Read an Excerpt
Reading adapted from a message by Bill Hybels
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to walk through a hundred-year-old hardware store. A man I know had bought it and was showing it to me proudly. He had no idea of the cosmic humor of my being anywhere near a hardware store!
While he was showing me around the store, he pointed to some axes, some sledgehammers, and some shovels that had been made in the early 1900s. For some reason they had never been sold. There they were, sitting on that display shelf, as clean and shiny as the day they were made.
What a shame, I remember thinking. The sledgehammer should be all beat up and the axe should be on its fifth or sixth handle. These tools should be in someone's garage, and when the owner closes the garage door and the lights go out, the tools ought to be talking to each other about all the posts that had been driven in the ground, the firewood that had been chopped, and the buildings that had been built because they were available to be used. Here they are, on a display shelf, more than eighty years old and not a single story to tell.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul talks about you and me. 'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' Each one of us was designed by God to be a tool that could change the course of human history if we were to be used in the hands of the Master Craftsman.
We sit on the couch and watch the evening news, shaking our heads at the corruption, the violence, the greed, the hatred. Imagine how God feels; he designed the world to work in a completely different way!
You need to know that along with God's wrenching heartbreak over the condition of the world is an equally strong determination to turn things around. But long ago, he made the decision not to transform this world with the wave of a heavenly wand. he decided to transform the world through his church--through rank-and-file people like you and me, everyday shovels, rakes, and sledgehammers in his hands.
This is why one of the most powerful prayers a person can pray is, 'Use me, God. Show me what my part is in the transformation of the world. Take hold of my head, my heart, and my hands and use me for your purposes.'
Doing Together What No One Could Do Alone
More than twenty-five years ago, a small church youth group that I led found out what happens when you offer up a 'use me' prayer.
These students loved the Lord, had an unusual love for one another, and had an intense concern for their unsaved high school friends. Together, we began asking the question, 'What would it take to reach those friends?' We held many brainstorming sessions. Ideas started to fly. Before long, we came up with an exciting ministry program. But there was one sobering reality: It would take a lot of work and resources.
I'll never forget when one of the first students spoke up and said, 'Well, I can play a musical instrument if that would help.' Another said, 'I can sing.'
We said, 'That's great. We need that. You do that.'
Another student spoke up: 'I can't sing or play an instrument, but I can set up music stands and microphones.'
'Great, we need that too.'
During one brainstorming session a girl adjusted her chewing gum and said, 'Well, did you ever think about using drama?' The blank expression on my face told her that where I came from, people didn't talk much about drama. She explained, 'It's where you put on a little skit that's tied into the message you're going to give. If we had drama, the meeting wouldn't just be talk, talk, talk.'
'It's all yours.'
Another student stepped up. 'I'm kind of a leader of people. If we decide to break the group up into subgroups, I could lead one of those.' And another said, 'I can't do any of that, but I'm artistic. I could make banners and help decorate the gym.'
We had one skinny fifteen-year-old kid who asked if he could do the lighting. I didn't know what he was talking about. We already had lightbulbs in the auditorium. He got a bunch of pipes and stood them up, and then got some car headlights--I think he got them off his mother's Buick--and some other spotlights and wired them all together to create stage lighting. Sometimes during the program they'd start sparking and smoking. But we had lights!
The point is this: Everyone in that original group made a contribution. And do you know what the result was? We felt like everyone in that group really mattered. Not just in the theological sense; each person was important in the practical sense. There was an interdependence, a sense of ownership, a sense of investment.
And everyone shared in the dividends. The group blossomed. Soon there were five hundred students attending, then seven hundred. Ultimately, there were more than one thousand students that emanated out of that original group of twenty-five.
We tasted the joy of servanthood. We tasted what it felt like to count. We felt the contagiousness of being part of something God was doing that we could never have done individually, but we could do together.
Getting Off the Display Rack
God had tremendous plans for that little group of twenty-five. Little did we know that the program we put together would one day become the model for Willow Creek Community Church. But every person had to step up and take a risk. Every one of us had to regularly pray a 'use me' prayer.
When was the last time you prayed a 'use me' prayer? Have you ever seriously prayed it? God will answer that prayer. He has all throughout history. He will take you off the display rack and he'll start using your life at home, in the workplace, in the neighborhood, and in his church.