Have you ever had a chicken pot pie made entirely from scratch with all the vegetables cut up from fresh (not frozen), loaded with chicken and topped with a tender, flaky crust? I’m a fairly good cook, but I take shortcuts when I can. Peeling vegetables and chopping and dicing would not be the way I would go were I to make pot pie myself. Opening a bag of frozen vegetables and pre-cooking them a bit in the microwave before putting them in my pot pie would be the norm for me. I’ve always thought frozen vegetables were just as good as fresh, but wrong! We were blessed and very surprised to receive a homemade pot pie this week from our church’s MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) and it was amazingly yummy!
We felt undeserving of such a gift. The group is large—around thirty or so women—and they had made pot pies together, I understand, to give to shut-ins, widows, the sick. We don’t fit in any of those categories, but apparently they wanted to give it to us as a thank you for something I had written for them. Last Sunday was “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and they were carrying the theme through at their meeting on Tuesday. As the mother of a severely handicapped child, I was asked to write something about the sanctity of life as it pertains to disabled people. (I am planning to share it with you next week on Robbie’s birthday.)
I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the value of our lives to the Lord, to others, and even as to how we see ourselves. About the time I was writing for the MOPS group I heard from two or three special people in my life and the conversations between us were about that very thing—finding the purpose in our lives.
Our lives—no matter who we are, no matter our abilities or disabilities, no matter our position in the eyes of the world–are precious for we are creations of God, and His breath gives us life. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) Our lives are planned. II Timothy 1:9 says, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” And because He has a plan for us, He also has a purpose. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We Christian women struggle sometimes with our purpose. If we stay at home and think of ourselves as “just a housewife,” we may not feel as validated as we think we would if we had a career. Once our children are grown and gone, we may no longer feel as needed as we once did. We wonder, what does God have in store for me now? What does He want me to accomplish with my life? When we feel we have no talents or skills or strength, we may wonder, how can I serve him when I have nothing much to offer? When we see others with fruitful ministries or busy serving in some capacity, we may be tempted to compare our own lives with theirs and feel that we come up short.
We go through different seasons of life, and often the ministry the Lord gives us changes during the passage of time in our lives. One thing is sure—God does not set us on a shelf to wait quietly for Heaven. As long as we are here on earth, He has a ministry for us to do. It is up to us to be open and willing to be used by Him in whatever way He sees fit, wherever we are. I felt for almost seven years that God had put me on a shelf for a time. When Robbie got sick I suddenly went from actively serving the Lord in leadership roles to what I thought of as being alone in a dark, quiet corner. Oh yes, I felt that Robbie was my ministry and God was still using me, but it was a night and day difference from how I had served Him my entire adult life. Bob referred to those years as his “wilderness” years when the Lord drew him apart for a time. They were not wasted years at all, for those were the years that the Lord took us away from the fray and especially worked in us, preparing us further for a different kind of ministry He would call us to in our older years. When we were ready He once again began opening new doors of ministry to us.
The great thing is that He equips us to be perfectly made for that ministry. It doesn’t matter what physical limitations we may have, or what talents or skills we may lack. His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness—to His glory. It is when He works through us, poor and broken vessels that we are, that He is glorified. II Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” If I do not have the abilities that others have, so what? I have what it takes for the Lord to use me in precisely the ministry He has for me. Perhaps He did not give me certain strengths. Could it be that I would not focus on what He truly does want me to do if I had the abilities of my friends?
Romans 12 (and also I Corinthians 12) tells us that we in the body of Christ have many different gifts meant to complement and fill the needs of the whole body. These gifts are given to us by God Himself according to His individual, personal plan for each one of us. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:5-8) Hmm—“gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…” Remember “My grace is sufficient for thee”? If the gifts He has given to us by His grace are of such great value to Him, then how can we not realize their true importance in the Body?
I love to listen to Dr. David Jeremiah on the radio when I get the chance. Usually that is only when I am in the car at the right time. I happened to catch just a small portion of the tail end of a series he has been doing the other night. The main points of that series caught my attention and have stayed in my mind since then. I did not hear any of the messages of the series but its title was “The Signs of a Compassionate Life.” The five signs he preached on were Dusty Shoes, Worn-Out Knees, Rolled-Up Sleeves, Open Hands and Outstretched Arms. These signs exemplify ministries the Lord calls us to in order to care for others. We may not all be able to preach or teach; we may not all be evangelists or administrators, but we are all called upon to be compassionate and loving. Never underestimate the ministries that are in the background—supporting, encouraging, praying, uplifting, burden-sharing, giving, helping. They are every bit as valuable and powerful in the Body of Christ. I Peter 4:10, 11 tells us to use our gifts as good stewards and to do it according to the abilities God has given us. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
If it had pleased God to leave me in that still, quiet corner for the rest of my life ministering only to one helpless boy, it would have been a valuable ministry in His eyes, and my service to Him in that small way would have been a sweet offering of love and obedience. It does not matter what others think of my ministry, only what He thinks. It does not matter if others can see what I do for Him, or realize the scope or fruit of my ministry. Success is not measured in the eyes of this world, or even among our fellow believers, but only in pleasing the Lord. We must not fall into the trap of comparing our lives or ministries with others’. God works in and through each of us differently.
That pot pie we enjoyed this week was made up of many good things. Each added its own unique flavor to the whole; no ingredient was more important than the others. Perhaps I shouldn’t compare the Body of Christ with a pot pie (!), but I think you get my drift. The Lord made me, He made you to add your own special gifts to His work. It is only when we allow Him to use us in our families, in His Church and in the world that we fulfill His purpose for our lives—ultimately to bring glory to Him.