Devotion for October 29, 2008
John 3: 30
I have been asked to do things that I’m not prepared to do. I have been asked to lead classes that I know, deep down, I have no business leading. I have been asked to speak about overcoming things that I fail to overcome daily.
I once gave a class on overcoming fear to a group of women my mom’s age. Little did they know that I am afraid of everything. I am possibly one of the most fearful people you will meet. I’m afraid something will happen to my family members, or my house, or my car. I’m afraid I will fall down stairs. I constantly pray when I’m home alone. I’m afraid of every noise. I’m afraid to drive too fast or do anything that might cause me physical harm like skydiving, or skiing, or jumping off a diving board, or using power tools or seeing another person get hurt doing any of these things. Who am I to teach a lesson on overcoming fear?
A few years back I was asked to speak to a Sr. High group of girls about modesty. I had to wonder if the friend in the ministry who had asked to me to speak was hoping that I might learn a thing or two about modesty along the way for myself. I wondered if he knew that I struggled somewhere between being a woman of God and a woman who loves fashion and wearing the latest trends. Who was I to tell others what to wear?
Every year I attend a week of summer church camp as faculty and nearly every year I almost back out at the last minute because I’m not sure how I can possibly be of any help to anyone in a spiritual sense because of my own miserable spiritual state. Who am I to help them be closer to God when I feel so far away?
And now every few weeks I am asked to speak in front of a group of people who I very well know are leaps and bounds above me spiritually. People whose wisdom I often stand in awe of and feel incompetent to even have a spiritual discussion with, much less guide and try to impart my wisdom (or lack of) upon them. It’s possible that I have found no time more humbling than the days leading up to giving the devotion here.
The only way I have found to approach these situations is with meekness and humility. Leading up to last night I just kept praying, “Lord, find a way to use me. Let something useful come out of my mouth.” This is usually the way I felt in all of the instances I have already mentioned. I think “God, you know that I am not in any position to guide anyone right now, so please transcend my unworthiness and somehow use me for your purpose.”
It’s the times that I feel really prepared and truly confidant that I fall flat on my face. Many times I have prepared a really well-meaning and well-thought out letter, or e-mail, or speech that I feel I need to share with someone. I use carefully chosen scripture and pour my heart into just the right wording. I feel so sure that he or she that will receive this missive will understand my point and their lives will be forever changed by my remarkable rhetoric and enlightened thoughts and this person will be forever grateful to me for turning his or her life around. After all, it must be God’s will that inspired me to confront them with this issue in the first place. He must have expressly chosen me to bear this message to this person. These are usually the times that I undeniably offend someone. These are the times that I’m justly accused of self-righteousness. These are the times that my friend doesn’t wish to speak with me for a few months. And I’m always shocked and dismayed because I thought my intentions were so pure.
I’ve realized that it pays to be inadequate. Only when we realize that we are insufficient to do God’s work without his help, can he use us. When I’m all puffed up with my own importance and the wonderfulness of the things I have to say, hoping that people like it, and then in turn, will like me, God’s purpose gets smothered.
In most of the opportunities to speak that I mentioned above, I realized that I was totally incapable of taking on the task before me by myself. These situations forced me to humbly dive into prayer and scripture in a way that I had probably neglected since the last time I was in such a circumstance. They change my thoughts from, “What can I do or say that everyone will really like?” to thoughts of, “God, just help me get through this, and, if possible, use me.” In the end I’m surprised by the encouragement I receive. I’m surprised when the class or event turns out to be a success. Sure I’m inexperienced, sure I will never be as intellectually elevated as other people, and sure my faith will sometimes be all but lost in a valley. It’s because of these things that I can realize it was by no merit of my own that God reached that anybody, but because He spoke through me when I let him. There is no room for our own glory in the message of Christ. The glory has to be all His.
John the Baptist realized this in his ministry when he states in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less. The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. “
John had been receiving a good amount fame through his ministry and probably could have become more famous if he’d been willing to toot his own horn. “Look at me, I’ve been chosen by God to reveal his message.” But instead he realized that the time had come to turn it over to the one he was sent to announce. He stood to the side and let Jesus have center-stage.
I think that we too can turn over all of our abilities, or lack of abilities as it may be, to God so that he can stretch beyond our inadequacies and do something greater than we could ever do if left to our own devices.