Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Be a Spoon

I was asked to give my testimony and an object lesson for a Women of Faith ice cream social on Sunday, July 21. Here's some of what I shared. 

When Denise Fox asked me to speak, my first instinct was “NO WAY.” Speaking is not really in my comfort zone. I love working one on one with kids, I like being a teacher, but speech class was definitely my least favorite class. Give me a piano to hide behind, and that’s a different story. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to share some of my story with you. And the more I thought about what I wanted to say—or what God wanted me to say, I realized I just want to share how God has taught me to be an instrument that He can use for His glory.  

When you are using your abilities for the Lord, it’s amazing how content and joyful you can be. Even though I hadn't planned on being a piano teacher at a Christian school in Lafayette, IN, now I can’t imagine a better plan for my life. I think we all go through seasons of life where we are trying to figure out how we fit in. We wonder what God is doing in our lives. We start looking at people around us, maybe thinking, “I wish I could do what she does.” “I wish I could cook like her, I wish I had her body, I wish I had her kids, I wish I had her home, etc.” But what I want to focus on today is that God is the Creator. He knows best. When I give my desires and talents to the Lord, He can use me.

Now, God has not given us all the same abilities. We can always use more people involved in the music ministry at church, but maybe that’s not where God has gifted you. And that’s ok. We need people involved in teaching, working in the nursery, fixing meals, cleaning, greeting, and a whole lot of things that I probably don’t even know need to be done.

To transition to the object lesson, let's read Jeremiah 18:1-10 (from the Message).
God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”
3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.
5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.

God is the Potter. We are the vessels, the Creation. I hope you have an imagination, because I want you to imagine something. Imagine God is not only a Great Potter, but also a Great Chef, planning an elaborate meal for all the people on the earth. He’s creating beef stew, chicken & dumplings, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, green beans, and for dessert: bowls of ice cream of course. He’s got the buffet line ready to go, the people are assembling, and grabbing bowls to start the main course. There is all this scrumptious, calorie-free goodness laid out in front of them. So in this illustration, use your imagination that this food is an example of God’s blessings. His Words. And He wants to give it to us, and make it available. In this wonderful display of food, we’re actually going to start with dessert first. God the Great Chef already has the ice cream dished up into glorious serving dishes, and says go ahead and eat. But it’s just ice cream in a bowl. Something is missing. What do you need to eat a bowl of ice cream? Of course, a SPOON. And He’s also created “vessels” to get this nourishment into our bodies through our mouths.

You may never even think about spoons—unless you didn’t get one with your ice cream!

So in this illustration, I want you to imagine that WE ARE THE SPOONS. God the Potter has formed us and shaped us to be used by Him. He wants us to be His vessels, His spoons, as tools for Him to use. He wants us to be the ones that are bringing encouragement, nourishment, and blessing to each other. (This illustration isn’t perfect, because if we are to be nourishing others logically we’d be spoons feeding other spoons, so we’ll have to use our imaginations and pretend we can morph back and forth from spoons to humans.)

What is the purpose of a spoon? What does it to do? A spoon just brings something from one place to another. It is just the tool that brings the nourishment, the blessing, from the bowl into the place it can be used—the mouth/the stomach.

So I want you to imagine that YOU ARE A SPOON that God has created. Since God is the all-wise, all-knowing Creator, He knows each of us and has created us each for a purpose. There are different spoons for different purposes. Remember that imaginary buffet line? Soup, stew, mashed potatoes, corn. How do we get that on to our plate and into our mouths?

We all know how important it is to have the right tools. What tool do you need to eat ice cream? Just a regular spoon. But God didn’t create us all the same. In one sense, we are all just regular spoons. On the other hand, we can use our imaginations again, and think of the different tasks we can do. God has given us each different abilities. It could be said that we are different types of spoons. Different spoons serve different purposes. If you are eating ice cream, a regular spoon works. However, if you are serving mashed potatoes, you might want a bigger serving spoon (or maybe you want that for your ice cream too). For gravy you would need a ladle. But if you are feeding a toddler, you would probably be better served with a baby spoon.  Soup requires a soup spoon. When you are serving corn or another vegetable, a slotted spoon comes in handy. For picnics, disposable plastic works. And when I make bread, I like to use a wooden spoon. I’m sure you can think of more illustrations that work.

When God is shaping the slotted spoon, He may have to remove pieces that leave holes. It may hurt. It may look like that spoon is incomplete. But when you want to serve vegetables, a slotted spoon is very useful. Maybe the silver spoon begins to tarnish, and God uses His polishing cloth and begins to wipe it away. It may feel abrasive, but if we trust God to know what He’s doing, ultimately we’ll see the finished product: that spoon will shine brighter than ever.

Now the spoons don’t (or shouldn’t) look at each other and say, “I wish I were like that spoon.” But sometimes we do. “How come I look different than that person?” “You have holes and I don’t.” “You’re shinier than me.” “How come my handle is black and yours is silver?” “You’re made of different material than I am?” Guess what? Can we trust our Creator? We are just responsible for the job that God has given us to do. We are not responsible for the other spoons in the drawer. It may be that that “spoon” is serving a different purpose. And ultimately we need to be accountable to the hand that’s holding us—our Creator God who knows where we can best be used.

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

We all start out as dirty spoons. Maybe even dirty lumps of clay that are NOTHING. Would you eat with a dirty spoon? Of course not. Just as the Potter can shape us, he can remove that dirt—that sin—in our lives. God wants to Redeem us, and take our imperfections, and reshape us into vessels that He can use. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior He makes us clean. We are washed in the blood of Christ. God sees us in the righteousness of His Son, who died on the cross for us. Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are instruments that He can use. We just need to be tools that God can just bend and shape to His will.

And a spoon is only as good as the hand that holds it. I have a 1-year old niece. If we gave her a spoon, she wouldn’t know what to do with it. Food would be flying everywhere. As spoons, we want to let God control our lives. God wants to use the talents He’s given us. The talents we have are actually just stewardships from the Lord anyway. I can get pretty proud in my own accomplishments. “Did you see what I did? I fed that Scripture to that person, and now she’s eating and growing?” And we forget that we can do nothing apart from God. Without the strength and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are just spoons lying on the table. We have no power in and of ourselves. Two pitfalls of a spoon can be that first, I can think that it all depends on me ("God has no other spoons in His drawer." Or secondly that I think I’m not needed. ("When God has all these other spoons, why does He need me?") But God is the Creator and He knows what He needs and what my unique purpose is.

As I look back on where God has taken me and led me so far, I am so thankful that I serve a great God who can use me. I need to let myself be used by God for whatever purpose He wants me to serve. I just want to BE A SPOON used by God wherever He puts me, however He wants to use me. So that’s my challenge for you today: BE A SPOON in the hand of your Creator. 

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