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WORLDVIEW: Pencil in God’s hand

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — It’s not about you.
That famous first line from “The Purpose Driven Life,” Rick Warren’s mega-bestselling book, has become a cliché. But it’s no less true for being too familiar.
We are created for God’s pleasure, not our own. In our culture of relentless self-regard, we forget that. Even among those who serve God, service itself can become a little god through which we come to worship ourselves, not Him. So we should always hold our individual callings lightly, because they are not “ours.” They are merely means to a divine end: the glory of God.
In a memorable 1989 interview with TIME, Mother Teresa expanded on this truth in her no-nonsense style:
Question: Humble as you are, it must be an extraordinary thing to be a vehicle of God’s grace in the world.
Teresa: But it is His work. I think God wants to show His greatness by using nothingness.
Question: You feel you have no special qualities?
Teresa: I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It is His work. I am like a little pencil in his hand. That is all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. …
Question: What are your plans for the future?
Teresa: I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.
Question: And the future of [your missionary] order?
Teresa: It is His concern.
False modesty? No. Practical theology. The work of God is His concern. The mission of God is His glory over all creation. And as He promised in Psalm 46:10, it will be accomplished: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Our privilege is to be a part of His work, when and how He chooses. Certain skills and abilities may be needed, but the only non-negotiable qualifications are surrender and obedience.
I hope these words provide a measure of comfort to International Mission Board missionaries and staff who have agonized over whether to accept the voluntary retirement package being offered due to ongoing financial shortfalls, as well as those who will consider accepting a voluntary departure incentive to follow. The plan to reduce missionaries and staff by 600 to 800 people over six months will affect many lives and ministries. But it won’t stop the work of God.
And since nothing is wasted in God’s economy, He will continue to use all who obey Him, whether they follow His leading to come home or to stay on the field. As Mother Teresa often said, “Let Jesus use you without consulting you.”
He is the master potter. We are the clay. Yield to His gentle hands.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges