Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse for bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
The verse is popular because it offers comfort and hope that God is in charge, that there is a plan; there is a purpose in our lives if we surrender ourselves to Christ. I'm starting this week's blog with this verse because of the word, "plan." God has a plan for each of us who have turned to Him because of the grace offered through Jesus. I'll save for a future time a discussion about what God had in mind when He said He would "prosper" Jeremiah. Right now, I want to focus on the fact God has a plan.
Ultimately, as I mentioned in the very first blog of this series, God's plan is for those of us who follow Him to go into the world and make disciples. There are two threads that run through the entire Bible. The first is God's unquestionable love for humanity and the fact He is literally moving heaven and earth to be in an eternal relationship with us (another future blog topic). The second is that for some inexplicable reason, God has chosen to use His followers to reach the rest of humanity, to change the world, to be His agents of grace and redemption.
God used the Hebrews as His mouthpiece to the world that there is only One god. God used Noah to save the planet, Moses to lead the exodus from Egypt, David to lead Israel, Jeremiah to call sinful Israel to repentance, Peter to lead the church, Paul to be its missionary, John to be its encourager, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to pin the story of its Savior. Hopefully, you get the point. When God could just as easily write His message in the sky, He chooses to whisper it from the lives of those who call Him, "Lord."
What's the point, especially as it relates to Camp Rockfish this summer? The point is one I constantly share with my staff: God is waiting to use us to change lives now and for all eternity. It was a point I made in last week's blog. However, the main focus last week was lives being changed. This week, the aspect about which the Spirit has been challenging me is the "use us" part. God wants to use US? This summer, lives will be changed because God is going to work through US! Every time I think about it—and have thought about it over 30-plus years in the ministry—the thought both honors and intimidates me. God wants to use ME?
When the implications of that truth sink in and I begin to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, or anxious about the inevitable ways I'm going to blow it, I find great solace in the words of the powerful preacher, Charles Spurgeon, "God can use our bumbling everything better than our perfect nothing."
If I had a dime for every time I referenced that quote over my lifetime, I'd be a very rich man. The point is simply, Yes, God uses fallen humanity to accomplish heaven's purposes. Yes, God equips. But, Yes, we're going to blow it. The point is God can use us only if we get out there and give it a shot. If we hide in the safety of only what we can do on our own, we'll never have the privilege and joy of being a part of Kingdom things.
The good news is we don't have to be perfect to be useful tools in God's arsenal. As the old cliché states, "God can use our availability better than our abilities." Or, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called."
I have a million of them.
However, the questions that continue to come to mind often as we continue to do the work necessary to prepare for this summer is, "Can God do more if I'm better equipped? If our plans our more inspired? If the staff we hire are more mature?"
The answer is, of course, "Yes." As a carpenter, I can do a lot more work and do it better if my chisel is sharp or I'm using the right hammer. I can cut down more trees when my chain saw has been sharpened and sharpened correctly. As my daddy used to say, "Nothing beats having the right tool for the right job." Having a gifted speaker preach only makes sense. Having a talented singer lead worship is a no-brainer. However, in God's economy, talent and ability aren't the prerequisites. It's availability. It's a surrendered heart. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that God intentionally chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). I've often found comfort in the fact that despite my being the last person I would pick to be a pastor, much less a Christian camp director, God always gets the credit because anything positive is because of God, not me.
It's good news that we don't have to be world-class talents to be used by God. But what about more faithful? Can God use us better if we're more faithful? If we're more righteous? More trusting? More passionate about His Kingdom? More loving to our neighbors? More driven to see lost souls won because of the heart God has given us for those separated from Him? Could God accomplish more if we sinned less and were obedient more? If we weren't distracted by pride or a selfish need to be comfortable or in control?
Absolutely. I am completely convinced that my own struggles with the things I've just listed has limited a limitless God's work in my life. As someone once said, "God is a gentleman. He'll never force Himself on us." That applies to our initial surrender, but it also applies to our daily walk, and our usefulness in God's Kingdom.
After the resurrection, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. From what we know about the disciples, especially Peter, though they're lives were threatened, they were probably ready to go out in their own power and start telling the world about their resurrected friend and Savior. And God could have used that. But Jesus said to wait. Why? Because they would receive power when the Holy Spirit fell on them and THEN they would be His more effective witnesses.
Ultimately our effectiveness for God ultimately comes down to our receptivity to God. When it's all said and done, talent doesn't make the difference, doubt doesn't do you in, sin does not have the last word. The bottom line is how desperate are you to be filled with God's Spirit?
My prayer for myself and our staff (full-time and summer) is this:
That we would confess our sins and be made right SO THAT we can be clean vessels of God's Spirit.
That we would allow God to hone us as useful tools to be utilized in accordance with His will and plan.
That we would obediently step out beyond what we can do on our own so that His name would be glorified.
That WHEN we fail, when we stumble, when we think we've blown it beyond repair, we trust that God is a big God who can do great things through our inadequacies, and we get back up and try again.
Pray for us this summer.
Better yet, join us this summer as God uses all of His cracked and leaking pots to carry life-giving water to a thirsty world.