I remember Vance Havner talking about how people say they want God to use them. Havner would respond, “He’s using you as much as He can. What you need to pray is, ‘God, make me usable.’”
Are you usable? Are you clay in the potter’s hand, willing to be molded into the image of Christ, or are you resisting His work in your life? Do you think, when God is working on you, He’s all thumbs? Do you question His plan and purpose? Do you ever accuse Him of not knowing what He’s doing? Admit it, we all have.
To be usable, you have to be teachable. To be teachable, you have to put yourself in a position to learn. You are not only responsible for what you hear, but for what you would have heard if you had been listening. By placing ourselves in a student role, the Holy Spirit can instruct us as to what He wants from our lives.
I distinctly remember (although painfully) sitting in Vance Havner’s apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina one spring day. I was going on and on about my ministry. Havner gently placed his hand on my arm and said, “Son, I’ve been young and I’ve been old. You’ve just been young, so why don’t you be quiet for a while.”
I also remember conversations I’ve had with younger men in the ministry. The overwhelming majority of them have been teachable. They’ve been willing to take advice and correction. Unfortunately, there have been those who have had a malignancy of the mind called, “I know better.” They refuse to listen to the older, wiser counsel and go off on their merry way. I’m not old, but I’m old enough to know when someone is headed for a train wreck.
Not being teachable and resisting the potter and the people He puts in your life to mold you can be disastrous. God gives us godly teachers, pastors, professors, and parents to help us along the way. When we listen to godly counsel and submit to Scripture, we can avoid a lot of train wrecks and heartache. Experience is a teacher, but I’d rather learn principles than lick the wounds of only learning by experience.
Over the years I’ve in some way mentored a few young men in ministry. It doesn’t take me long to determine if I was getting the old head bob of, “I’m hearing you, but I’m not planning on doing anything about it,” or the old, “I want to use you on my resume, but I don’t want to do what you say.” I worry that the younger generation will move the fence without ever asking why it was put there. I’m concerned that we have a generation of ministers who think nothing significant happened before they arrived on the scene. Until a young man is faithful, available, and teachable, there’s not much God can do with him. When he puts himself in a position where all he wants is to be used of God, he becomes a powerful tool for the kingdom.
The will of God is only revealed to the willing and the willingly obedient. God doesn’t waste His breath or His time on those with other agendas. If it’s about your ministry, your gifts, your talents, your future, and your fame, you can forget it. God doesn’t cast pearls before swine, nor does He sanctify the flesh or applaud fleshly motives. His call is to die to self, submit to authority, seek wisdom as a treasure, take up the cross daily, and crucify yourself. I hear much today about being relevant. What’s not relevant in relationship to eternity is what most churches call relevant. We’re cute, but we lack character. We sing, but we lack worship. We’re moving fast, but going nowhere.
In this day when Christianity is being marketed and preachers look more slick than spiritual, it’s hard to find someone who wants to take the road less traveled. It’s difficult to find young men and women who are willing to sell out to God and serve Him even if they are never famous or successful in the world’s eyes. We’ve bought the lie that bigger is better and that size impresses God. If those were God’s standards, the ministry of the prophets and Jesus would have been colossal failures.
Rather than a heart’s desire to hear “well done” from the Father, we want to be on the platform receiving the applause of men. Rather than being still to know God, we have power lunches to make sure we are with the movers and shakers. Rather than teaching doctrine, we tickle ears.