I think God is less concerned about what we have to offer than our willingness to let him use us, regardless – even in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
Sometimes, following God can be inconvenient and even uncomfortable. Follow him, anyway. (Luke 2:1-5)
I love examples in the Bible (like Luke 2:1-2) when God accomplishes his will even through unbelievers who unwittingly fulfilled prophesy.
In a passage frequently referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry” (see Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21, & John 12), we read the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s account:
“As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” (Mark 11:1-3, NLT)
If you’re like me, you may have heard that story so many times over the years that it feels very familiar, but let’s look a little more closely. First of all, a lot happened around Bethany in the New Testament, and this story is no exception. Bethany was the hometown of Lazarus, the raised-from-the-dead friend of Jesus (John 11:1); it is also where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6); and, it is the place where Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12). Bethany is also where Jesus blessed his disciples after his resurrection, right before he ascended into heaven! (Luke 24:50-51)
Next, Jesus chose a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but I find it interesting that God – in his wisdom and sense of humor – selected an untamed colt as his animal of preference. He could have specified any magnificent creature on earth, yet he chose a lowly, stubborn, beast of burden. (May we remember that little fact whenever we think too highly of ourselves in the Lord’s work – if he can use an untamed jackass … er, donkey … then who are we to think we’re so important?)
Lastly, Jesus instructed his disciples to respond to any inquiries by saying, “The Lord needs it.” This word for Lord is the Greek word Kyrios, which is translated “master.” In essence, the Master of the universe is asking to borrow a lowly, untamed donkey so that he can ride into the city where he will ultimately sacrifice himself on our behalf. Let that sink into your heart for a few moments.
God always has a reason for why he asks things of us. He does not demand them of us, but he gives us opportunities to partner with him in his work. Sometimes the things he asks of us don’t make any sense right then, and to be frank, they may not ever make sense in our lifetimes. But, one day, all will be revealed in his perfect, eternal timing. In the meantime, we are called simply to obey. The Lord has need of you … are you willing to serve?
Think of something that you do really well for the Lord. For example, perhaps you volunteer in the nursery on rotating Sunday mornings: playing with babies or doing arts & crafts is right up your alley. If you felt like God was calling you to step up your game and volunteer more often or take some sort of leadership role, it wouldn’t sound too crazy, right? Or, maybe you serve as a greeter and enjoy welcoming visitors each week. If God compelled you to do a little more in that area, it wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?
But, what about when you feel that tell-tale nudge on your heart from the Holy Spirit prompting you to do something wayyyy outside of your comfort zone, like share your testimony in front of the church, give a gift bigger than you’ve ever donated before, or go on a missions trip?
We all need to use our spiritual gifts and our natural skills & talents to serve the Lord, but when it comes to doing the impossible – those breakthrough moments that you look back on in awe because you know without a shadow of a doubt that God did something miraculous – that takes a leap of faith.
In my experience, God tells us to do impossible things in our areas of weakness. If he only worked through our strong suits, then I think we would be tempted to take the credit for ourselves. (“Look at what a great thing I did, and by the way, God helped.”)
When God calls you to do impossible things, you either obey, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. Case in point, read the parable of the rich man (Matthew 19, Luke 18, or Mark 10). He had a solid track record for doing good, religious things; however, when Jesus instructed him to do the seemingly impossible, he balked. He had the opportunity right in his lap to see God move in a miraculous way, but his pride kept him from obeying.
May we not be like the man in that parable, who missed out on the chance to be part of something much, much bigger than himself. God is at work all around us, each and every day. May we be observant and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudging to get involved, even when it seems impossible.
Isn’t it wonderful that our loving Shepherd cares so much about us that he won’t stop pursuing us when we are lost? (Luke 15:1-7)
One thing the boys and I first noticed when we moved to Utah was the number of sheep farms. (In fact, Utah has the 5th highest number of sheep in the country!) Our city even has an annual sheep parade, where they shut down Main Street for a few hours to let the sheep meander through downtown.
I recently heard someone talking about what to look for when purchasing a sheep for your flock (not that I’m buying any sheep, but there’s a point to this story; I promise). He shared several tips, and one particular comment resonated with me. He described how you need to dig your hands deep into the sheep’s wool and feel its torso. If the animal’s ribs or hip bones jut out, then that is a clear indicator of malnourishment. Underneath all the fluffy wool could be a terribly sick animal!
The question for us is this: what is beneath our fluff?
Are you healthy, or are you malnourished? If someone could reach through the exterior of your life – your work clothes, your family portrait, your Sunday morning smile – and touch the core of who you are, spiritually, what would they discover?
The Bible uses the analogy of sheep and a shepherd repeatedly to describe our relationship with the Lord (check out Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 15, John 10, and 1 Peter 2, among others). I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in case you didn’t already know, sheep stink. Seriously, they smell horrible. They are also pretty dumb and have a tendency to get themselves lost and/or injured.
Honestly, I can think of other animals I would rather be compared to, like a graceful bird or sea creature. But since the shoe fits, I am a sheep. Sometimes my attitude stinks, and sometimes I wander aimlessly and get myself hurt instead of listening to the Lord – our Good Shepherd.
Let’s do a spiritual wellness checkup this week and be sure that we stay healthy.