose by putting out light. Since 1901 this bulb has been steadily giving light without hardly missing a beat. When people come from all over to visit it I imagine that they are somewhat underwhelmed. Even if you just go watch the webcam it’s not much to see either. It’s just a lightbulb, doing what it was made to do. What makes the bulb stand out is how long it’s been burning, not how bright it shines.
This feels opposite the way most of the world works. People love to see something that burns brightly, whether it’s a musician, athlete, actor, or even a preacher. People can’t get enough of something that burns bright, and the truth is that’s what many preachers aspire too. We want to be someone that the world comes to see, who is known for our amazing oratory and leadership skills. But those things that burn the brightest often burn out the fastest. The Livermore bulb can’t shine as bright as it did when it first lit up, but it is still doing what it is made to do.
If given the option, I’m afraid that many pastors would choose to burn bright and short rather than long and steady. We know what the right answer is of course, but learning to simply do what God has called us to do is one of the most important things we can do as pastors. We have to learn to be content with the place and time that God has us, and quit yearning for somewhere we can shine brighter.
I’ve found in my own life that the pastors I have benefited the most from are those that burn long. These men have learned the secret of being content wherever God has them, and they have often given their lives to a place and community. Sometimes that is a big town and sometimes a small town. Godly pastors learn to shine where ever God has plugged them in at. It’s tempting to think that if we had a bigger stage to shine on, or more power to pull from then we could do better. But the fact is that we must learn to shine where God puts us.
The amazing thing is that pastors who burn long seem to get brighter with time. There’s something about the passing of time in faithful ministry that causes these men of God to become a great light to those around them. It is God’s design that faithfulness in ministry shines a brighter light than talent, skill, or gifting. God has placed you in the place you are, it is now your job to go out and shine as best you can. Don’t just pray that God would make your light bright, pray that God would give you the ability to burn long, faithfully bringing light in the place he has you.