When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty (if you’re under 40, she was the Kari Jobe of my day). I had been singing solos and in church choirs since I was in the second grade. I was taking professional voice lessons and spent my first year of college as a vocal performance major. Not to toot my own horn here, but, while I’m not the greatest singer in the world, certainly not even in the top 10 or 20 percent, I’m also not one of those people you see during the audition rounds of American Idol who makes you want to conduct a nationwide manhunt for every person who ever lied to this poor soul and told her she could sing just so you can beat all of them senseless with a pitch pipe.
I had a modicum of talent and I wanted to put it to work doing “great things for the Lord.” I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him.
Paragon of adolescent spiritual maturity that I was, it somehow never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?
Because even in my day, that was the subtle message that was coming from the pulpit (and Christian media) and landing in the pew: If you really love Jesus and prove it by walking faithfully with Him, He’s going to use you to do some big, fat, hairy thing for Him. You’ll be the next David or Esther or Paul or Mary, and your name will go down in history just like theirs did. You’ll be famous, dahling.
Only I’m not really sure where Christian preachers, authors, and entertainers got this idea, because it sure as heck isn’t in the Bible.
The Bible knows nothing of the idea that we can behave our way into getting God to “use” us in some big way. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take a look at some of the “big names” in the Bible and what they were up to when God drafted them.
Noah- just a godly guy trying to survive a sin sick world
Moses- on the lam for murder and hanging out in the desert with a bunch of sheep
David- more sheep
Gideon- just trying to feed his family
Peter- gone fishin’
Abraham- even more sheep
Were some of these guys walking faithfully with the Lord? Absolutely. But they were walking faithfully simply because they loved the Lord and desired to please Him, not with the goal of getting God to do some big thing in their lives. In fact, most of them were downright shocked when God showed up and revealed His plans for them.
And have you ever noticed that God doesn’t just use “good guys,” or guys who eventually become “good guys”? Ever read the story of Samson? Going strictly by his words and behavior mentioned in Judges 14-16, the dude comes off as a self-centered, slobbering ball of lust with anger management issues. Yet, knowing all about him before he was even born, God said He would use Samson to “…begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5)
And what about Pharaoh? In Exodus 9:16, God says to Pharaoh, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” The plagues…the parting of the Red Sea…I’d say God used Pharoah for His glory in a pretty big way.
God can use anybody He wants for any purpose He wants, and He’s not at the mercy of their behavior in doing so.
What do we mean when we say we want to be “used by God,” anyway? I think what we often have in mind is something awesome, something grandiose. Something that will bring us fame, fortune, and glory. I’ve never heard someone say she wanted God to use her for His glory like God used Job.
Or, for that matter, Jesus.
The greatest event in the universe, the one that brought God more glory than any other phenomenon in the history of ever, was also the most excruciating moment of sorrow and suffering eternity has ever known: the crucifixion of Christ for our sin.
When we say we want God to use us, we want the stupendous, not the suffering. The crown, not the cross. Yet it is often in suffering that God is most glorified. So, just whose glory is it we’re seeking, again?
If you live your life clamoring after God to make you an Esther or a Paul, or a Sandi Patty or a Billy Graham, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. And not just because there are only a handful of “big name” God-followers out there compared to the nameless millions who have followed Him faithfully in obscurity, but because being used by God in some big, ostentatious way is not what He calls us to clamor after.
When you stand in front of God on the Day of Judgment, He’s not going to say, “Well done. You did some phenomenal things for Me that people are still talking about!” He’s going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Faithful servants aren’t out to change the world, they just obey. They go where they’re told to go. They do what they’re told to do. And they do it to honor their masters.
For servants of Christ, most of the time that means getting up every day and doing the same humble tasks over and over for a lifetime: cooking meals, going to work, changing diapers, serving the church, cleaning the house. You know, servant stuff, all done to the glory of God. This is what God calls us to.
God doesn’t call us to seek to be used, He calls us to seek to be faithful.
“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’.” Luke 17:10
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