Recently I was ministering in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia, and took the opportunity to meet up with an old friend, Pastor Lam Kee Hing. (He is a little older than me.) I don’t think I exaggerate when I call him the key leader in the ministry to indigenous people in West Malaysia and, especially, in East Malaysia. But my friend went through a major health challenge at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012. He had serious coronary artery blockages, and needed two operations to put in the necessary stents. I believe he needed a total of seven stents in the end. A six-month recuperation period followed, and after that major decisions about how to focus his ministry.

A number of years have since passed and I felt a strong sense of shalom in him as we had dinner in Sutera Harbour Resort. He said he now turns down many speaking engagements and only focuses on a few critical initiatives. In particular, he wants to focus on equipping the next generation of leaders. He is also focused on writing. On a micro level, he has a strict daily regimen of work, rest, exercise and family that undergirds his life and ministry. I was inspired by him. I wanted to learn from him.

I have been exceptionally busy the last three months. What little margin I had planned was eaten up by unexpected family and ministry demands. I was adrenaline driven and very stressed, which meant I was not a nice person to be near, especially for those closest to me. I now have a bad cough, a sore throat and have lost my voice. I had to give a lecture last night, a three-hour lecture that kicked off an important course—The Theology of Vocation. I spoke in a rough, hoarse voice throughout, on an evening when they had decided to record the lecture. And I came home wiped out, my sore throat worse. And now I am struggling to even write this column.

I have known for some time now that it can’t be business as usual. I continue my journey into my 60s though folks like Dr James Houston and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, both in their 90s, remind me that there is the possibility of many more years of life and work ahead. But the question is what kind of work? I must be more intentional in what I do and do not do. The irony is that after more than 11 years of existence, the ministry of Graceworks is blooming. We have many more exciting publishing projects coming to us and many more invitations to teach and train in Singapore and Malaysia. We can’t do them all! But everything looks critical and important. I need to learn from friends like Kee Hing how to be focused on a few key people, a few critical programmes and a few important books.

Hence, we must walk closer to the Lord to hear His voice, to say yes to what He wants us to do and to have the courage to say no to the other stuff. As Kee Hing said, “We are old enough now to say no to stuff. We no longer have to try to do it all”. Well, I know this in my head, but when do I actually do it? Perhaps the exhaustion from the last few months and my meet-up with Kee Hing can be used by the Lord as divine kicks in the rear to properly move on to the next chapter of my life. And I need to be accountable to friends like Kee Hing.