Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jesus, use me

 As I read the entry for today in a new devotional book my best friend bought me for Christmas, I was reminded of a song I used to hear a lot when I was growing up:

"Jesus, use me, and Oh Lord don't refuse me
Surely there's a work that I can do
And even though it's humble, help my will to crumble.
Though the cost be great, I'll work for You."

  The devotional was in Extreme Devotion, a book put out by Voice of the Martyrs. The devotional for today was about a preacher who ended up in prison in Turkey. He was praying and begging God to be rescued when He heard God say to him "you said you'd do anything for me, did you mean it?" He told God he did, and went on to start preaching 3 hours a day in the prison while he was there. He was released thirty days later, and many who shared his cell sought him out later wanting the same peace he had. 
The devotional went on to say we want to be used by God, but sometimes that may include suffering, such as in the story of the pastor. 

  I had some time to think today, and I have been thinking about this being used by God. All too often we approach God with a list of things we are willing to do for Him and have a list of things that would have us jumping the nearest boat for Joppa.

  Compared to some churches, I don't go to a church with a huge attendance, but it is bigger than most churches around that are similar in beliefs. We average around 230-250 most Sunday mornings, and it looks like more than that on Sunday evenings. We don't have a shortage of people to pitch in and do stuff. There have been people who left my church because they weren't getting used enough and wanted to go to a smaller church. That always makes my suspicious mind suspicious. And I have seen and heard enough from some of those people to make me suspicious.

  You see, some people are the same in church as with God. They want to be used in certain ways. They want to be seen and heard. Lead the singing, take up the offering, sing a special song, play the piano, be a greeter at the door. If they truly wanted to be used in any way, they'd ask the pastor what they could do to help around the church. (I know there are people who attend a smaller church out of a sincere desire to help out, and if they are sincere, they will help in any capacity.)

 I'd be scared to ask my pastor what I could do around the church to help. I remember a time he pulled me aside on a Sunday morning and asked if I could help him out that afternoon. I naively just said "yes." Bad idea. I should have asked "doing what?" before I committed. He needed my help calling for VBS. He went down one side of a street, and sent me down the other.... all by myself. I had to tell people about the vacation Bible school at our church and ask if their kids could go. The very first house I went to had a couple of guys sitting outside in lawn chairs. I stopped, and it went like this.......

Me: "Hi...."
Man: "Are you a Jehovah Witness?" (in a gruff tone)
Me: "No...."
Man: "Are you selling something?" (more gruff)
Me: "No..... I am from the Wesleyan Methodist Church on Newgarden,  and was wondering if your kids would like to go this week?
Man: "Oh, sure. They went there last year."
And I told them the times and when the van would pick them up, and went on to the next house, praying no one would be home. Actually, I did that with each house.....

  After that experience, I'd be really nervous about asking my pastor how I could help around the church. I have played the piano in church - and don't like to, have played the organ in church - not as bad, but not something I'd want to do often, been an usher - hate it, had to sing with others for a special song - horrors, and spoken in church. As odd as it may sound, that is the thing I mind doing the least of what I have done in church.

  There are people who thrive on being up front. I know one couple who has complained that they didn't get asked to sing enough in church, and love to do things where they can be seen. They must be nuts. Well, actually they are. And then there is me. My favorite thing to do in the church to be used? Warm a pew. I am happy blending in with the crowd and walking out when the benediction is said. Does that make me a bad person? If so, I am comfortable with that. 

 It is one thing to do that in church; to have a list of things we want or are willing to do. It is another thing to do that with God. I have a list of things I don't want to do:
1) Be a missionary
2) Preach
3) Sing
4) Vote Democrat 
5) Marry

  OK, God wouldn't ask me to do #4, because He is pro-life. #1..... I can't see it. He knows me and I'd make a lousy missionary. And I heard Joppa is lovely..... #2 - no one would come to hear me preach, and I believe preachers should be married, which brings me to #5.... it just ain't happening. #3.... nah. I think I sing OK, though kids making fun of my singing in school has scarred me for life in that area... but I don't have the range to sing a special even if I did have a good voice. I do think I sing better than Elvis and George Beverly Shea, but that isn't saying much in my eyes.

  Some would say God might make me do something on that list, and I resent that. God is not a vindictive God who forces His children to do something they don't want to do to punish them. That kind of talk is what helped skew my views of God for so long. But if He does ask us to do something we don't want to do, He can give us the abilities.

  And as the devotional pointed out, being used by Him could involve pain. It could mean a lonely life walking alone. It could mean being pulled completely out of our comfort zone to do something that terrifies us.

 There was a day when I consistently said no to the idea of God using me in a certain area. I did all I could to hide my silent struggle and keep it silent. I feared people finding out. I'd see others come out of the shadows and speak about it, write books, hold conferences, and I'd feel this slight niggle from God "would you talk about it if I asked you?" And I'd jump on the nearest ship for Joppa and say a resounding "no." (And hope that a big fish didn't swallow me)

And then things changed. I started telling people, and more people,  and soon got to where I am now..... I don't care who knows. That doesn't mean I am going to emblazon it across Facebook and my blog or wear a t-shirt. God has already used my struggle in small ways to help and encourage others, though nothing on the level of those who speak, write books, hold conferences, etc.

  And somewhere along the line, I got off the ship and said yes. Yes, if the day comes that God wants me to step forward and talk about it, write a book......whatever. I'll do it. I am done worrying what people will think. I'm done fearing losses of friends, scorn, judging. This is me. A very flawed and broken guy just trying to serve God and set aside my besetting sin. 

  Will God ask me some day to talk about it in public? Maybe, and maybe not. But I am willing. The missionary thing? Preaching? Singing? Not so much, but if God did indeed call me........ and He would about need to write it in the sky for me to preach or be a missionary..... I'd do it.

  Most of us face what Jonah did at some point. God wanting to use us for something we'd rather not do. We can't all take up the offering, lead the singing, sing a special song, greet people at the door. The church needs people to clean the church, straighten song books, decorate the church and take down the decorations. To do the behind the scenes stuff that may never get us mentioned or noticed.

  God isn't a mean God who only asks us to do what we don't want to do, but He does require the same thing of all of us: a willingness to do whatever He asks, a daily denying of ourselves and taking up our cross, and to be used by Him in any way He wants. It could be to be President of the United States, or it could be sitting in a prison cell for a crime we didn't commit so we could reach those in the prison for Him.

  It is a good thing to sing that song, or even pray, "Jesus, use me", but it should be done with a blank paper, and not a list of what we are willing or unwilling to do. With God, it doesn't matter what we want or are willing to do. It matters how and where He can use us best to further the Gospel.

 ****Disclaimer: I am not sure I said what I was trying to say, but am going to go ahead and post it any way. Hopefully it turned out as I hoped it would.

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