the art of being used
God is using us all to fulfill his ancient promises. Are you an active or passive participant in history?
I recently enrolled in a course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
“Perspectives” as it is commonly referred is a 15 week course designed around four different vantage points or “perspectives” of the Gospel -- Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. Each perspective highlights different aspects of God's global purpose.
While I’ve just recently begun the course, I’ve already learned more than I imagined. That said, one point made so far sticks out to me more than the rest especially given today’s election.
This point is we are all being used.
Let me explain.
Throughout the Biblical narrative, God uses individuals to reach the nations, He uses a nation to reach the world, and He uses the world to make way for his Son to reach people.
The story comes full circle.
An example of God using an individual to bless the nations happens when God makes a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. This promise serves as a precursor to the entire plot of the Gospel.
The Lord said to Abram,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you.
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12: 2-3
It’s apparent right from the very beginning that God intends not only to bless Abraham, but after doing so, to use Abraham as an agent of blessing the entire world.
Abraham and his barren wife, Sarah, would conceive of a son long after normal child-bearing years as a fulfillment of this promise and a reward for their faith.
That son, Isaac, would bear a son of his own named Jacob. After wrestling with an Angel for a blessing of his own, Jacob is renamed “Israel” which means “Wrestled with God” in Hebrew.
Israel (Jacob) has two wives, Leah and Rachel, and bear him 12 sons who became the leaders of the “12 Tribes of Israel.”
Here is our example of God using a nation to reach the world.
According to Professor and Head of the Department of Missiology and Evangelism at the Free University of Amsterdam, Johannes Verkuyl, Israel is “chosen by God to become the special recipients of His mercy and justice...and now has the corresponding duty to live as the people of God among the other nations in order to show them His grace, mercy, justice, and liberating power.”
God intends to use the nation of Israel as a ”poster child“ of how to live and as a sign and bridge for other nations through His covenant law.
Unfortunately, more often than not in the Old Testament, Israel selfishly rests on its laurels as “God’s chosen people” and disobeys the covenant law rather than to fulfill the duty of being righteously used by God as a shining example to the nations of His glory and grace.
In other words, Israel says, "No thanks." to being used by God as a blessing to the world.
After a while, God has enough.
Nearly 2000 years since God’s promise to Abraham, and having been warned for centuries by prophets to repent and follow God’s will, Israel is sent into exile and her people are scattered among the rest of the known world.
Thus begins the “Silent Years” when there were no prophets speaking on behalf of the Lord.
Had God given up on the idea of using people and nations to bless the world? Not quite.
Up unto the first century AD, five major empires had ruled over the lands surrounding the Mediterranean and beyond.
None of the five major empires were being formally used by God as Israel had been, but we see God use all five in a different, but significant way.
Each empire, Greek and Roman especially, invented and deployed major technological advancements which would make a way for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared.
Notably, these empires gave us road systems, common written and spoken languages, a mail system, educational prowess, and an explosion of international commerce and trade.
At the same time as these advancements took the scene so did a man from Galilee named Jesus to perform his short, but oh so significant ministry which ended in his death, burial, and resurrection.
Christ commissions his followers to take the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Him “to Jerusalem, and to all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:18)
But where would these apostles begin their ministry? Synagogues.
Remember, Israel had been exiled and scattered throughout the known world hundreds of years before. Jews in every major city built synagogues as a tie back to their beloved nation of Israel. The apostles used these synagogues built in despair and loss as an arena to bring a message of hope and salvation to the people.
God didn’t choose these world empires as his own and they did not follow His ways or decrees, but God uses them as a means of preparing the way for His Son to take the scene, save the world, and for His eternal message to be shared.
Now that we see how God used individuals to reach the nations, a nation to reach the world, and the world to make way for his Son to reach people, is it out of the question that God is using our people, our nation, and our world to do the same thing today?
I need not impress upon you the importance of today’s election.
What I will impress upon you is regardless of the outcome, God is using this nation, its leaders, and individuals just like you and me as a continuation of His blessing to the world.
You might ask yourself, if God created the entire universe and everything in it, He’s surely able to fulfill the role of being the blessing to the world that he’s called us to be instead.
Why doesn’t he just do it himself?
He is big enough.
He doesn’t need to use us any more than he forces us to be used.
But I’m thankful the God I serve graciously allows you and me to be used as his agents of blessing if we choose to be.
That’s not to say that he won’t use you even if you choose not to be used.
We see this in the example of the world empires, but I will argue these empires had no idea they were being used by God at the time as a means of blessing the world around them.
Unfortunately for them, while their choice to not be used did not prohibit God from using them anyway, it did prohibit them from receiving any benefit from being used and causes them to be forever remembered only as a small, supporting cast member of a much larger and more important plot line.
What a missed opportunity.
Yes, God is big enough to not need to use us.
Sure, you can choose not to allow God to formally use you and this nation to not formally use it to accomplish His goal of blessing the world.
But if that’s our choice as individuals or as a nation, let us not be surprised when he uses us still as a means of blessing the world in ways that only He can.
I pray we all decide to play an active role as a major character in His story rather than as a passive, supporting cast member who exits the stage as quickly as we entered.
It's time we play our part.
Here I am, Lord. Send me.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
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