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Barrier 1: Criticism
If you appeal only to a minority, it could well be a minority that is not being reached by other means. If so, the church would be poorer without your specialized ministry. Heavenís approval outlasts earthís applause.
Even if I spent hours producing something I liked, I used to worry others wouldnít like it. But that was five minutes ago. Now, Iím learning to trust God.
Though bent by Adamís crash and bashed by my own sin, God gave me my personality with its tastes, and for years Iíve been looking to him to mold me. So I believe that somewhere are people with cerebral plumbing like mine. They will appreciate my style and are most likely the ones God has called me to minister to. Should there be millions of them, Iíll be famous; if only a few, Iíll blend with the wallpaper. But it wonít affect Godís view of me. If popularity is a valid measure of success, our deserted Lord was a failure.
Take my poetry (not everyone can take it). I actually found someone who likes it (and they have pretty good poems at pre-school these days). Audience-wise, thatís all I need to validate my ministry. What would it matter if everyone regarded my admirer and me as literary nincompoops? Iíd rather win an illiterate to Christ than be hailed a genius. The person who appreciates my poetry is just as precious to God, just as worthy a recipient of ministry, as all the critics.
ĎExpertsí regularly berate the simplicity of Fanny Crosbyís hymns. It is said she had the literary skill to silence her critics but she deliberately simplified her songs to meet more powerfully the needs of the distressed, the infirm and the poorly educated.
That does not mean I can be lax. To limit oneself to a particular style can be very demanding but because Fanny considered it the most effective way to reach her target audience she strove for perfection within this framework.
Since my actions reflect on my Creator and Redeemer, living below my best tarnishes Godís glory. In Christ, however, my best is powerful. Within the framework God sets me, my best, nothing more and nothing less, is just what the Father ordered. Too bad if people think Iíd be a greater blessing selling inflatable dart-boards. If God has commissioned me, thatís all that matters. And if my poems make Shakespeare turn in his grave, Iíll assume he needs the exercise. If it turns the experts off their food, Iíll be the envy of the weight loss industry.
You donít like my humor either? It makes you want to what? Well, if itís that bad, how come youíve read so much? Oh. Well, how was I to know you would open the book at this very page? I was going to produce a book you couldnít put down but I couldnít figure out how to stop the superglue from setting until the critical moment.
Itís a gift. Some people turn heads, I turn stomachs. Stomachs are important, too. Being a stomach specialist (I could market myself as the kingdomís gastroenterologist) need not automatically disqualify my writing. I could still be in business if all humanity despised my writings. I know of at least one person soundly converted by a song he loathed.
You neednít concern yourself with such extremes, however. We are often so over-awed by Godís moral standards that we overlook other aspects of his nature. Our Lord is Creator as well as Savior, and the Maker of rainbows and nightingales didnít suddenly lose his creative urge at the close of Day Six. Godís creativity is inexhaustible. And you were made for him. He longs to express his creativity through you. As an instrument and musician together make beautiful music, you and your Lord can unite to create exquisite beauty. What you can do together defies imagination. You make an awesome team.
Yield to Christ, like a brush to the artist, and from your life will flow unearthly beauty.
We are not responsible for the paucity of our talents. We are accountable, however, for the level of faithfulness with which we honor God with whatever we have. Could we have used our supposedly meager talent in a way that would have given God greater honor? Thatís the burning issue, not whether we are as talented as Fred Nerk.
In the parable of the talents, it was the servant given the least who buried his gift. (Matthew 25:14-18) Donít imagine the master said, ĎThatís okay, son. I didnít give you much anyhow. I know youíre incapable of anything. Come, enter into the joy of your lord.í
For me, a single sentence is a man-crushing python Ė a writhing anaconda to be wrestled into submission only through a virtual life-and-death struggle. It is not uncommon for me to spend an hour formulating one sentence. The reward for such care? A tangle of half-strangled sentences squirming for more attention. On rare moments my word-groping lurches beyond snail-pace to a teeth-rattling tortoise-trot. Moments later I hit the dust again, compelled to retrace my route on hands and knees, scouring the text for hours like a near-sighted Mr. Magoo, convinced I must have missed something in my inordinate haste.
Words! Thereís never one around when you need it. I try on a dozen for size, and even the best hangs off the cuff, is unfashionable and forever needs ironing. At school my English grades were so poor that I dropped the subject the first opportunity I had. There must be thousands of Christians who could have written my book with greater ease.
But they didnít.
ĎYou have a very readable style and some of your expressions and word usages are brilliant,í wrote a magazine editor about an early draft of my book. I cherish that quote, but could any average person pour such torrents of prayer and effort and submission to God, year after year, into a project and the result be anything less than brilliant?
A boy had such intellectual limitations that his parents feared he was subnormal. He later remarked that being a slow learner lengthened his thinking time and caused him to focus on simple things. His name: Albert Einstein.
You will achieve as much as megastars who have twice your ability if you have twice their diligence. More importantly, your greater faithfulness will bring more glory to the Lord. It will thrill him. And your ministry in the world to come will far exceed the future ministry of a lax megastar.
The most significant work is not the one displaying the highest skill, but the one most used of God. The Lord is not seeking people who astound audiences with their talent. He wants ministries who will leave people exclaiming, ĎThat had to be God!í Our inadequacies are often the perfect backdrop for displaying Godís splendor. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Our lack of ability will never thwart God Ė only our failure to draw upon his abilities. So if you feel too inadequate to minister effectively without miraculous intervention, I envy you. Godís strength is made perfect in such weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) You sound desperate enough to keep pounding heavenís door until you receive an exceptional blessing. (Genesis 32:24-28; Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 5:18-26; 11:5-13; 18:1-7; John 16:24) And that blessing will overflow to those you touch.
I often mourn the flaws in my writing, but the gray is tinged with gold. The hope of improvement dies only when we think our labors are satisfactory. Provided we donít bow to discouragement, the more failings we see in our efforts, the higher our motivation to improve and the brighter our future.
That sickening awareness of inadequacy can be turned around; hastening, rather than hindering, our future ministry.
When you feel useless, picture a child, paintbrush in hand, gleaming with excitement. Enveloping her hand is the gentle hand of the worldís greatest artist. ĎAnd what shall we put in this corner?í asks the man, as his skill and the girlís imagination merge into one. See the artistís smile and the childís delight as together they create stunning beauty. Under Godís guiding hand, your possibilities are mind-boggling.
No matter how you feel, you are the focus of Godís attention; doted on as though you are the only friend God has. If ever a man wanted to shower his bride with love, or his son with gifts, God longs to lavish you with his extravagance. Expect great things from God. Anything less is an insult to your almighty Savior. With your Lord impossibilities are playthings.
Let faith mushroom by seizing the fact that the Omnipotent Lord is powerful enough to use you Ė over-riding your every inadequacy Ė and loving enough to want to. And believe that though he may lovingly delay your mission, his timing is perfect. Everything God touches is destined for glory. Even now, you are Godís Ďfilthy rags to heavenly richesí success story.
The Kingdom needs prayer warriors, not prayer worriers. No matter how much you cry, beg, and wish, you have not moved from superstition to authentic Christian prayer until you can thank God for the answer, knowing it is yours before you hold it in your hand. Faith is not thinking that God can; it is knowing that he will. (Mark 11:24; James 1:5-8)
You will see it when you believe it.
To follow in the footsteps of Ďthe sweet psalmist of Israelí (2 Samuel 23:1 b) we would need more than musical genius. If we added Davidís extensive theological understanding and spiritual insight, we would still be hopelessly deficient.
We would have to match his patient, forgiving spirit, (Eg 2 Samuel 16:6 ff) his humility, (Eg. Psalm 51:1-5) faith, (Eg. 2 Samuel 12:15-23) intense yearning for God, (Psalm 143:6) his desire for personal holiness (Psalm 139:23-24) and eagerness to obey the Lord. (1 Samuel 13:14)
Even then, there would be a hollowness about our lyrics unless we shared Davidís privations and exposure to danger. His sufferings lifted his songs from Ďcontemporaryí to timeless.
According to Paul, the ability to serve hurting humanity comes not from a textbook but from hardship. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6) Not even the Son of God could begin his high priestly duties until he had undergone temptations and sufferings. (Matthew 4:1-2; Hebrew 5:8-10) The principle was established long before Jesusí birth: Levitical priests, though born for the ministry and surrounded by it all their lives, had to wait for their thirtieth birthday before entering the priesthood. (Numbers 4:3) And the principle is still in force: Scripture stipulates that church officers must not be new converts. (1 Timothy 3:6)
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-95.
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