“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Corinthians 4:7)
Now, we know that this verse is telling us that the gifts that we have from God are not of our derivation. The abilities we are given are just that – given. We therefore have no reason to pride ourselves in some gift or ability or calling that God has bestowed upon us, certainly not in a way that lords it over some brother or sister who might not have the same talent. But let’s also consider this verse in another way.
We know that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t show partiality to one Christian over another as far as His willingness to use and encourage us is concerned. Our ability to be used of the Lord, for whatever the specific purposes He might have for us, is limited only by our own faithfulness to be obedient and submissive to Him to be used, to the extent that we are willing to allow ourselves to be made into vessels meet for the Master’s use. Truly, any of us could be just as faithful as a Paul, an Abraham, a David, if we would really take that step of faith to trust Him as completely as they did. There was nothing inherently special about any of those men over and above anyone else. They were used not because God showed a preferential partiality to them, but because they were willing to submit to the Lord in a way that most of the rest of us rarely ever do. They were used for great things in the Lord’s service because they were willing to give to God great command and control over their lives. The reason they differed from most of the rest of God’s children was because they opened themselves up to God as ready containers to RECEIVE what He had for them.
But, if we really got serious about serving the Lord, couldn’t we see our own lives used the same way? Why not? The gifts we receive are from Him, not of ourselves. Their use then is because of Him, not ourselves. He has given them to us, not on partiality, but on the expectation that we would fulfill the particular roles He desires for us to perform in our particular lives as particular Christians. And these gifts CAN be used by us, turned to a good account, when we allow Him access to ourselves as His douloi, His servants. Paul had nothing wherein to glory, save the cross of Christ. So it is with us, but the God who makes us to differ one from another can glorify Himself THROUGH us, through the use of the gifts He gives us.
But how can we be able to be used to the extent God would have us to be used? Well, this requires us to be clean vessels, channels through which His power can be exercised,
“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21)
We must get and stay clean before the Lord if we’re going to see Him even touch us, much less use us as His tools to accomplish His will,
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)
We’re told to cleanse our hands of outward manifestations of unrighteous living, and to purify our hearts of inward defilement caused by sin. We’re to cry out to God in repentance for forgiveness and the cleansing application of the blood of Christ to our hearts. That act of drawing close to God is then met with God’s own response of drawing close to us. It is a truism throughout Scripture that, just as God is no respecter of persons, so also are the intimacy of His dealings with man determined by the extent to which the individual believer is willing to really submit, obey, and walk in the Lord’s way and keep themselves from defilement and sin. The Christian who is faithful to really put away the flesh and the world will be used accordingly, even if their ministry is “small” in man’s eyes (remember, God’s perspective on all that is different from man’s, however). Conversely, the Christian who doesn’t trouble themselves to keep from the world, who consorts with its music or its movies or its fashions, who has trouble accepting Biblical standards and who won’t abide with Biblical doctrines, will not be used of the Lord, or at least not much.
So, how can you and I be used greatly? By putting from our lives those things that ought not be there anywise. And by doing so QUICKLY. We see that in the Scriptures, often we are told to be patient, not to be hasty. But when repentance is concerned, being quick about it is the ONLY way to be. Don’t delay, get right today. We’ll see, I believe, that if we would just make the decision to get right with God, not to dawdle or drag our feet, that the change it will work in our lives and the blessings the Lord will give to us through opportunities to serve will come quickly as well. Repentance is not a “process” that needs to be dragged out over a length of time. Look at Gideon’s father in Judges 6:30-31. This man went from being an idolator worshiping Baal to being a man standing up for the Lord to a hostile crowd of pagans – in a single morning. His son’s act of righteousness in throwing down the altar of Baal provoked this man to repentance of his own idolatry, and he was almost immediately used of the Lord to DEFEND his son’s action, at great personal cost and danger, not knowing whether the angry crowd of Baalites might just quickly turn on him and try to kill him, as they were demanding to have done to Gideon. He went from worshiping a false god to being a staunch and steady defender of the true God in the space of a few hours’ time.
At the risk of sounding in a rush, I urge us all (myself included) to repent of our sins, whatever the Lord points out to us, whenever He does it, and to be QUICK about it, because the time draws short, and soon the darkness will come when no man can work.