Sunday, December 4, 2011

Being useful at all times

My good intentions have quickly been overtaken by poor health and a very busy schedule in recent days. My goal was to post once every week, and I already have missed that. Oh well...

In my last post I made this statement about being useful: "The highest good work that the redeemed woman can do is tend to her own soul, for keeping it is what makes her most useful for service to the King!" Here is where most of us go astray in our quest for usefulness - and let's face it, we are on a quest. Desiring to be useful is not a bad thing, it's not a prideful thing. I guess it can be if not sought with proper motives, but for a sincere believer, there is a sanctified, Holy Spirit-wrought longing to be of useful service to God. We saw it in the early disciples of the Lord, and we have since seen it throughout Christian history when we examine the great men of faith who sacrificially gave of their time, talents, and resources to be be useful for the sake of Christ. In fact, if that longing is absent in a believer, he should quickly examine whether or not he is in the faith!

One of the most common and weighty matters which can hinder our usefulness is the way we respond to the difficulties we encounter in this life. Oftentimes, this includes when we are mistreated by others (especially fellow believers). The pain and distress that comes from within the body of Christ can at times seem unbearable. But it is our response that proves whether or not we know how to be useful to the Lord. When we linger in bitterness or discontentment at God's providence, in both circumstances and relationships, we paralyze ourselves from being useful. The bitter and discontent will not be able to provide pure service to the Lord - they will not be useful.

John Angell James said this: "Love will endure with patience, and suffer, without anger or bitterness of feeling, everything in social life which is calculated to tru our tempers, and exhaust our patience. It is not testy, and impatient at the least opposition or the slightest provocation; but endures the infirmities, the unreasonableness, the ill-humor, and the hard language of others - with a meek and quiet spirit." So does this mean we never speak up when wronged? Do we never confront the unkindness of others? How do we rightly submit to divinely appointed mistreatment? Is not all mistreatment divinely appointed? Consider Joseph, who was sorely mistreated by his own brothers, spent over a decade slaving for the pharoah, and yet became one of God's choicest instruments of usefulness. Joseph was able to respond this way because of love. He understood the love of God, and therefore had a love for others. This may seem like a cliche, generic answer, but the truth is in the simplicity. God's servants are most useful when they are most loving. And this is not some pitying, fluffy love that we have for others and therefore go on under any kind of mistreatment. This love springs forth from a heart and mind that has come to understand just how deeply God has loved us. We have seen our sin, we have plumbed the depths of it, and thereby know that it was God's electing love being placed upon us, in mercy, which then compels us to endure hardships and respond with love. This is how we become more useful. Good-will and guilt cannot be the motives from which we seek to serve the Lord. We understand His love for us, and therefore desire nothing more than to lovingly return our praise and service to Him, by being useful!

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