Monday, January 2, 2017

How Can We Do Everything?

Years ago, a TV commercial showed a businessman sitting at his desk, talking on the telephone to his boss. Every few moments he would dutifully respond, “I can do that!” “I can do that!” However, when he hung up the phone, a quizzical look appeared on his face and he asked, “How am I going to do that?”

Do you ever feel that way? I have. It’s not unusual to commit to do more than we can realistically handle, even very good things, and wonder later, “Why did I commit to doing that?” For some reason, when asked to do something, it’s easier at first to say “Yes,” and then scratch our heads and wonder, “What was I thinking?”

Sometimes it’s because we don’t wish to let other people down. We want to please them, make them think well of us. If we say no, maybe they won’t like us. Or we overcommit out of guilt – we feel obligated or believe it’s a worthwhile request, so how can we possibly refuse?

Occasionally I still find myself in this type of situation, but reminders from my friend, Oswald Chambers, have helped a lot over the years. For more than 30 years I’ve read his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, almost daily. Chambers died 100 years ago, and yet I regard him as a friend because his wisdom has been so helpful. Among his insights are two statements that can greatly help in weighing opportunities that come our way.

One is simply that “a need does not constitute a call.” All around us are countless needs; but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a personal call for us to fulfill them. If a need is legitimate, someone should try to meet it, but that person might not be you – or me.

For instance, someone might need a faucet fixed or roof repaired. I may recognize that need, but being “mechanically challenged,” I realize I’m not the one to meet that need. At least if they want the job done right. My “help” would be finding someone with the necessary skills. However, if someone were to need help composing an important letter, or desperately desired a more experienced person as a mentor, those could be needs God was calling me specifically to meet.

A second statement Oswald made elaborates on the first, enabling us to discern which needs we indeed are called to address. In his book, several times he says, “Good is the enemy of the best.” Initially this sounds curious, but when you think about it, not so much.

I’ve used this advice for evaluating many opportunities, ranging from leadership roles to participating in special outings to providing writing and editing services for specific organizations. Any one of those things would be considered “good,” what someone should do. The question is, are they the “best” things for me to do, given my finite time and capacities?

The Scriptures declare we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). As such we each have a divinely ordained design and purpose – a distinctive mix of talents, gifts and passions from God. Some things we can perform with ease and enthusiasm; others grudgingly, only with extreme effort.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” And Colossians 3:23-24 admonishes us, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Some brief jobs or tasks we might undertake because they must be done at that moment and there’s no one else available. But usually, if God has called us to do something, we’ll find joy in carrying it out – and in one way or another, bear fruit for eternity.

I’ll never forget the scene in the film, “Chariots of Fire,” when Eric Liddell’s sister confronts him about his insistence on training for the Olympics as a runner. Liddell, a Scotsman, affirms to her that he has no doubts about his call to mission work in China, but also observes, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

If, like Liddell, we sense “God’s pleasure” when busily engaged in something, we can feel confident we’ve accurately discerned what’s best from that which is merely good. Then we can truly do it with all our heart, as working for the Lord.

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