Thursday, March 7, 2019

What’s the Use, Anyway? What’s OUR Use?

Looking into our silverware drawer the other day, I noticed something: The spoons, forks and knives weren’t laying in their respective sections asking, “What is my purpose?” “Am I of any use?” “What’s the meaning of being a utensil?” 

There are two reasons for that. First, of course, they’re inanimate; inanimate things don’t talk – or think. (Unless they’re performing in a “Beauty and the Beast” movie where the cups, saucers and candlesticks all prance around and talk with abandon.) Secondly, it’s because the person who picks them up is the one who determines their purpose, use, and meaning.

For example, someone decides the immediate use of a spoon is for eating a bowl of cereal or ice cream, or for stirring creamer into a cup of coffee. The user determines the purpose, not the spoon. The same could be said about forks, knives, spatulas, ladles, etc.

It seems we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering such things of ourselves. We tend to ponder imponderables like: Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? Or the penetrating question a cinematic theme song of decades ago asked, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with thinking about these deep matters. We’d all like to believe we’re here for a good reason, that we’re not cosmic accidents lacking purpose or plan. But if our trust is in God, His wisdom and sovereignty, maybe it’s not healthy getting into a mental tangle over this.

Reading recently from my favorite devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, author Oswald Chambers suggested, “We should quit asking ourselves, ‘Am I of any use?’ and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to [God]. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.”

When we first read this, it can sound somewhat demeaning. What does Chambers mean, “we really are not of much use to God”? But the Lord’s work proceeded quite well for countless years before we arrived on the scene, and His work will continue long after we’re gone. So as much as it pains us to admit, we’re not indispensable.

At the same time, we are privileged to know that God can and will use us. In Jeremiah 29:11, He declares, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Earlier in the same book God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). It’s amazing to consider that even before he became a gleam in his mother’s eyes, the prophet Jeremiah had been chosen by God for a very special work.

Most of us haven’t been selected to serve as prophets, or preachers, or foreign missionaries, but as followers of Jesus Christ we can have the assurance that He does have a very special role for us – a calling we each have been created uniquely to fulfill.  

As the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians asserts, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it…. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed [people with different gifts]….” (1 Corinthians 12:24-28). 

Just as each fork, spoon and knife in our kitchen drawer can provide very useful service according to our wishes, each of us can rejoice that when and as needed, God “will work through us all the time,” as Chambers wrote. So with joy, as Paul exhorted believers in ancient Rome, we can “offer [ourselves] to God…and offer the parts of [our] body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:11-13).

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