Saturday, 11 February 2012

"But that's mine!"

Have you ever had something that was so special that you didn’t want to share it with anyone else? Maybe you have had things that weren’t all that special and you still didn’t like sharing? My husband Rick and I have two little girls, Mya and Adia, and one day they were drawing together. Mya was using glitter gel pens to draw beautiful hearts and Adia was colouring a picture of a Jedi knight from Star Wars! They are very different but each one beautiful, clever, special and the joy of my life. I overheard an argument that went something along the lines of “But that’s mine!” “No it isn’t, it’s mine!!” “No it’s mine!” “Daddy!” Followed by over-the-top crying and little footsteps running through to Daddy in the kitchen. The argument was over the glitter gel pens. Rick, spoke very calmly to Adia saying “these are just pens, we can’t be precious about them…we share.”

When we are longing to find our place in the family of God and ultimately our purpose in this world, it is very easy to spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We can get trapped in mindsets that tell us we deserve this or that, or mindsets that tell us we have been overlooked, forgotten or purposely excluded and we feel we need to fight our corner. Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t want to share. In the natural we may have watched someone be given an opportunity that we thought we deserved, or we think God has called us to something and then the opportunity to step in to that seems to have passed us by. We can easily find ourselves thinking “But that’s mine!” It sometimes feels like our place in God’s family, in the church and in the world is dependent on the things that we have or that we’ll know our place when we have been given a role that allows us to step into all that God has for us. We box things in saying, “When I get asked to do this then I will be able to function in the way that God wants me to.” Occasionally this is true, but most of the time it isn’t. Any job or role that we are given we do on behalf of Jesus for the time that He asks us to. That ‘thing’ does not belong to us it belongs to Him. It is not ours to hold on to. We can function in the way that God wants us to regardless of our opportunity and He knows what is best for us. Our chance will come at the right time. We want to share our gifts and our talents with others but are we willing to share our opportunities to use them?

Insecurity tells us that we have to hold tightly to our ‘thing’, that if we loosen our grip on it we will lose our place. (I have personified ‘insecurity’ to acknowledge that there is a spirit of insecurity whose purpose is to make us feel worthless. If we can recognise this it loses its power in our lives.) The enemy will tell you that who you are is tied up in what you do, so much so that you will be unable to function effectively without that thing: that you have nothing to give or that you are not worth much without it. It is a lie!

It is of course true that, for many of us, in order to step in to all that God has for us, we need an opportunity; for someone to say ‘here’s your shot go for it’. And when that happens we must go for it with everything we have, believing that God has opened a door for us and for His glory we must do our very best, but we must also remember that our gifts and talents belong to Him and we use them within the time frames He sets us. If He tells us to run: we run. If He tells us to stop: we stop. Let me share with you an example of how this could work:

My husband and I run the Alpha course at our church. We lead a fairly big team and we create an environment where people can encounter Christianity in an appealing and welcoming way. When we were given the opportunity by our church leaders we were excited and we were pleased to be given a chance to use our skills and we do this to the best of our ability. We believe that it is part of our destiny and so we run with it, we take ownership of it but more importantly we try to steward it well because ultimately it belongs to God, not us. We feel that God has anointed us do this at this time but He doesn’t need us. He chooses to use us and the amazing team we have. We both feel that we never want to find ourselves in a situation where we have such a grip on it that, if God wants to pass it to someone else, we can’t let it go. Our human tendency is to say, “But that’s mine!” “I built that”. I believe God’s response would be “No it isn’t!” and “No you didn’t! It’s mine, I built it”. 

If we look at the book of Haggai we find a people who are too interested in themselves and the houses that they are building to notice that God wants them to rebuild His house. Haggai is a short book in the Old Testament of only 2 chapters, I encourage you to read it. He speaks to the prophet Haggai and says,

“Is it a time for you yourselves to live in panelled houses, while my house lies in ruins? … You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes…You have looked for much, and lo, it came to little, and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of Hosts, because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own little houses.” Haggai 1:4-9

These people are building their own houses. They are putting their energy into their own ‘thing’. Because of this they have not noticed that the Lord’s house is in ruins. God challenges them to go up ‘to the mountains and bring timber to rebuild’ the house of the Lord for his pleasure and His glory. If we look at this in our context we could argue that God is saying “stop thinking so much about yourself and put your effort into building my church and my family”.

If we hold on to things too tightly, we may not see clearly what God is trying to do. If we see our opportunity as the thing to cling on to, we are not paying enough attention to the kingdom of God. The advancement of His Kingdom is way bigger than our part. We must all do our part to the best of our ability, but we have to recognise that getting comfortable in our little ‘home’ of opportunity, while God wants to rebuild and do amazing things beyond it, is not an option. We have to be people who are willing to say, it’s not mine it’s yours God, you do what you see fit. What we do won’t produce much fruit unless it is in line with God’s will. If it is for our glory or benefit the fruit will be minimal. We have to make sure our motives are in check at all times.

Later on, in chapter 2: 6-9 God says, “I will shake the heavens and the earth… and all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour… the silver is mine, the gold is mine… The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former.”  These verses speak to me of a time where people were holding so tightly to what ‘belonged’ to them that God had to step in big time to get their attention. God had to give them a serious shake up by reminding them that ‘the silver’ was His and ‘the gold’ was His but if they could sort this out He would fill His house with splendour. It all belongs to Him, as chapter 1:4 tells us, we will bear little fruit if we neglect the house of God and what He is building. To me that means that if we keep building ‘our thing’ when God wants us to build ‘His’ thing we will ‘look for much’ but it will ‘come to little’. As family we have to make room for each other in the rebuild. We can look for ways to help others step in to what God has for them, and sometimes we have to share our opportunity or the thing we want in order to do this. We have to work together believing that what is to come is greater than anything that has been and that there is treasure to be found in the build.

In my church I am also part of an amazing worship team. I am involved in leading worship and I have a real heart for seeing people using their gifts for the glory of God and to see them step in to all that God has for them. Now, if any of you are creative, you will know that often us creative types can get a little sensitive when our opportunity is challenged, we can get quite precious about ‘our thing’. We have to get over ourselves for the good of the kingdom. When I was faced with the reality of bringing people through in to more leading, I realised that I had to give up my opportunity and let them do it instead. In the natural it is not easy to say “here you go, you do it”, when you really want to do it yourself, but I knew that it was important that others, who God had entrusted with the gift, were able to do it too. My transition through this process was pretty quick and painless and after getting over the feelings of “I’ve been forgotten” I found great freedom and joy in seeing others come through. In fact it was my honour to see that. God didn’t need me in order for the Holy Spirit to minister during the worship time! He doesn’t need any of us but He chooses to use us. What a privilege. 

We are all trying to find our place in the kingdom of God. We all want to be free in who we are and who God has called us to be. First, we are children of God, we are family so, as we make room for each other, we are sometimes required to move into a different space for a time but we don’t have to move house, as such, because the opportunity we want is not there at that time, we just move over in to another space. There is room for us all and there are lots of jobs that need doing. If we grasp the concept that “I fit here, this is home” we have to be willing to say, “though I would love to have a particular job, there may not be room to do that at this time, so I will find a job that does need doing and do it with everything I have, until God says otherwise”. If the floor needs cleaning: do it! We can’t have a few people doing all the jobs. Take responsibility for your church home and family. You be the one to comfort someone in need or take food to the elderly widow who is housebound or make coffee for new comers or clean the toilets during the week. God sees those things and they are so important. As we do these things we might find our place for this season. Seasons come and go and sometimes we are window dressers in the house of the Lord and sometimes we are floor sweepers. Both are of equal value and importance.  Look for ways to encourage each other, even the ones who appear to have taken your opportunity; it will set you free.

In my previous writings I have put a lot of emphasis on who we are and what we can bring, which I believe is right, but I also believe that God will help us to find our place if we stop looking at ourselves so much and fix our eyes on him. There is real beauty in the juxtaposition of this statement. Actually, if we take our eyes off ourselves and look at Jesus, we find Him looking back at us with his arms wide open saying “Come to me” and we find ourselves there. If we look back at the story I told earlier about my children, they knew that if they ran to their Daddy he would give them perspective and sort out the problem. We can do the same to our Father in Heaven. The feelings of “But that’s mine!” are real and it can be painful to let go but God knows how to handle us and train us to be better family members. Let God train you, because this is for the good of generations to come. None of what we have really belongs to us: our jobs, our homes, our money, our gifts, our talents, our families. My children belong to Jesus and it is my desire that they will find their own place and let Him shape them and use them for His glory. I cannot hold them too tightly. They belong to Him.

In 1 Corinthians 1:27 we find that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. I love the paradoxical logic here. I believe that letting go will see great blessing on our family for years to come, that means our wider church family as well as our own. Be someone who brings everything that God has lent you back to Him everyday and aim to have a spirit of outrageous generosity. These are just ‘things’ we can’t be precious about them…we share. Let us be people who say, “I was able to give it all away and in doing so I gained everything”. What an amazing paradox to live in.

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