"When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand." Joshua 24:9-10 (NIV)
Reflecting back over my life and ministry, I can see clearly that I have allowed Satan to hinder my effectiveness, in one way or another, more often than I would like to admit. In fact, if I am being honest, I think it's a fair statement, to say much of the time, when God used me on a day to day basis, it was more in spite of myself rather than because of me or anything I did well. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to beat myself up emotionally or get on a pity party. I'm just trying to be honest about my past. I have failed God more times than I could possibly count (what comes after Gazillion?). Seriously, I truly know the amazing importance of mercy through God's grace since I know that every time someone has been helped by something I said, did, or wrote it was truly God's miracle at work in the situation. I praise God that He chooses to use me in spite of my many mistakes and flaws. I pray that He continues to use me in any way He chooses so He is honored in my life.
Balaam, in the above passage from Joshua, is a perfect example from the Bible. Balak wanted to curse Israel so he calls for Balaam to curse them. This was not God's plan so regardless of his intentions, Balaam was only able to bless them. You should read the whole story found in Numbers 22-25 to see how God used Balaam in spite of himself.
There are many other examples of similar situations throughout the Old and New Testaments. I encourage you to comment on this post and share examples found in the Bible.
I believe God chooses to use many people in this manner, so I have developed a short list of tips to help.
1. Constant Contact with God - Adopt an attitude of constant contact with God. Have a consistent dialogue going with God:
- Hear Him through reading the Bible (and other books, but the Bible is always my first choice), music, preaching, teaching, wise Christian counsel, seeking the will of the Holy Spirit within you, etc.
- Speak to God through prayer, praying Scripture, speaking concerns, speaking or thinking observations, active meditating, singing, etc.
God will use you when He sees fit to do so, so be ready. If you are constantly in a dialogue with God, you will probably see the opportunity sooner and be ready, rather than surprised, when it happens.
2. Be Willing - Willing to be used in any way God chooses to use you. God doesn't need a perfect person, he needs a willing person. Face the truth, God didn't make you perfect, so, He doesn't expect you to be perfect. If God is choosing to use you to share a kind word with someone, for example, your willingness makes you the perfect person for the job. God will give you the words to speak and the opportunity to share. The main thing you have to do is show up and be willing.
3. Be Obedient - If you believe God wants you to do something, be obedient and do it. Looking back over my life, I see many times that I have drug my feet even though I was positive that God wanted to use me in a certain situation. I did this for many different reasons, such as, fear that I could be wrong, not trusting that God could/would communicate His will to me, afraid I'd make a fool of myself, waiting too long and the opportunity was missed, etc. Don't think about being obedient, go do it. Too much thinking and you might talk yourself out of it, believe me, I know from personal experience. Go, be obedient.
4. Get Out of the Way and Let God Work - Once you have done whatever you think God wants you to do, then, get out of the way and let God work. God is the Lord of the Harvest, your job was to plant the seed, or prune, or water, or weed... Leave the Harvest up to God. He knows what He is doing. I am not a gardener but I'm pretty sure you can prune too much or water too much. Sometimes you just need to sit back and know you have done all you can do and let the plant grow. This is when God does His miraculous work, whether we are talking about a plant in your garden, a tree in your lawn, or a neighbor on your street. Get out of the way and let God work. But, keep praying and listening; if there is more for you to do, God will let you know.
5. Give all Glory to God for Everything He Does in the Situation - It is a blessing in itself to be used by God to help others, but I have found, the real blessing comes, when you are recognized for your contribution and you humbly, give all the Glory to God. I guarantee, it is a great feeling. But, if you choose to receive the glory rather than give it to God, you will start a chain reaction that will eventually lead to disaster. Again, I know this from personal experience. It feels so much better when you give the glory to God. Deep inside, you know God deserves the glory. Give it to Him from the start and keep giving it to Him. You will be so glad you did.
For some reason, beyond my understanding, God chooses to use us even though we are flawed and frail and prone to fail. He is likely to use you even if He has to do it in spite of you. I hope these tips help you prepare to be a more useful vessel for God to use for His glory.