Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I only have a little ability

The Apostle Paul seemed like quite a well-educated, very capable guy when you looked at him from the outside - on the surface, we can appear just about anyway we like, but it is what is at the center of a man that really makes the man.  Paul took honest moments like this in the letter to the church at Ephesus to explain his own personal struggle with feeling "ill-prepared" for what God had called him to do.  He tells us what he recognizes as his calling on his life - to help people understand and respond to the message of salvation - something he felt very ill-prepared to do, but which he knew with a certainty was what he was to go about doing.  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 had made a way for all people to have access to the atoning sacrifice of his dear Son, Jesus. Sometimes the thing we feel the least equipped to do is the very thing we should go about doing!

This 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.  (Ephesians 3:7-8 MSG)

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, stunned beyond words.  He had been going about the work of killing off and torturing men and women who professed belief in Jesus - because it was contrary to what he had learned from his teachers of the Law.  Then he was encountered by the very light he was attempting to extinguish - sometimes this is just the way it is with God's plan - it encounters us in exactly the opposite way we are pursuing.  The voice of God actually spoke to him from within the light - I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.  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 - especially since he had been killed on the cross some time earlier!  He is told to go off into Damascus, where he had the opportunity to meet with a disciple named Ananias, while all the while he was left blinded by the brightness of the light he had been exposed to on the road that day.  He had traveling companions that day who 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 in how he works just what he needs to work in order to get at the heart of one who needs to hear his voice!

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 out there persecuting and killing Christians.  But God had a different plan - an encounter of the "spiritual kind" because of which he'd never be the same again.  Our conversion to Christ may not have been as dramatic, as memorable, or come complete with audible voice from within a bright light - but our conversion was just as real, just as transforming, and just as much of a surprise as was Paul's.  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 just as badly as we needed it.

You may say that you are not called to be a "Paul" to the world, but that is okay because that is not your purpose in life.  You are called to be faithful to bring the message of hope to those you encounter in your walk of life - even though you aren't called to 'father new churches'. Paul says he was not equipped, although he was very well educated in 'spiritual things'. It was God that did the true equipping of Paul - 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. Don't remind God you don't have this or that ability - but simply act upon the ability you have and see how amazingly awesome that little ability can be when motivated by the hand of God! Just sayin!