I am Useful

It’s Not All About Me

Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.  If anyone speaks, his speech should be like the oracles of God; if anyone serves, his service should be from the strength God provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen. I Peter 4:10-11 HCSB

My cat is convinced everything is about her.  She’s an outside kitty, so she has a lot to deal with.  Every car has a driver who is contemplating how to swerve up in the yard and flatten the tabby.  Every twig snap is the signal that something is stalking the cat.  Every time I walk out the door, she demands I stop and pet her, because why else would I be outside?  From her feline perspective, the entire world revolves around her.  The cat needs a reality check.  She’s a mere part of the world, not the center of it.

Sadly, I am much like her.  I tend to filter every event by how it relates to me, how it benefits or encourages me, how it hinders or frustrates me.  I’ve even done that with this week’s topic.  “How is ‘being useful’ helpful to me? Well, it makes me feel satisfied, like I’m a part, a helper.  I enjoy having a purpose.”

But it isn’t all about me. And that’s why I love these verses in 1 Peter.  The apostle tells us that God has given us each gifts to make us useful, but our own intrinsic satisfaction with a job well done isn’t the purpose.  To be sure, when God uses me, it satisfies me, but that’s not the goal.  The goal is that God would be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To Him (not me – or my cat, for that matter) belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  God truly is the center of the universe.

God has gifted each of us.  And Peter tells us God expects us to use those gifts.  If we attempt to do the same ministries on our own strength, we will fail, burn out, and flub up.  The tasks God gives us are only doable in His strength, using the gifts He gave us.  No wonder the gifts are called the “varied grace of God.”  The definition of grace is unmerited favor, something we get without deserving or earning it.

God gifts some as speakers, some as servants, some as encouragers, some as pastors and some as administrators.  We do nothing to earn those gifts.  We aren’t even strong enough on our own to use them.  But through God’s strength, we are useful.

Why?  To glorify the Gift Giver.

It’s all about Him.

I have been given a Purpose

Purpose in “No”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB

I was pulling weeds yesterday with thoughts rolling around in my mind. That happens often gardening—my kids scatter (I think because they don’t want roped into that job), and it’s just me, the dirt and God. So, I asked Him about the ‘no’ in my life. It led to an interesting revelation.

People will often say that if you work hard, are persistent, do your best and keep getting better, that eventually you’ll be successful in whatever you’re after. While I don’t think that’s bad advice, I don’t believe it’s universally true, either. It implies that all the people who have unmet dreams didn’t work hard, didn’t try their best, didn’t get better. That’s not true in every case. Well, then, does that mean that whatever those failed attempts were after, that those people were not walking in the will of God? After all, I hear often that “if it is God’s will (whatever you’re trying to accomplish), He will make it happen.” Also true, right? But, as I look around me, and at history, I see it is not always so. Huh.

I presented this to my Lord. He took my mind to the prophets of the Old Testament. You’d think that having a commission from God would guarantee a willing audience, right? Not so much.

Consider Jeremiah, persecuted not only by the people, but by his own priestly kin (Jer. 11:21-23). The rejection didn’t stop with verbal assaults, they sought after his life. Jeremiah cried out to God, saying that speaking His word had caused him great difficulty, and yet he could not hold the Lord’s message inside, because it became like a fire in his heart (Jer. 20:9).

Isaiah was sawn in two.

Ezekiel was martyred in the land of the Chaldeans.

Micah was killed by the hands of Jehoram.

Amos was tortured by Amaziah.

Zechariah was killed by Jehoash.

Commissioned by God? Yes. Accepted by men? No.

Purpose and success are not the same thing. In fact, as was the case with Jeremiah, we see that God says ‘no’ to comfort and acceptance. Perhaps that’s what Paul experienced when he prayed three times for relief for some sort of ailment (we don’t know what it was—which is likely an intentional omission). Strength in weakness doesn’t always look like the underdog-success story. It might look more like persecution. But in the end, those faithful prophets were met with the approval of God. Even if, in this life, they never saw the whole purpose in His ‘no.’