读经：箴25:21-26:2 提后2:1-26 耶49:7-50:10
Twenty-Six Ways to Be Useful to God
He is one of my great heroes of faith. He was a model of godliness, faith and humility. God used him greatly. When he died in 1982, his executors were unable to trace a single member of his family still living. No one came forward claiming to be even a distant relation.
Yet, The Times obituary about him rightly noted that his influence within the Church of England during the previous fifty years was probably greater than any of his contemporaries. John Stott, who was one of the numerous influential Christian leaders whom he led to faith in Christ, said of him: ‘Those who knew him well and those who worked with him never expect to see his like again; for rarely can anyone have meant so much to so many as this quietly spoken, modest and deeply spiritual man.’
Why was this man – the Reverend E.J.H. Nash – so useful to God? How can you be useful to God?
St Paul writes, ‘Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing’ (2 Timothy 2:20–21, MSG).
John Stott writes, ‘No higher honour could be imagined than to be an instrument in the hand of Jesus Christ, to be at his disposal for the furtherance of his purposes, to be available whenever wanted for his service.’ Being ‘useful to the Master’ and ‘instruments for noble purposes’ (v.21) starts with dedicating your life to him and re-dedicating it regularly to his service.
1. Love your enemy
Proverbs 25:21-26:2‘If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch;
if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink.
Your generosity will surprise him with goodness,
and God will look after you’ (25:21–22, MSG; see also Romans 12:20).
2. Watch your tongue
‘A north wind brings stormy weather,
and a gossipy tongue stormy looks’ (Proverbs 25:23, MSG).
If you want to change your actions, start with your thoughts and words. In our New Testament passage for today Paul urges us to ‘Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly’ (2 Timothy 2:16).
3. Avoid quarrelling
‘Better to live on the corner of the roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife’ (Proverbs 25:24).
Avoiding quarrelling is also a major theme in the New Testament passage for today. Paul writes, ‘Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen’ (2 Timothy 2:14). He goes on to say, ‘Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servants must not quarrel’ (vv.23–24).
4. Bring good news
‘Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land’ (Proverbs 25:25). We are so privileged to be able to bring the good news of Jesus. It is like ‘cold water to a weary soul’.
5. Stand your ground
‘Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked’ (v.26). Sometimes it is important to stand your ground.
6. Do not seek honour
If you seek your own honour you will find that true honour eludes you: ‘It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour’ (v.27).
7. Be self-controlled
‘A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out’ (v.28, MSG). Don’t try to control others. The only person you should try to control is yourself. Self-control is one of the characteristics that make up the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
8. Don’t worry about what others say
You do not need to fear bad publicity or slander: ‘Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an underserved curse does not come to rest’ (Proverbs 26:2).
9. Pass it on
2 Timothy 2:1-26It is so important to pass on the message and invest in others. There are four stages of investing in others in 2 Timothy 2:2:
- What I said
- and you heard
- entrust to reliable people
- who teach others
10. Endure hardship
Paul uses the analogy of being a soldier (v.4). Soldiers have to endure hardship. He goes on, ‘therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10). Paul goes on to say that ‘if we endure, we will also reign with him’ (v.12).
11. Avoid distractions
‘No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs’ (v.4a). Keep a clear focus and avoid distractions that waste time. Paul reminds Timothy that soldiers need to keep their focus and seek to please their commanding officer (v.4b).
12. Keep to the rules
Paul moves from the analogy of a soldier to that of an athlete: ‘An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere’ (v.5, MSG).
13. Work hard
From the soldier and athlete, Paul moves to the analogy of a farmer: ‘The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops’ (v.6).
14. Meditate on God’s words
Only God can give understanding, but you have your part to play. Paul writes, ‘Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this’ (v.7).
15. Focus on Jesus
‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel’ (v.8). The gospel is all about Jesus. Salvation ‘is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10).
16. Correctly handle God’s word
‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (v.15).
17. Turn away from evil
‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (v.19). Repentance is not a one-off act; it is a continuing attitude. It involves turning away from wickedness (v.19) and fleeing ‘the evil desires of youth’ (v.22a).
18. Be a peacemaker
Paul urges Timothy among other things to ‘pursue… peace’ (v.22). ‘Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative’ (v.23, MSG).
Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Strife is bickering, arguing, heated disagreement, and an angry undercurrent. Strife is dangerous and destructive.’ Keeping strife out of our lives ‘requires willingness to constantly communicate and confront issues… ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to be a person who avoids strife and restores peace everywhere you go.’
19. Be kind to everyone
‘The Lord’s servant… must be kind to everyone’ (v.24). Everyone includes everyone – not just your friends, or the people you like, but all the people you come into contact with during the day (especially those who are often unappreciated, such as the person on the supermarket checkout, the person driving the bus, the person on reception, the person who helps you on the phone…).
20. Learn to teach
‘The Lord’s servants must be… able to teach’ and ‘opponents must be gently instructed’ (vv.24–25). Teaching is a specialist ministry but it is also the task of every Christian. A key characteristic is gentleness. ‘God’s servant must… [be] a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey’ (vv.24–25, MSG).
21. Don’t be resentful
‘The Lord’s servant must… not [be] resentful’ (v.24). Resentment poisons relationships.
22. Hear the word of the Lord
Jeremiah 49:7-50:10Jeremiah was greatly used by God because as he said, ‘I have heard a message from the Lord’ (49:14). Thus he was able to say, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says’ (v.7).
23. Allow God to speak through you
Jeremiah not only heard the word of the Lord, he was prepared to speak it out and God spoke through him. ‘This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah…’ (50:1).
24. Seek the Lord
Jeremiah foretold of the days when ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God’ (v.4). Jesus says, ‘Seek and you will find’ (Luke 11:9).
25. Bind yourself to the Lord
This is the type of relationship God wants us to have with him – bound together, walking closely with him all the time (Jeremiah 50:5). ‘Hold tight to God’ (v.5, MSG).
26. Find rest in the Lord
‘My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place’ (v.6). The Lord is described as your ‘own resting place’ (v.6), the place where you find rest for your soul (see also 6:16).
Lord, I want to be useful to you, the Master – an instrument for noble purposes, prepared to do any good work. I want to seek your face, to bind myself to you. I dedicate myself to you again today.
May we as a church be useful to you, Lord. May we be a community where people find kindness, faith, love and peace. May we bring the good news of Jesus to all those around, transforming our society and changing our world in the power of the Holy Spirit.
‘If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat; if they are thirsty, give them water to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.’
When someone has hurt or offended you, it is not always easy to be kind and generous back. Knowing that the Lord will reward us helps and so does the thought of ‘burning coals on their heads’!