You and I are one and the same.
Burning with a passion for ministry. Gleaming with zeal for the mission field. Coveting fulfilment, yearning for purpose, searching for meaning. Desiring to be used by God. Hoping that you're made for something more, and wanting to know what that something is.
Does that sound like you? It sounds like me, too.
It sounds like many of the fiery young believers I know and love. I've grown up with people like this, and I am one of them. I seek a special purpose. My life's ambition is to honour my God. I want to serve Him, obey Him, follow Him, and give it all up for Him. The message of the Bible is clear: Jesus wants all, or nothing. And I'm in.
The passion is crystal clear. The enthusiasm is there. The question that lingers, is: How?
How am I to serve the Lord? I look to the Bible, where I first found the command to pick up my cross and follow Christ. I flip through the pages to find some hint as to what that even looks like. And what I find... intimidates me.
1 Corinthians 12 tells me that there are many different types of spiritual gifts, and the Holy Spirit distributes them as He pleases. 1 Peter 4 tells me that we must practice whatever gift we've been given with all of our strength. Romans 12 tells me that some can prophesy, some are gifted in serving others, some are given the ability to encourage others, and others are given the talent of teaching.
The list goes on. I read that the Church of Christ's followers is like a body, with each part being equal in value, but distinct in role. Each part having a unique function; inadequate on its own, but essential to the whole.
I read and I read and I read these passages that encourage so many, but I can't help but feel worried. "What's my gift?" And suddenly, when I think of the Christians that I admire, I begin to feel insufficient. Left out. Overlooked.
I can think of people who I know are gifted in kindness. And I think to myself, "I wonder if I'm ever a blessing to people like they are...." I imagine my friends who are so clearly gifted in generosity. And it spurs me to wonder, "How can it come so naturally for them, and not for me?" I watch the believers I know who have servant's hearts- the ones who simply jump at any opportunity to make somebody else's work load easier. And I slink away, mulling it over: "How come they have such a good attitude all the time, working so hard for the sakes of others? Where's my enthusiasm? Why can't I be more like that?"
And as I mutter to myself and envy all these spiritually gifted people around me, I eventually come around to thinking the unthinkable: "Maybe I'm never gonna be used by God." "I'm no good." "I'm not use to anyone." "I don't have any useful gifts- I wonder if God just never gave me any."
Welcome to Destructive Thinking 101.
Step 1: Doubt God's promises of the Bible.
Step 2: Listen to the devil's whispers.
Step 3: Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until you spiral downwards into the Slough of Despond.
When I let myself get to that point, listening to the lies and giving the devil a foothold, it doesn't matter what anybody says. It doesn't matter if people tell me, "Oh you're so good at _______," or, "You really bless me by your _________." People could encourage me all day, and it wouldn't make a difference, because our thoughts control us. And by convincing ourselves of lies, we become deaf to reason and truth.
So some days, if you could read my mind, you would find me wallowing in self-pity, burning up with anxious passion for God, and complaining impatiently, "God, when's MY chance?" "God, use me!" "God, let me be a part of your Ministry!"
And usually, those days, I'm pretty "unproductive." Because my focus is on me, and my actions follow suit. My thoughts revolve around my own desperate desire for meaning, and my lifestyle comes tumbling down after.
I want my life to count. I want to live for something that's bigger than me. But perhaps the first step is to take the focus off of myself, and put it back where it belongs. Once that happens, perspective gets corrected. Worry gets replaced with the Word. Doubts get replaced with Scripture. Fear gets replaced with fact. Discouragement gets replaced with Truth. And that Truth is as follows:
Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Philippians 2:13 - For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 - There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
And out of all of these passages, this one is the kicker:
John 15:4-5 - "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the Vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the Vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, WILL produce much fruit."
"For apart from me, you can do nothing."
How's that for thorough? Jesus didn't beat around the bush... or the vine. He tells us exactly what is required in order to live fruitful lives: We must abide in Him. And not only does He tell us the instructions for living a life of purpose, but He gives us a guarantee. He says, "Those who remain in me, and I in them, WILL produce MUCH fruit." Not "might," not "may," not "could possibly," but "WILL." It's a promise. Jesus has given His Word. And if we can't trust that it's true, what hope do we have?
I want my life to be fruitful. I want my works to produce everlasting profit. I want my endeavours to have eternal worth. I want my time to be spent and invested in things that will not perish.
I want to give it all up for Him- not for the sake of public approval or praise, but even if I'm the only one who knows. In fact, even if God's the only One who knows. Even if He uses me to minister to others without my knowing. Even if He produces good fruit in me behind my back. Even if I'm completely unaware of the work He's doing through me.
I may not know exactly how He's gifted me, but I want to be confident and self-assured of His intentional design. He created me on purpose. And He created you on purpose. He gave us our gifts intentionally, and He was not being skimpy when He made you and me. He thoroughly mapped out who we would be, and it gave Him great pleasure. He takes joy in us. We are His masterpieces.
If God had wanted us all to be gifted identically, He could have made just one person. But He's a Master Creator. A fluent Artist. An Inventor and an Engineer. His body is the Church. He gives one gift to one person, ten gifts to another, and not out of favouritism. Rather, it is to fit with His glorious and perfect plan. He knows where and when to bestow gifts. He has made us equal in value, distinct in role, and beautiful in harmony.
So let us not be impatient with God. Let us not be like Martha, worrying so much over working for God that we miss our chance to just be with Him. Let us not demand our "calling" this instant. Let us not mope about, waiting for our sign in the Heavens to tell us that we are musicians, or speakers, or pastors, or counsellors, or artists.
Let us instead be still, and trust. Let us abide in Him. Let us feast on His Word. Drink in His grace. Sit at His feet. Rest in His presence. Trust in His timing. Remain in His Love.
And bear much fruit.