Chapter OneUse Me!
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.
He will use your words to encourage people. He will
use your mind to inform and counsel people. He will use
your heart to show kindness. He will use your hands to
serve. And when he does, you'll experience the thrill of
being used by God. Nothing I have ever found in this life
competes with that thrill. That is why my dream has
always been to get to the end of my life and sense that I
was completely expended for the sake of God. No tread
left on my tires, no shine left on the axe or shovel.
In fairness, I must offer a warning: You will get a little
"dinged up" over the years. Serving God is not a bed
of roses. You take your hits, the shine comes off, and you
have to replace parts here and there. Sometimes it's a hurtful
thing. But it beats spending your life never experiencing
what you were built to do.
You may get beaten up externally, but you will have
life and joy and vitality on the inside. You will be full of
stories, full of memories. You will be able to recount activities
where God used you and other people together to
change a little part of the world in some small way,
because you were usable in his hands.
I don't think I'm different from you. I think deep down,
you too would rather be a tool in the hands of God with the
remaining years of your life than be stuck on a shelf, never
fulfilling the purpose for which you were built.
But God tends not to commandeer tools. He tends to
let them stay on the display shelf until somebody prays,
"Use me, God. Use my life." Then the adventure begins.
There is no greater fulfillment than to pour out our lives in
acts of servanthood to the God of the universe. This is not
limited to certain church activities or involvements. Every
moment is an opportunity to be used by him. Make this week an
adventure by praying the "use me" prayer. Seek to engage in acts
of deliberate servanthood. Here are a few ideas:
Begin each morning by inviting God to use you through the
day. Walk through the main events of your upcoming day with
him in prayer.
Make yourself available to be used at home. Look for ways you
could be of service to those with whom you live.
Throughout the day as you begin a conversation, pray a secret
"use me" prayer. Listen for God's promptings to encourage others,speak the truth, etc.
Ask God to use you in the life of a seeker this week.
Make your work an exercise in being used by God. Work with
diligence-as if you were working directly for him. Serve a
When you are interrupted, pause to see if this is an opportunity
to be used by God through a moment of unplanned servanthood.
Each time you pull out your wallet or write a check, pray a "use
me" prayer with respect to your financial resources. Look for
opportunities to give, even in small ways.
Be available to serve someone who is different than you. Practice
seeing them through Jesus' eyes.
Keep track of how the week goes. What difference did it make
to live your week this way? Were you surprised by any moments
when you really felt used by God? Could you identify anything
that held you back or interfered with your ability to be used by
In Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV), Paul offers one of the richest calls in
all of Scripture for Christ-followers to fully abandon their lives
to the service of their unimaginably gracious Master. Spend a
few moments reading this passage.
1. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies
of God" For Paul, the call to servanthood is always rooted
in the love and goodness of God. Why is it so critical for you
to know and trust the goodness of God in order to fearlessly
offer up a "use me" prayer?
How in touch with the mercies of God are you these days? Spend a few moments dwelling on the diverse ways that his
grace has been shown to you in the past month or so. Be concrete, listing as many examples as you can (everyday provisions, relational mercies, answers to prayer, forgiveness, etc.).
2. Paul urges us to "present" or "offer" our bodies.
What is the significance of Paul's word choice? What comes to
mind when you think of presenting or offering yourself? How
would the passage be different if Paul had chosen more passive
wording like, "Allow yourself to be a living sacrifice"?
According to John 10:17-18, how did Jesus present himself? What point does he specifically make in verse 18?
3. Paul says to "present your bodies." This includes our arms, hands, and legs-and all that they do. This wording encompasses
the totality of who we are-our thoughts, longings, passions, energy, time, abilities-our whole identity.
What is the significance of this, particularly in light of our
human tendency to compartmentalize our "spiritual life" from
our "real life"?
4. What struck you as you read the words "living sacrifice"?
"Living" is precisely what a sacrifice is not. How would you
explain Paul's oxymoron? (Consider also Jesus' words in John