Life is a series of deadline events. Whether it’s studying for an exam, training for an athletic event, shopping for a birthday gift, or planning a wedding, your opportunity for preparation ends when the deadline passes.
A different kind of deadline is approaching that is of much greater significance than any we’ve faced before — each of us is only one heartbeat away from being in God’s holy presence.
Our entire existence can be divided into two experiences: the brief time on this side of our final heartbeat, and the endless time on the other side when our heart is stilled and the quality of our devotion will be revealed (2 Corinthians 5:10).
While we wait to transition from the brief to the eternal, “our aim is to please him always in everything we do” (2 Corinthians 5:9 LB). We pray, “Lord, use me more!” What Christian doesn’t want to come to the end of his or her life and know it was a life well spent for God and His kingdom? But give thought to how you pray, my friends. Yes, it’s a wonderful prayer because it shows your heart is pointed in the direction of God’s glory. But it can come with an unexpected answer — to make us more usable, God may not make us stronger. He may well make us weaker.
God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…the weak things of the world to shame the strong…so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 29). God doesn’t use the strong. He uses the weak and the lowly. That may be what we’re inviting into our lives when we pray, “Lord, use me more!” He wants us dependent on Him, not on our strengths, our talents, our experiences.
Did you ever stop to think that when Moses thought he was usable (Exodus 2:11-15), he wasn’t. And when he thought he wasn’t, he was. After 40 years out of the spotlight, God decided Moses was usable. When He called on Moses to serve Him, Moses offered nothing but excuses: I’m nobody (Exodus 3:11), I have no authority (3:13), I’m not persuasive (4:1), I have no speaking skills (4:10), and I’d just rather not do it (4:13). He was inadequate for the task and knew it, just the kind of man God was looking for.
Flash forward a few thousand years. In the early 1980s, I was enjoying some success as a money manager. I was active in several ministries. I was able to give to the Lord’s work. The “abundant life” was good. When I prayed, “Lord, use me more” I wanted more of the same. But to multiply my usefulness, the Lord didn’t give me more of the same. First, He had to give me more of something else — weakness, humility, dependency. He took me through many trials where I learned in new ways that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. It was a desert experience that lasted for several years. (For the full story of this desert experience, see chapter 28 of The SMI Handbook.)
In 1990, circumstances seemed to indicate that the Lord was leading me to begin Sound Mind Investing. As often is the case when the Lord is taking you into new areas of trusting Him, the circumstances were not promising. I had no subscribers. I had no experience in publishing. I had nothing in my background that suggested I could make a living with my writing. I had no financial backers and no start-up capital other than what I could borrow on our home.
I was facing a situation where success seemed unlikely. It would have been easy to question if I was hearing the Lord correctly, but my wife Susie had no doubts. With her encouragement, I placed an order for 500 copies of our first issue. That was 25 years ago this month. Since that time, God has generously used us to assist tens of thousands of Christians as they seek to honor Him with their stewardship and giving. To Him be the glory; great things He has done!
Among the lessons I’ve learned, these stand out:
(1) To be more usable, we must become even more dependent on the Lord. This can be painful for awhile.
(2) In the process, we come to know Him better.
(3) Our Father has a timetable for accomplishing this. Chances are, it’s not the same as ours.
(4) “Without faith it is impossible to please God” is one of the most daunting verses in Scripture.
(5) He chooses how we serve Him and plants us where He wills.
(6) God-honoring ministry is always the overflow of our walk with Him.
(7) The door of usefulness is open to everybody. If the qualification is weakness, we all qualify.
(8) Maximizing our usefulness on this side of that final heartbeat will bring eternal pleasures.
Young or old, none of us knows how many heartbeats we have left. I encourage you to embark anew on life’s greatest adventure — ask God to use you more!
(This editorial on usefulness was inspired by Ron Dunn and a series of messages he gave to Campus Crusade staff in 1977.)