One aspect of grace is God’s unmerited gift of the power to do what he calls us to do.
Read God’s Book continually; nay, never let the sacred volume be out of your hand. Learn, so that you may teach. Hold fast to the words of faith, according to sound doctrine, so that you may be able thereby to exhort and refute the gainsayers. ‘Continue thou in the things that thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them’; and ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope and faith that are in you.’ Your deeds must not belie your words, lest, when you are speaking in church, some one may say to himself: ‘Why do you not practise what you preach?’
(Jerome, in A Clergyman’s Duties)
(This article was written by Frank Reed and was originally posted here)
“Tug of War” – again – when will we learn?
One of my favorite pictures is a picture of two tractors. One tractor is a John Deere G and the other is a Farmall Super M. They are chained drawbar-to-drawbar and trying to out-pull each other. Beneath the chain is a line someone has scratched in the dirt. Hanging directly above the scratched line is a white handkerchief tied to the chain.
Both tractors are obviously straining at their limits. The smoke is pouring from their stacks. Their rear tires are digging into the earth. Their drivers are leaning into their loads. Much energy is being expended. Neither tractor is going anywhere (except deeper).
Each machine has a cheering section. This contest of mettle has brought them together (and is keeping them apart). Each group seems to know which tractor should win (and which should lose). These groups are obviously losing no love on one another.
While much energy is being expended – no plowing is being done. No discing. No planting. No cultivating. No harvesting. Valuable fuel is being exhausted. Expensive tires are losing tread. Powerful engines are being stressed. Delicate gears overloaded. Useful life shortened.
Intriguing but convicting. Does it matter which tractor wins? Imagine how much work could be done if these powerful machines would return to their respective fields of labor. The operators, with a vision of a goal accomplished, could wave to one another across the fence row as they passed. If one had more power than the other, what would it matter? They could work together (albeit in different fields) to feed a hungry world.
Our churches have so much to offer the community and the world. It has become apparent that tensions have weakened our ministry and limited us to a debilitating degree. There is too much at stake to continue the struggle. Both “tractors” are being damaged while their mettle yet unproven.
Why can there not be an amiable agreement so that we can work together or so that we can work in separate fields? There appears to be huge open fields where all can find places to work. Certainly some of the persons involved in the present struggle would feel quite comfortable in some other, related fields of labor. Is it not possible that we could “unhook the chain” and employ energies in gainful, meaningful, productive accomplishment? In this way, we could finish the work without the damage and disruption which will be hurtful to us all.
Can we not “rather suffer wrong” if we feel that we or someone we are supporting has been wronged? Will not the polarization and escalation of present attitudes existing at all levels prove destructive to all? What about the people we are here to serve? They are the ones to whom we owe an apology. What are we teaching them? What are we demonstrating to them? Are we not hypocritical to teach the Bible while “biting and devouring” each other as our physical and emotional energies and our very spiritual lives are being consumed? Can we show the people that we are disciples by the way we love one another?
A peaceful resolution will certainly not be nearly as exciting as all the smoke, noise, and clamor of the “tug of war.” But it strikes me that a peaceful solution would be closer to what the LORD intended when He gave talents to each of us and told us to “occupy until He comes.” Then each of us will need to give account of how we used His talents. Are we working the fields or playing “tug of war?”
Frank Reed – Written in 1997. Published in 2013. Published in 2016.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”
(Edward Everett Hale)
“Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me;
lay any burden on me, only sustain me;
and sever every tie, but the tie that
binds me to Thy service and Thy heart.”
“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world
we waste our lives as missionaries.
They forget that they too are expending their lives …
and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance
to show for the years they have wasted.”
Lord, I give up
All my own plans and purposes,
All my own desires and hopes
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all,
Utterly to Thee
To be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit.
Use me as Thou wilt,
Send me where Thou wilt,
Work out Thy whole will in my life
At any cost,
Now and forever.
(Betty Scot Stam, missionary martyr to China)
Today I am posting two imaginary letters. The author of this work is unknown, but the spiritual lesson is profound.
Title: Request for Transfer
To: Commander in Chief, Spiritual Armed Forces, Jesus Christ
I am writing this to You to request a transfer to a desk job.
I herewith present my reasons:
I began my career as a private, but because of the intensity of the
battle You have quickly moved me up in the ranks. You have made
me an officer and given me a tremendous amount of responsibility.
There are many soldiers and recruits under my charge. I am
constantly being called upon to dispense wisdom, make judgments,
and find solutions to complex problems. You have placed me in a
position to function as an officer, when in my heart I know I have
only the skills of a private. I realize that you have promised to
supply all I would need for the battle. But Sir, I must present You
a realistic picture of my equipment.
My uniform, once so crisp and starched, is now stained with the tears
and blood of those I have tried to assist. The soles of my boots are
cracked and worn from the miles I have walked trying to enlist and
encourage the troops. My weapons are marred, tarnished
and chipped from constant battle against the enemy. Even the Book
of Regulations I was issued has been torn and tattered from
endless use. The words are now smeared.
You have promised You would be with me throughout, but when
the noise of the battle is so loud and the confusion is so great,
I can neither see nor hear You. I feel so alone. I’m tired.
I’m discouraged. I have Battle Fatigue. I would never ask you for a
discharge. I love being in Your service. But I humbly request a
demotion and transfer. I’ll file papers or clean latrines.
Just get me out of the battle — please, Sir.
Your Faithful, but tired soldier.
Shortly after, the soldier received this letter from the Commander in Chief:
To: Faithful, but Tired Soldier, Spiritual Armed Forces
Location: The Battlefield
Your request for transfer has been denied.
I herewith present My reasons:
You are needed in this battle.
I have selected you, and I will keep My Word to supply your need.
You do not need a demotion and transfer.
(You’d never cut it on latrine duty.)
You need a period of “R and R” — Renewal and Rekindling.
I am setting aside a place on the battlefield
that is insulated from all sound
and fully protected from the enemy.
I will meet you there and I will give you rest.
I will remove your old equipment and “make all things new.”
You have been wounded in the battle, My soldier.
Your wounds are not visible,
but you have received grave internal injuries.
You need to be healed.
I will heal you.
You have been weakened in the battle.
You need to be strengthened.
I will strengthen you and be your strength.
I will instill in you confidence and ability.
My Words will rekindle within you a renewed love, zeal and enthusiasm.
Report to Me tattered and empty.
I will refill you.
I tend to be a perfectionist. However, much of what I do falls far short of perfection. A desire for perfection can be paralyzing. After all, why should we do something if it is not perfect?
Now there certainly is a place to strive for perfection. In fact, that probably should be our goal. But we should not allow a lack of perfection to paralyze us. I have been helped by attempting to adopt a statement that one of my teachers repeatedly emphasized: “We do the best we can.”
As I go about my work I want to keep in mind that my responsibility is to do my best. I want to keep going and growing. For some reason God has chosen to use people for the accomplishment of his purposes. I am grateful that we can have confidence that God will bring good out of our feeble efforts.
A major concern of many Christians is how to discover God’s will. That is something I have struggled with personally. After I finished college in 2012, I was in contact with a recruiter for a missions agency. At that point I was working a construction job to pay off my student loans and was hoping to pursue further education. The recruiter could not understand why I was not moving more quickly to join his agency.
In our email exchanges I sought to emphasize that I was waiting, but I was not sitting around. It was my goal to be active in my church, which included teaching a Sunday School class. In my final year of college, as I sought God’s direction for the future, I felt him emphasizing to me the importance of the local church and I realized that it is important to be willing to serve in the local church and that such service could prove to be valuable experience for future ministry opportunities.
In the summer after my college graduation I also had the opportunity to lead a two-week personal development camping trip. That was a very positive experience for me and a time of significant growth. I was working construction, which was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I did have a sense of peace that that is what God wanted me to do right then. I was working with non-Christians and was seeking to show Christ to them. I was learning patience as I waited on what God had for me next. I was learning about persevering through work that I rarely enjoyed.
I was also seeking to make good use of my time by reading and studying topics of interest to me, including Biblical studies and church history. Despite the difficulties, I can look back on that time and see ways in which God was working in my life. I was becoming more of the kind of person he wants me to be. I still had far to go, but I was moving in the right direction. God is concerned about character development, and that is what he was working on in me during that time.
During this time of waiting I wrote this to the missions recruiter:
I am convinced that God has something “big” for me to do, but I am also convinced that it is important to do things in God’s timing. I have thought about Moses. He was called to lead the children of Israel, but he was not ready to do so when he was 40. He had to spend 40 years in the desert becoming the kind of person God wanted him to be. Jesus did not begin his public ministry until he was 30. Did he waste his twenties? I think it was a matter of timing.
Paul spent years in the desert (Galatians 1-2) and did not write any epistles (that we know of) until at least 15 years after his conversion. For all three of these examples, could they not have done so much more if they would have started sooner? From a human standpoint, probably yes. I can think of other examples, but I do believe that God does care about developing his servants, even if it takes years to do so. And I believe that if a person is willing to go through that development process their life and ministry will ultimately be more successful (successful is a dangerous word, but I hope you get the point).
Take the example of Jesus’ apostles. In Acts 1, he gave them the Great Commission but also told them to wait for the Holy Spirit. If they would have rushed into the preaching of the Gospel, they would not have had the power for ministry that they had after Pentecost. Yet waiting on God’s timing gave them the power they needed for their ministry.
Now please do not think that I am opposed to stepping out in faith. I have done if before and I want to do it again. But I want to wait on God’s timing because I want to have confidence that I am following his leading. Going to college is an example of that. I waited for God to open the door for me to go to school, and I had the peace that I was in the right place, and that helped me to persevere when the going got tough.
As I look back now, I can see how God was at work to prepare me for the work I am now doing. I did learn and grow by having to wait for God to do things in his timing. Waiting on God is never a mistake. At times waiting is God’s will for us. God will open doors for us in his time, and when he does we must not hesitate to walk through them.