Becoming Fit Instruments for God’s Service

Wynona Judd has had quite a ride in her forty-one years of life, and in her recent memoir – Coming Home to Myself – she reveals both the agonies and ecstasies of the journey. In a sense, Wynona has spent most of her life trying to find herself. It came together in her 2004 tour titled “Herstory: Scenes from a Lifetime.” Her record label decided to film a DVD of the two hour show and release it. She expressed the purpose of the night like this: “I’m going to celebrate what I am instead of being consumed with what I’m not. I’m going to show up and wait for God to walk through the room.”

On the night of the filming, everyone she cared about was there and she was understandably tense. Alone in the dressing room, scenes from her life kept flashing before her. Her reverie was interrupted by a voice, calling her by her real name. “Hello, Christina,” he said. It was her lifetime friend – Don Potter. He walked over to her and put his arms around her and said: “Do not worry tonight. You are the instrument. Let the Lord play you.”

That can be said about each of us every time we stand up to preach. “You are the instrument. Let the Lord play you.” In other words, the quality of spiritual music played through our sermons is not just determined by our understanding of the cultural context in which we live or by our empathy with the congregation to whom the sermons are delivered. The pastoral context is also determinative. We are the instrument the Lord plays in communicating his word through the words of our sermon. Consequently, each of us should be passionate about being the best possible instrument for God to play. But how can we become a fit instrument for God’s service?
Perhaps Jesus’ growth pattern as described in the profound summary in Luke 2:52 is a fitting paradigm for us to consider as we think about becoming fit instruments for God’s service. The only information the Gospel writers provide of the approximately eighteen years between Jesus’ encounter with the teachers in the temple and the inauguration of his ministry, is the classic commentary about Jesus most of us learned as children in Vacation Bible School: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52).
So how can we bring all of these different dimensions of development together in our lives? How can we demonstrate the quality of life Jesus demonstrated? The answer is BALANCE.

Back in 2001, Jim Collins produced a bestselling business book titled Good to Great in which he identifies the key ingredients that enabled 11 special companies to experience sustained success over a period of 15 years. Jim Collins caught my attention, not just with these keys, but with an intriguing phrase. Collins commended what he called the “genius of AND.” “The genius of AND” is the ability to embrace both extremes on a number of dimensions at the same time. In other words, instead of choosing A or B, we figure out how to have A and B.

One of the most important discoveries in life for the preacher who wants to be a fit instrument for God’s service is to discover “the genius of AND” – to recognize that we must develop ourselves intellectually and physically and spiritually and socially.
Now this is a demanding undertaking because each of these dimensions can be all absorbing, like a giant sink hole that sucks us under and engulfs our lives. Yet, all dimensions must be developed if we are to become fit instruments for God’s service.