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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Equipped beyond natural abilities

7-8This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.  (Eph. 3:7-8)


Paul seemed like quite a well-educated, very capable guy when you looked him at from the outside.  Yet, he takes moments like this in the letter to the church at Ephesus to explain his own personal struggle with feeling "ill-prepared" for what God is calling him to do.  He transitions in this chapter to telling us what he recognizes as his calling on his life - to help people understand and respond to the message of salvation.  It was this message that he spent the remainder of his years attempting to get out to as many people as possible, establishing them in the truth that God has made a way for all people to have access to the atoning sacrifice of his dear Son, Jesus.


Paul's calling was illustrated in scripture as what I'd label "pretty doggone dramatic".  He was encountered along the Damascus road by a light so bright that he falls to the ground.  He had been about the work of killing off and torturing men and women who professed belief in Jesus.  Now, he was encountered by the very light he was attempting to extinguish.  The voice of God actually spoke to him from within the light - I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.  Hmmm....okay, I'd probably think this was pretty clear proof that the one I thought was some guy just calling himself the Son of God was perhaps who he said he was!  Then he is told to go off into Damascus, where he has the opportunity to meet with a disciple named Ananias, all the while left blinded by the brightness of the light he had seen.  It is so amazing to me that the traveling companions of Saul of Tarsus (Paul) saw the same light, but they did not hear the voice.  They were left with their sight unimpaired, while Paul lost his for a period of time.  God is truly amazing!


So...when Paul says that this gift came to him as a "sheer surprise", he is not kidding!  There was absolutely nothing within him that even wanted to explore the possibility that Jesus was the true Messiah.  He was content to go along in his condition of heart that had him persecuting Christians.  But God had a different plan - an encounter of the "spiritual kind" from which he'd never be the same again.  Our conversion to Christ may not be as dramatic, as memorable, or with audible voice from within a bright light - but it was just as real, just as transforming, and just as much of a surprise as was his.  When we least expected God to reach down into our lives with his grace and his forgiveness, he did.  Just that simple!  Along with that grace came his provision.  A provision for all we'd need to both walk out our own salvation day by day in the grace he provides, but also the provision to share the gospel message, making it plain to those who need to hear it.


You may say that you are not called to be a "Paul" to the world.  That is probably quite true - but you are called to be faithful to bring the message of hope to those you encounter in your walk of life.  Paul says he was not equipped - it was God that did the equipping for him - the same God that equips us with all we need to be messengers of his grace to a lost world.  The very next time you feel "ill-equipped" for the work you are called to do - don't sweat it, but look up.  God is already at work equipping you in just the way he plans to use you!  We tend to focus on the natural abilities - as did Paul - but God focuses on the willingness of heart that allows him to pour in all that we need (words, abilities, talents).  In his hands, a yielded messenger is more valuable than gold.  Don't focus on what you don't have - focus on what God can and will provide when your heart is yielded to his equipping.