Monday, December 26, 2016

It May Be the Armor

“Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.”

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s helmet and coat of mail; they worked just fine for Saul.

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s intentions; at the time he thought well of David. He had no desire to sabotage David’s efforts and every reason to hope he might succeed against Goliath.

And there was definitely nothing wrong with David; Saul’s armor just didn’t suit him.

Sometimes other people’s methods don’t work for us.

Micromanaged Out the Door

Have you ever responded to a request for help with some area of Christian service only to find yourself micromanaged right out the door? It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’ve seen it happen to others with some regularity despite the best of intentions. You may have volunteered with a parachurch organization, or you may be an incoming missionary assuming a particular set of responsibilities in the foreign field, or more likely just an ordinary, committed believer seeking to help out in some small way in your own local church. And you find yourself being handed curriculum, taught methods or slotted into existing networks rather than finding your own way before the Lord.

Hey, for some people, a truckload of very specific detail about “How To” is helpful, even necessary. Some folks are looking for it, and others are too tentative or inexperienced to function without it. And certainly no Christian should be averse to receiving instruction. We all need to be humble enough to recognize that those who have walked the walk before us are likely to have learned a great deal that we don’t know. “He who hates reproof is stupid.” Let’s not be that guy (or girl).

Arms and Eyelashes

But I have great appreciation for those servants of God who have worked hard for years in a particular area and have invested their lives in the service of Christ but still have the grace to allow younger individuals to be themselves, even if it means standing by to observe a few mistakes along the way.

That’s not a kindergarten platitude. By “being ourselves”, I do not mean giving free rein to ego, self or pride. I’m not talking about replacing time-tested, biblically-sound methodologies with change for change’s sake. I’m not talking about new brooms sweeping clean because “I gotta be me!”

But it is God who has arranged the members of the Body of Christ as he chose, and those members differ. An eye is not a hand is not an ear, and they perform differently. They respond naturally to different needs in different ways. They require different maintenance. Their operation is more or less noticeable to observers, depending on the member. Waving arms are obvious; a fluttering eyelash less so.

Variety is the Spice

The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”

We might say that in God’s economy there is more than one way to skin a cat. (Not that God needs many cats skinned, and you can definitely take mine off the list!) But I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that there is scriptural authority for taking a more hands-off approach to practical discipleship from time to time.

The List That Didn’t Get Made

I read a post elsewhere recently on the subject of showing sensitivity to other believers who may be suffering. The author wisely noted:

“I would love to type out a list … of how to help others who are feeling down this Christmas. But honestly, it’s going to be different in each situation. One person might need to be invited to a party to be with friends.

One might need you to go sit with her in the quiet. One might need financial help.”

Correct. Forget the list. There are varieties of activities, depending on the requirements of the situation. Perceived needs must be addressed primarily with sensitivity to the person in need.

Consistency and Harmony

But I would also add this: needs are best addressed consistently and in harmony with our own personalities, character and spiritual gifts. Saul’s armor did not suit David. There may have been size issues, since Saul was a big guy. David not only risked looking embarrassingly out of his element, but his lack of experience in Saul’s gear may have hurt his speed or thrown off his aim. It was better to be the best possible David than a poor imitation of Saul.

Those of us trying to help are probably better off using the skills and resources WE have received from God to address the needs WE perceive with our God-given spiritual senses than always looking around for specific direction from more experienced Christians. For one thing, it’s how we grow. And we’ll behave more naturally, act more effectively and very probably more serve more dependently than when we follow someone else’s script.

Servant or Armor?

Now of course some of us are tentative by nature. That’s me. We don’t like to make any unnecessary fuss. We look for direction from others rather than acting spontaneously. When we see a need, we almost always glance around to find the person through whom God is going to meet it, when it’s very possible we should be looking in the mirror first.

To those people, I say trust your Spirit-quickened senses and reach out to do what you can. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s time to get to work.

And to those who would normally jump in to tell us what we should be doing and exactly how we should be doing it, I’d say share what you know … but be willing to let go. It may not be the servant that’s the problem.

It may be the armor.

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