Feb 16, 2024

Are You Serving Faithfully or Fearfully?

Sometimes God can speak through mysterious ways, and sometimes he uses a random children’s book at the library…

This week I read a book to my son, a funny and humorous book that made me laugh, but also convicted me deeply. The main character in the story is Matthew.  Matthew loves art and is very gifted at it, but his parents have other plans for him. They want him to play sports instead. Matthew’s Dad insists that he must be a big-shot athlete and can’t see the gifting that He has in art. Contrary to his will, Matthew is enrolled in baseball and shows up to practice with his markers and pens sticking out of his pockets. He looks the part—he is wearing a glove, a ball cap, and a jersey. However, he has no real idea of what he is supposed to be doing at all.

A ball hit him in the head, and the coaches begin to notice maybe he doesn’t belong here after all. They are yelling at him to catch the ball, to pay attention, and there he is, drawing a sunset on his jersey with the markers in his pocket. Eventually, a ball lands in his glove, and he notices that it’s pretty plain, so he draws a picture of his coach on it. He throws it back to the pitcher and another plain ball comes near him, and he draws on that one too. This continues until the coach gets frustrated that he continues to draw on all the balls and jerseys.  Mathew, unshaken by the coach’s disappointment with him, boldly asks, “Can I just be the team artist instead?”

This story hit me hard. I have felt pulled in multiple directions, running in circles to please others and do everything, not necessarily because I feel called or convicted to, but because I feel like I have to. I long to be like Matthew and be firm in what I know I’m gifted in, but the lists of formal ministry tasks, desires, and requests from others always seem to take priority.

However, Matthew knew what he was good at and passionate about and didn’t bend that to perform for others. He was confident in his skills and portrayed that in a unique way. I wonder if there are those of us who are in the outfield of life, pretending to be someone we’re not on a stage or another area of ministry because we let the pressure of others to perform dictate what we are actually good at and where we serve. We figure it’s probably better to keep the congregation happy rather than honor God with our unique talents and gifts that might not be so widely recognized.

The problem is that whenever we say yes to something, we are saying no to something else.

A magnet on our fridge reads, “You can do anything but not everything.” In other words, any gift can be used for the glory of God, but we can’t do them all. The boy in the story didn’t just meet the status quo and try really hard to be a lousy ball player. He knew that wasn’t where his talents were, but he found a way to bless others anyway. It wasn’t that he just walked off, completely disrespected his parent’s wishes for him, and hid in his room drawing by himself ignoring everyone else. That’s not the purpose of the gifts we have been given. He used what he had and was a part of the team in a unique way that no one else could have done.  That team had the best uniforms and baseballs of the whole league, but if he had just conformed and tried to force his way into what others wanted him to do, he would have been a lousy ball player on a boring team.

Let’s consider this; God isn’t pleased when we neglect our gifting and try to fit the status quo of what we think is a worthy calling, even when it has to do with church related things. Now, is anyone gifted in cleaning the toilets of the church?  No, that’s a humble act of service done to one another for anyone. If serving becomes a game of how best to please those around us and get the most approval while neglecting what we are actually good at, some things need to change. In the process, the things that He has truly given us to bless others can get buried under everything else like the wicked servant who buried his talent out of fear of his master rather than investing it well.

How can we reset this fear-driven mentality when it comes to serving the church?

In Ephesians 3 Paul prays that the Ephesians would be filled with the knowledge of Christ’s love and be fully confident and rooted in that love. He prays that they would know that God can do abundantly more than all we ask or pray for. Directly after this passage, in Ephesians 4 Paul says, “Therefore (because of the confidence of Christ’s love and His ability to do far more than we could ask or imagine) I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worth of your calling, for you have been called by God.” He then continues on to say that He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ and gives examples of those (read the whole passage). It’s fascinating that the prayer of being filled with His love precedes the passage on the gifts of the spirit. Paul starts chapter four with the word therefore, reminding us to be rooted in the love that Christ has for us in order to be confident in the calling that God has for us.

We cannot be faithful to how God would have us serve unless we are confident that the love He has for us is greater than the approval of those around us.

As I wrote this, I received an email from an online art workshop I registered for and haven’t made time to complete. Similarly to Matthew, some of the talents God has given me are also artistic, however contrary to him, I wrestle to prioritize it. I know it’s something God has given me that is a blessing not just to others, but also to my own well-being. But I wrestle with insecurity and confidence that it’s a gift from God and something He wants me to use. I wrestle with what people will think if I use my time to do art instead of more ‘purposeful’ things. It’s easier to focus on things that receive instant gratification and approval rather than the slow quiet work of things unseen. At the end of the email, from the artist whose classes I never actually completed, it was signed off with “You are loved and believed in”. Maybe if I reminded myself of that daily, I would actually take the time to complete an art project. Or at least the class I signed up for and never finished.

By <a href="https://pastorskids.org/author/s-bullee/" target="_self">S. Bullee</a>

By S. Bullee

S. Bullee is a passionate and driven pastor’s kid who struggles to balance life and ministry and understands all too well the struggle to say no. Her prayer for herself and other PKs is to be able to abide instead of to strive and learn to love Jesus instead of just working for Him as a performance. She and her husband are cross-cultural workers, and she is passionate about loving those who have recently moved to their nation and living a life that resembles the grace of Christ, not just the doctrine every PK knows. She desires to bring light to those areas of life that we maybe would rather ignore and open them up to the grace of Christ.