Thursday, April 17, 2008

Am I Good Enough for God's Purposes?

I've been working on a research paper about the Sermon on the Mount, which I hope will be useful to small group leaders. Just knowing that someone will read the paper, and potentially teach based on my research, has caused waves of anxiety. I've studied the writings of a dozen prominent Christian theologians, pastors, and professors, who've all offered similar interpretations of Jesus' Sermon. Yet I question, What if I'm misunderstanding their words? What if I just don't get it? What if I give those small group leaders bad information?

My fears reminded me of a recent conversation with a friend who's been called into ministry. She told me she was afraid of not knowing enough, not being prepared to do what God wanted her to do. I've had similar discussions with many Christians who are petrified they will appear ignorant of their own faith. So, rather than sharing their faith with folks who aren't believers, or having the conversations with other Christians that lead to spiritual growth, we keep mum. Silence seems a better option than exposing ourselves as people who don't have all the answers.

I told my friend that God would be continuously preparing her, and this was "on the job" training. I told her she had the constant guidance and help of the Holy Spirit, who could give her words that she didn't even know she had--and shut her mouth when necessary. (The latter is one of my regular prayers: "Holy Spirit, shut me up if I'm about to do damage.")

And I told her about one of my major mistakes. Some years ago, I used the words of the Apostle Paul to prove a point I was making about salaries for church workers. Or, I should say, I misused Paul's words. Truthfully, I didn't even know I was making a mistake, but as soon as I'd made the comparison, something was gnawing at my spirit. So I immediately re-read Paul's words. On studying the passage carefully, my mistake was verified. Straight away, I went to the people I'd been speaking with and informed them of my mistake. Yes, I was very embarrassed. But God used that occasion to re-focus me on his will, and to show me I'd been more interested in my ideas than his.

Ever since, I've always prayed before inserting Scripture into my writing. And I never use it to prove my point. God gave us his Word as the example of absolute truth--we can measure any other statement against it. We can use it to correct errors, but only as long as the Bible is the standard. We must never use the Bible to promote our personal opinions as "truth."

I was recently quoted in two sermons, which also terrified me. Then today, I remembered that 12 years ago, before I became a Christian, I was quoted in another sermon. There had been a huge fire in the town where I'd lived and worked as a reporter, and the area was evacuated. In response, I'd written a piece about hope, community, and perseverance. That pastor didn't tell me he'd planned to quote my story, and I wasn't in attendance when he gave the sermon. But I sure heard about it afterward. People from that church approached me and thanked me for the uplifting words.

This was baffling, since I'd felt tremendous hostility toward the Christian church at the time. Why would they find my words uplifting?

God used this back then to soften my heart a bit. And he used it today to remind me he can use anything--and anyone--at any time he desires. Even me: flaws and fears included.

To ponder:
1)
Do you sometimes feel you aren't ready to discuss your faith?

2) Are you ever afraid to talk with other Christians, worried they might think less of you for your lack of knowledge about the Bible?

3) What do you do when these fears hit?

4) If you're feeling insufficient or incapable, pray this:

God, honestly, I think you can't use me. I don't feel ready. I don't feel good enough. It seems like I never will be.

But I recognize that you are God. You are bigger than me. You are strong and awesome. You have the ability--and the right--to use anybody you want for your purposes.

Please give me the courage to speak about you. Please help me to grow into a courageous Christ-follower. Please prepare me for whatever you have in store. Help me to recognize this is on-the-job training. Keep me from feeling overwhelmed at the stuff I feel I lack.

I'm all yours. Amen.

2 comments:

Shlomo said...

B"H

Hi Holly,

Thanks for sharing this post. When I first noticed it I thought you might be discussing some of the sctual textual material and the various points of view expressed by several of the scholars you read. In fact, I would still like to see that although I think the post you wrote has merit in and of itself.

One very important thing that should always be a part of each believer's study of the Bible is the opinion of their community of faith. I think your point that the Bible shouldn't be used in a proof-text manner to establish truth in a public forum is right on. Far too many arguments and divisions have arisen simply becuse of that type of approach. On the other hand, I think that one needs to bear in mind that the Scriptures were not given to lone individuals, but rather to the collective community of faith in order to instruct and inform them of the will of GOD. Having said this, it seems to me that if one is committed to a local expression of the Body, then sharing one's opinion and understanding of the Bible should be a regular practice.

Blessings,

Shlomo

PS: I was surprised that were no other comments here. You have a lot of good thoughts. I would expect many others could be learning and benefitting from your ideas.

Holly said...

Hi Shlomo,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I hope to post my research papers on this site, including the one I just wrote on Jesus on the Law in Matthew 5:17-20. I need to figure out how to best do this, as I want readers to have access to the complete document, including its footnotes. My plan is have my research posted here by July.

Thanks for your encouraging words. I have a blog on the Today's Christian Woman website that gets a lot more comments. I think it's a challenge for independent bloggers to draw readers because 1) there's so much on the Internet, and 2) it seems people either don't trust online information ... or trust it way too much.

I hope more people will discover the amazing Ed Gilbreath. I used to freelance for Ed when he served at Today's Christian magazine, and he is one of my favorite writers.

Blessings,
Holly