What kind of effect does the word serving have on you?
Maybe, for some of you, it wrings a tired sigh from a dutiful but burnt-out soul.
Or, it's an uncomfortable topic you'd rather not think too much on.
Or perhaps--and I hope this is the case, if not now, at least some time in your experience--it sparks a little flame of joy and happy fulfilment.
What a great joy it is when your talents and inclinations suit your area of serving with beautiful exactness. You're truly in your element, glorying that your God-given gifts are so well-used, and happy in the knowledge that you are fulfilling this need so well.
But the unfortunate fact is that this is not the case most of the time. You are burning with passion and insight to lead a youth group, but what your church needs right now is a Sunday School teacher for little ones learning about Noah's ark--still fascinated when asked to name all the animals. Or maybe you have great and glorious plans for evangelism, but the current need is for someone to bring homemade soup to a sick church member.
Conversely--you just want to continue your little labours of ministering to a few people, but someone is organising a big gospel outreach event and wants you to--horrors!--lead in public prayer, give a talk, take a discussion group of complete strangers or some other near-lethal big-stage role that requires far too much publicity for your liking. You're secure and happy making a hundred cups of coffee during church refreshments, but shiver at the idea of talking to visitors.
Whether you want to build wells in Africa, not talk to the grumpy recluse next door--or you'd rather stay home and talk to a hundred grumpy neighbours than go to Africa--how can we serve God when we're so badly equipped, so inadequate, so reluctant?
What do we do when the areas of service open to us aren't our areas of skill and passion?
(which is inevitable)
We flinch, knowing that our weaknesses, limitations, and inadequacies are going to be taken out from the little box we locked them safely away in, dusted off, and framed for us and all the world to see.
We reluctantly, grumpily agree. I thought I was done with piano after dutifully surviving Grade 8, now I've got to suffer again, plodding through hymns without inspiration or excitement.
We become very creative with a list of reasons why we can't, shouldn't.
Either we convince ourselves with those reasons which sound so good, and actually get pretty proud of ourselves. No really; let someone else have a chance; I'm just not good enough, you see, I'd rather it wasn't done at all than done badly...Humility, you see. Just being humble.
Or we get defensive and aggrieved. No one else serves as much as I do. Everyone expects me to volunteer...no one's even grateful when I do it...people are just going to criticise me for doing it badly so I might as well let them do it themselves.
At least for me, serving in these less-than-ideal circumstances has taught me a sobering lesson about my heart. I fretted about my insecurities until I realised that my grousing had far too much ME in it. It forced me to look at my heart and the motivations there for serving.
When I was complaining about my lack of musical skills, I was not concerned about it affecting my serving--as I thought--but more that other people would see this lack.
The real problem was that volunteering to serve in this would force me to see my limitations, and confront them.
Yes, I was woefully inadequate for this area of service. That was a truth I had to humbly accept, even if it made me cringe.
Perhaps this was a realisation that I had been serving, not for God as I thought, but to feel good about myself.
I had lost sight of the thought that it was in times like this that God's grace could most clearly shine through. I had forgotten that I could most clearly see His power when the lack of my own was most obvious.
Perhaps this was an opportunity, not just to learn humility and trust, but to experience the goodness of God in His grace.
'...for [His] strength is made perfect'---not in MY strength, though that stems from His, but '--in weakness.'
This doesn't mean you should recklessly charge into whatever area of service you are most misfitted for with a misguided idea of disciplining yourself (eeeurgh I find that vaguely sadistic). It is simply a change of perspective, to see these inevitable occasions not as horribly dutiful, horribly humiliating things to be avoided at all cost, but as opportunities to humbly experience the grace of God in our weakness, as we never could in our strength.
To trust in His strength rather than our own. To realise afresh that we serve, not to feel good about ourselves, or please others/make them think well of us, or even for success, but for GOD--because we love Him.
We are like eager five-year-olds wanting to cook a special birthday meal for Dad. We're woefully inadequate, unlike our Masterchef prodigy friend next door, and we know it when we see the overcooked meat, the undercooked veggies, and the burnt soup. But Dad helps us, patiently and lovingly, to rescue the meal. Even over the burnt soup, He beams at us and tells us He's proud of us. We know He sees beyond the stringy tasteless meat to the love motivating us, and He loves us for it, regardless of how tough the veggies are.
And it is times like this that we realise how good and able He is.
How much we need His help.
How our love for Him is not limited to our strengths and talents.
And most comforting and wonderful of all, how much He loves us.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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