February 2, 2006
By Don Sandley
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4–19
Family Bible Study
Chair of Theatre, Samford University; Southwestern Seminary graduate
My church in Birmingham periodically distributes a questionnaire with a checklist of talents and experiences church members may have. The ministry team asks the church family to check those areas in which they feel competent to serve.
I like this because it allows me to take an annual inventory of whom I am and what I have that could be useful to the family of God. To me, being useful, being a servant is the very essence of the Christian faith. Christ’s ministry consisted of healing, teaching and meeting needs. That is the model we should follow, and we should follow it purposefully, not because we feel a societal pressure to do it. The decision to serve God is not unlike your life at home.
Take, for example, the simple task of taking out the kitchen trash. If my wonderful wife has to ask me to take out the trash, that says that I am oblivious to the conditions in our world. If she has to ask me twice, that says that I am not only oblivious but I am stubbornly committed to remaining that way. If I recognize the trashcan is full and take it out on my own, in a simple way, it says I love this family and want to meet needs when I find them. Service in God’s family is like the domestic scenario I have described. Your relationship to God and His family is better when you act first.
Jeremiah 1:4–10 describes how Jeremiah discovered his service calling. It was really dramatic. According to the account, God’s call was audible and awe-inspiring. “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah was, not surprisingly, taken aback and reluctant.
But God assured him that he would not call him without equipping him. You probably won’t get a calling like Jeremiah’s. Instead yours will sound something like the children’s minister asking for a Sunday School teacher in a 4-year-old class or the missions committee asking for a male to work with Royal Ambassadors or coach the basketball team. You may find out that your church has an opportunity to participate in a summer missions project and needs people who are willing to sacrifice vacation time to participate.
Like Jeremiah, you may feel inadequate at first, but also like Jeremiah, God’s call comes with the equipment. In Jeremiah 1:11–16, we find the prophet receiving assurance from God that he will have all the skill needed to complete the task. God provides a series of tests to Jeremiah in which he asked to see what God sees. In each case, Jeremiah passes and God assures him he is ready. You, like Jeremiah, probably possess the talents needed for your calling. It is simply a matter of affirming those talents and putting them to work for God’s family.
Jeremiah 1:17–19 is God’s clarion call to the prophet. God tells Jeremiah to get ready and stand up to the people he is to address. Jeremiah is being called to service in a hostile situation where he will face persecution and ridicule.
We just do not face that level of fear when we serve God as Christians in Alabama. If there is a place on earth that is safer for Christians to serve than our lovely state, I don’t know where it is. The only obstacle to service we face is our own selfish desire. That may sound harsh but that is where we are. I know this because I am as guilty as anyone.
As I write this lesson, I am preparing to leave for London to teach for Samford. I have a little over a day to finalize preparation for my journey. But my church family needs me, too. I need to help prepare for Communion on Sunday, prepare to teach Sunday School and to serve in extended session with the infants. I was tempted to plead, “Timeout! I’m leaving the country!”
But then I sat down to write this lesson and realized, “No, that is just selfish.” My family — my church family — needs me. Your family of faith needs you, too. The whole world needs Christians. If we roll up our sleeves and serve starting now, we can make a difference in God’s creation.