Using What We Have We learn in all sorts of ways – from our parents, from our teachers and from our companions. We are born with a variety of abilities and skills. Their development is either encouraged or discouraged by our families, our culture and other influences including schools. We may have certain leanings toward such things as mechanics, arts, sciences or athletics. Our own motivations and outside influences may help us build on these potentials or may kill them off because they are not seen to be of much use in society.
Whatever our skills and however we develop them may then be used for good or for evil. In his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus Paul asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then in Damascus it was revealed by the Lord through Ananias, that he was “to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel … and to suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:6,15-16). Paul, trained as a rabbi and teacher of Israel, was now to use his skills to continue reasoning before kings and high officials, both in the synagogues and among the Gentiles.
So it is with young Christians; those who are older in the faith are to nurture them in the development of their gifts and exhort them to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Many of them will become aware of talents they never knew they possessed, and the desire to turn those skills to God’s service as well as employing them for their own ends or in service in this world.
Whatever else we may have talent for, according to Paul we are all called to be witnesses to those around us – to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). This is something even the youngest can do, something which increases as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Simon and Andrew were fisherman. They already knew about “casting a net into the sea,” when Jesus called them: “Come after Me and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mt. 4:18-19). Hearing Him they forsook their nets and followed Him in a far more important form of fishing. Did they take with them their fishermen’s skills? I think so. It takes patience, stamina and determination to endure the physical demands on “those who go down to the sea in ships” (Ps. 107:23). We may not have physical toughness but we can certainly develop the mental and emotional hardiness which we see in the Lord Himself and also to a degree in the Apostles.
Whether you are an artist, scientist, mechanic or road sweeper, it does not matter. All occupations are of equal value in the sight of God, regardless of what the world may think. They all give valuable opportunities to serve Him as fishers of men.
I knew a Christian in Plymouth, England where I served as a young sailor. He pushed his dust cart around the streets of the port and dockyard area, sweeping the rubbish that had collected in the gutters. His was not a task of high standing in the eyes of the world but the way he used his calling for God became an example to us all. Everywhere he went he had a smile on his face, a song of praise to God on his lips and a happy greeting for all. He may have been doing a menial job, but he and his wife were the means of cheering the hearts and lifting souls of many heavenwards. I believe that our loving God looked on that man with great pleasure as his life spoke of His Son, the Lord Jesus. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). What more could one want?
John, another friend of mine, was once one of the twenty most violent criminals in Britain. In his home town he led a bad gang of youths, and engaged in every sort of crime short of murder. He ended up in Parkhurst prison for dangerous criminals where he was attacked and beaten by two of them. They were big and strong, but John had acquired a razor blade and he nearly murdered them. They were hospitalized a long time and John was put in solitary confinement.
But God had His eye on him. A young girl with a gospel tract and an invitation to a meeting began God’s work in John’s hard heart. It took two years, but at last the Holy Spirit turned this man of violence into a man of God. When he was released, this man who once robbed banks with a shotgun, now regularly distributes bundles of tracts outside the football grounds. He goes into prisons where he is now respected by the prison guards who once feared him. He goes there to tell the prisoners of the love and goodness of the Lord Jesus. They cannot help but listen to him because he was once one of them. They respect his testimony. They wonder how God could turn such a man around and make him His own. They see a man who now possesses the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1).
Paul was a very gifted and influential Jewish Rabbi. His talents would have assured him a place alongside revered teachers such as Gamaliel. Instead, after his conversion, he used his scholarly learning to expound the Scriptures as “he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). He supported himself by working as a tentmaker. When his work was done, he “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). Paul was called on to argue before the highest authorities in Palestine and eventually in Rome itself, the capital of the Empire (Acts 24-28).
We might say that it was all right for Paul to argue with these people, but we are only poor uneducated folk. That is not the point. We all have a work to do, a work which is perhaps unique to ourselves. But consider Esther, a captive Jewish maiden who was made queen of Persia by God’s doing so she could deliver His people from death. She was challenged with these words: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14). Likewise, by God we all are given a unique task among our generation and among our own people.
Consider the demon-possessed man out of whom the Lord Jesus drove a whole legion of demons. He was found “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” (Lk. 8:35; Mk. 5:15). Those who witnessed this marvelous transformation “were afraid.” If we let Him, the transformation which the Lord can do in our lives can cause some around us to be afraid. But others will respond positively when we do as Jesus directs: “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mk. 5:19).
What About Us?
When we become Christians God accepts us just as we are. He then develops our characters and changes our habits. Even if we are slaves at the very bottom of the human pyramid, we can do our servile work for God and that in itself can be evidence of a miraculous work of His grace in our lives. Consider what Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:22-23).
We are called to live the new life God has given us. Whatever our position in society, whatever our education, whatever our spiritual gift, we are to carry out our normal lives as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). We are called to conduct ourselves as His earthly representatives. To be an ambassador for the King of kings is a privilege beyond the scope of human imagination, and yet that is what we are. What a high calling – to be fishers of men, and ambassadors!
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org