Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
– 1Peter 4:10-11
“To please God, a person must be just an instrument for God to use. For a few seconds, picture in your mind the wonderful and useful appliances that we have in our homes. They have been engineered and built to perform tasks of all kinds. But without the inflow of electrical power they are just lumps of metal and plastic, unable to function and serve. They cannot do their work until power is applied from a dynamic outside source.
“So it is in the work of God in the church. Many people preach and teach. Many take part in the music. Certain ones try to administer God’s work. But if the power of God’s Spirit does not have freedom to energize all they do, these workers might as well stay home.
“Natural gifts are not enough in God’s work. The mighty Spirit of God must have freedom to animate and quicken with His overtones of creativity and blessing.
– Rev. A. W. Tozer, Tragedy in the Church
A Scout Council Executive, the top paid person in our corner of Georgia and South Carolina, once told me after a nasty phone call, “There are those that do, and those that won’t ever.” We had been having a conversation in his office on a rare day off for me. It was the day after Scouting Sign-up the night before. The Executive got a phone call that interrupted our conversation. The man threatened the Executive and the cubmaster he had talked to the night before with a lawsuit. His son was going to be a Scout, but this cubmaster stated that if volunteers do not come forward, the boys would not be able to join. At first, the Executive defended the cubmaster. He explained without proper leadership, the program would falter. The Executive found out that the father on the phone was an Eagle Scout, but he refused to do anything for his son. Then the Executive asked, “Who was this cubmaster?” After a few seconds, the Executive started laughing and said, “He’s sitting across the desk from me right now. Would you like to speak to him?” The irate father hung up. The following week, the leaders came forward. All the boys got to join, but the Eagle Scout father refused to let his son join. He had become embarrassed, and his ego was more important to him than the wholesome activity he wanted for his son.
But of those that do (rather than those that won’t ever), some do not seem to understand the concept of doing according to the gifts that God gives us. They do everything. My Dad bragged about being a Jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none. I wonder if that is something to brag about. Yes, whatever needed to be done, my Dad could do most of it without supervision or help. Plumbing and electrical were areas that he could do a little, but he knew his limitations. There were a lot of people who volunteered to help build the church in my old hometown, but since my Dad was retired, he was there every day. He was also the elder who went a couple hundred miles away to file the paperwork to make the church official within the denomination. It seemed that he did everything.
At the same time, my mother was the church organist, pianist, choir director, and Sunday school teacher. Yet, both of my parents could have let others use the talents that God gave them.
I use my parents as examples, because we all see people like that in the church. I was guilty of it myself. The Associate Pastor asked, “If you don’t do it, who will?” With that, I went against my wishes and God’s calling to remain on the ruling body of the church for another three years. Two years later, I was so burned out, I had forgotten to attend meetings (the 4-5 hour kind) for two consecutive months. By this time, the pastor and the Associate had left, and the interim pastor suggested I resign from the ruling board, due to fatigue. I’m still an elder, just not in a decision-making capacity at this time. My point of bringing it up is that when God has different plans for you, doing good things for the wrong reason can be unfulfilling and tiring. It becomes more stress.
Doing what God wants you to do is a labor of love that only becomes tiring due to the long hours. Even then, it is like you are as the ‘Southern Lady’ explains, you don’t sweat, you glisten.
I had one thought when I read my daily dose of Tozer above. He missed a chance to say, “Let the toaster remain the toaster, and let the dish washer remain the dish washer. The toaster is ill-suited to bake a cake, and I would not recommend cooking noodles in the dish washer.”
We moved to Mississippi when I took a job working for a NASA contractor. When we rented the first house, we noticed that the oven / range was missing, a hole in the cabinet where one had previously been located. We were informed that in Mississippi that appliance was a luxury. One was not required to live. The real estate people and the landlord dug in their heels. So, my wife had an old microwave and an even older toaster oven. She bought a two-burner set for cooking with pots and pans. She was ready. (Regarding the landlord, he was a local preacher who bought rundown properties to rent. His mindset was that he was providing a roof over the people’s heads, and they should bow down and kiss his feet for providing the roof, while never repairing anything inside. We left in six months for a better house.)
My wife met some nice ladies from town and invited her new friends to lunch one day. Since my wife is Eurasian, born in Indonesia, she invited them for an Indonesian meal. She prepared both Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) and Bahmi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Noodles). One had chicken and the other pork. She also had Sate (Chicken on a Stick) with the traditional peanut butter sauce. And to use the rest of the peanut butter sauce, she had Gado Gado, a cooked Indonesian salad that my wife made using cabbage as the main vegetable. My wife had the various sauces, Sambal Manis (a sweet soy sauce) and Sambal Oelek (a fiery chili sauce – think the hottest thing you have ever eaten being a medium compared to Sambal Oelek) for those brave enough to try it. She ended the meal with a baked cake. It was your basic cake, not an Indonesian dish.
When everyone arrived, they had hundreds of questions about what they were eating and how she prepared the meal. They loved everything. As women often do, they looked around the house and didn’t find an oven or a range. “Where did you go to cook all this food?” They asked.
My wife explained that the dishes were cooked on the two-burner set, and the cake was baked in the toaster oven. She had four cooked dishes, but only two eyes to cook on. And can you really bake a full-sized cake in a toaster oven?
The ladies were shocked, amazed, and impressed. The meal was beyond what they had ever experienced, but to prepare it with such ill-fitted tools was beyond their imaginations.
Okay, those who read my blog know that I love my wife dearly, but this story is true, no exaggeration. Some have labeled her “Super Mom,” but she simply serves others with the gifts that she has been given by God and the tools at hand.
The odd thing is that the microwave and the burner set that we purchased are long gone, but the toaster oven was a wedding gift, and we still use it today. Our 43rd wedding anniversary was a few days ago. It has served us well. It has even baked cakes. But it is useless without electrical power.
When you take over that job at church because no one else is qualified or no one else is willing, do you have the energy to do it yourself? God is the source of the energy. The Holy Spirit will guide you to the work that He wishes for you, what you have been prepared to do. But if you are bogged down in doing the busy work that others leave behind, you may never find that energy.
My parents left the church that my Dad had built, in a large part literally. When they returned a few years later, all the work that they had done was being done by others. The church was not dependent upon them for everything. The church was stronger, and stronger still when my parents helped in a supportive role. And my parents were less exhausted.
Seek God first. Know the gifts that God has given you. Learn the niche that is best suited for those gifts. Rely upon the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength.
Then “Go do…
“That you do…
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman, quote was too perfect – except for maybe the ‘Voodoo’ part. From Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles)