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 am God's Workmanship

Workmanship that Works

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything.  A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial … And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next, miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages. I Cor. 12:4-7, 27-28

I awoke to the sweet smell of Swiffer mop solution.  Stumbling out of bed, I found my 12-year-old son hard at work in the quiet house, scrubbing my floors.  I know, it’s crazy, but God has given me a boy with the spiritual gift of service.  That child loves to help out.  And when he’s done?  He’s satisfied, filled, like a cat with cream. 

My daughter, on the other hand, would choose a trip to the dentist over cleaning her own room, much less the rest of the house.  But if one of her friends is down, she is the first to call her, make her a card, give her a hug, even pray with her.  She’s 10 – with the gift of encouragement (most certainly not service!)

My mom is filled with mercy, my dad with wise teaching.  My husband is a gifted pastor, and evangelism comes easily to me. My sister is both a helper and an encourager.  One of my friends is a great manager – details and flow charts and motivating others are his natural languages.

All of us are radically different, but each of us is God’s workmanship.  He created us, masterpieces all, with jobs to do.  He considered our personalities, our natural inclinations, and he empowered us with his Holy Spirit to do tasks that he appointed for us.  Each of those tasks has a common goal – to advance His Kingdom on earth.

We are not just paintings to be hung on the wall and admired by God.  We are not simply statues that awe the admiring crowds.  We are workers.  And Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God made us “for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

That just amazes me – that God would prepare stuff for me to do ahead of time so that when I get “there” on my life’s path, those tasks are waiting for me, tasks that satisfy and fulfill me, tasks which I am suited to perform.

I didn’t list all the spiritual gifts in today’s post. There are so many more than I’ve even touched on here. What’s yours?  And what tasks has God given you to use it doing?  How are those tasks advancing God’s Kingdom?  How do you fit in to the plan?