My pastor preached on 1 Peter 4:7-11 this past Sunday expounding on the apostle’s exhortation to serve in God’s strength. The theme of this entire month has been Serve. Pastor threw out a tidbit of wisdom that struck my heart profoundly, and I thought I would share it with my readers as well. His third main point of the sermon proclaims that God supplies strength for us, based upon v.11 in the text where Peter states, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…”
In conjunction with this profound truth, my pastor added this insight that spoke directly to my current situation. He said (and I may not have this directly quoted) “We become stronger by serving, we don’t become strong so we can serve.” Simple, yet stout enough to break the chains that bind. It’s the same principle by which we sometimes explain coming to Christ. We don’t clean up our lives so we may become worthy to follow Christ, we come to Christ just as we are, weak and helpless and his grace transforms us into new creations. Why do some of us Christians believe that God’s grace is only sufficient for the act of coming to Jesus but somehow the rest of life is completely up to us?
I admit that when it comes to God’s calling on my life I have fallen into this carnal way of thinking. I’ve been called to teach doctrine and theology for several years now. And for about three years I did teach a ‘Bible Basics’ class to a small group of college students every week as a part of our university’s Chi Alpha ministries. However, for the last three years I have mostly pulled back, learning instead of teaching. I’ve been growing in my understanding of Reformed theology but have felt completely inadequate as far as teaching others the glorious truths I have embraced. I look back at the many failings from my original class and the obvious lack of presence and charisma I exude when it comes to speaking to an audience (not to mention the abject fear every single time I speak in front of a group of people) and wonder why I would be insane enough to do it all over again. It is no exaggeration for me to admit that I find multiple reasons and examples every single day on why I am not qualified to teach God’s saints. That famous line from Cool Hand Luke rings constantly in my ears, ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate.’
I am a quiet, reclusive introvert who has never talked much. Trust me, the verbosity of my writings does not often translate to the spoken word. Many times when forced to speak openly for a period of time I struggle with mustering enough words to fill the time. Me and ‘awkward silence’ are good friends. But despite all of these sound reasons (read: excuses) to not teach I feel compelled to do just that. I want to teach. I just don’t believe I can do it well. I don’t think I can be pleasing to God or a blessing to my audience. It is a deeply frustrating situation. I suffer from spells of despondency quite often because of it.
Pastor’s words are a healing salve for this open wound. For years I have been saying, ‘not yet, I’m not articulate enough. Not yet, I don’t know enough. Not yet, I’m not prepared enough.’ The Lord says through my pastor’s words, ‘Serve me in my strength, for you will never become strong enough to serve the Kingdom in your own strength, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ All my supposed prep work has been for naught. God has not been impressed one iota by my conditioning and grooming to become a distinguished scholar. I simply need to trust in Him to grant me all the necessary grace to accomplish his will in my life, so that he may be glorified in it. My failure to communicate does not perplex God. He is not repenting of his call on my life, for His gifts and callings are without repentance. The Lord has not changed his mind about me and he never will. I am called to be a teacher, I am certain of this. God will give me every gifting and qualification necessary to fulfill that calling.
Thank you Pastor Earl for making this plain to me!