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Gifts: The Joy of Serving God

(Paperback - Sep 2000)
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Overview

Gifted--that s you Uniquely equipped to help build up the body of Christ. As a follower of Jesus, serving others is an integral part of your identity and an important key to your personal growth. But how do you cultivate a servant s heart and your spiritual gifts in ways that build up your church, your family, your friends, and your world--without wiping you out in the process? Gifts guides you to the answers. Through personal study and small group interaction, this study will help you develop a passion to be used by God. You ll find out about your unique place in the body of Christ and how to surmount the obstacles that keep you from thriving. You ll discover the joy of serving with others--doing together what you cannot do alone. And you ll learn how to abide in Christ, experiencing a freshness and vitality that grow as you give Leader s guide included Gifts group sessions are: Use Me Use My Gifts Walking into Weakness Comparison: The Killjoy of Servanthood The Ministry of the Mundane Servanthood s Bell-Shaped Curve Abide in Him"

Details

  • SKU: 9780310220770
  • SKU10: 0310220777
  • Title: Gifts: The Joy of Serving God
  • Series: Pursuing Spiritual Transformation
  • Qty Remaining Online: 9
  • Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company
  • Date Published: Sep 2000
  • Pages: 148
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 0.49
  • Dimensions: 9.04" L x 6.12" W x 0.34" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product, Illustrated
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Awards: 2001 Gold Medallion Book Awards (Nominee - Bible (Devotional/Study))
  • Category: STUDY GUIDE
  • Subject: Christian Life - General

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Use 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.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISE

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 coworker.

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 him?

BIBLE STUDY

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 12:24-26.)

(Continues.)

Excerpt


Chapter One

Use 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.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISE

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 momentis 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 coworker.

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 him?

BIBLE STUDY

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 alwaysrooted 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, " Allowyourself 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 12:24-26.)

(Continues.)

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