Friday, April 20, 2012
How can God use me?
I am blessed to have Christian friends who work for the gospel around the world. Some of these folks have ministry that impact thousands of people in many countries each year. Others have local ministries that impact less than 100. Each of these missionaries and pastors has their own strengths and weakness. Each is learning to grow in grace.
As I think of these friends and their ministries, I am reminded that folks often express and believe that only "super-Christians" like these missionaries or pastors could be used by God. I have often heard people say, "I wish God could you me like he uses pastors and missionaries." Others say, "I mess up so much that I doubt God could use me." Somehow many believe that "When I get it all together, then I will be able to serve God."
In my years in the ministry, I have heard all these statements expressed in different terms, but uttered many times. Many people believe such nonsense! I am writing today to encourage us that God can use anyone and everyone who is open to His leading. Yes, God can use you to advance His Kingdom.
Let me give an example from Jesus' most famous followers, the Disciples. In Matthew 28:17, the writer gives us a glimpse into their hearts and minds. As a group, they go to Galilee in response to Jesus' request. He appears to them and "When they saw him, they worshiped him." Obviously, they believed he was the Messiah. A good Jew of that day and age would not have worshiped anything but God. They believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Obviously they did not understand all that this means (who has!), but they knew Jesus was the Messiah.
"But some doubted." This is the next part of versus 17. What did they doubt? Obviously from the context they did not doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. Instead, Matthew's context might give a glimpse into the cause of their doubts when he records the Great Commission. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples..."
These early Christ-followers doubted that God could use them. Why? They had rejected him. Peter might have been one of the biggest doubters as he had sworn his fidelity to Jesus, and then denied him three times in an evening. They had more questions than answers. In the last week of Jesus' life, they had fought over who was the greatest. They no longer had the assurance of Jesus' presence in a physical sense. From the accounts, it is obvious the risen Jesus did not show up on command. He had appeared, but when would be the next time?
They were living and believing just like we often do today! How could Jesus use them? They were so disappointing. They were struggling. They did not have all the answers. They now did not have Jesus' physical presence. How could God use them?
"Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age." Jesus concludes with words of promise and hope. Words of Grace into the midst of the disciples' fear and doubt. He was not leaving them as orphans! He would lead them! He would work in, through, and even in spite of them. He would use their strengths, their weaknesses, their sin, their doubt, and their times of faith. He knew their past, but He did not condemn. He gave a command to go and make disciples sandwiched between the promise of His power and authority (it is really about Him and not us), and his promise of abiding presence.
How can God use you? How can He use me? Real ministry is about trusting in His grace that He can use you even with our weaknesses. In fact, Christ often uses us through our weaknesses, as Paul tells us that His power works through broken vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). As I see it, there are three keys to being used by God:
1.) Recognize and confess that we are broken "jars of clay." Don't put on airs or think your answers will change anything or anyone. Confess your need for God to work!
2.) Ask God to work through you. Missionaries or pastors are not a special class of Christian. We are all priests of the Great King! Ask Jesus to use you at work, at home, or where ever you find yourself. Walk in partnership with Him. Talk with Him about people and situations.
3.) Be open to God's leading. In other words, have your eyes open to opportunities to love God and neighbor. Sometimes this means speaking. Often it just means going out of your way to express love and concern. As you do this, you will be amazed at the opportunities that will arise to speak about what God has done in your life.
Authentic grace means that God can use people like the disciples: folks like you and like me! I am so encouraged by this fact. Do not fear for Jesus is the risen King!