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The Audacity to Serve: Denying Yourself to Fulfill Your Calling

I am not talented enough, or clever enough, or righteous enough to deserve to reflect Jesus to the world, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try and do my best. I used to believe that most people were that way, that most people had the audacity to know that they don’t “measure up,” but to carry on anyway, putting one foot in front of the other, not letting the unattainability of that calling deter them. But that’s not the case. For so many people, it’s easier to sling insults, and to disparage, from the comfort and safety of their iPhones, or computer screens. It’s easier to tear something down than to build something up. It requires zero sacrifice of self, and offers no vulnerability. Those people are the armchair-quarterbacks of the writing world.

I’m Not Doing Enough

I often am often told by the armchair-quarterback types that I’m “wasting my time,” and that “the church has bigger issues to tend to” than the ones I choose to write about on my blog. “So why bother?” they ask. But here’s the thing about that kind of talk: it is impossible to fix (or even address) all the issues of the church with a single blog post, and if it were possible, I’m certainly not the writer that’s gonna do it. Additionally, it defers responsibility for action and change onto everyone else. “Why are you writing about _______, when you SHOULD be writing about ________!?!?!” they rail on.

What if, rather than spending their time criticizing me, and telling me that I’m not doing enough, the armchair-quarterbacks of the world were doing what God was calling them to do? If you have a heart for a thing, and you feel God calling you to speak up– do it! If you’re annoyed that I don’t write enough about sex-trafficking, or water projects, or food deserts, then maybe those are the things you should be writing about. Suddenly you’ll find that you don’t have the time to criticize complete strangers on the Internet, because you’re too busy doing the little bit of work that God has put on your heart. If we all did that, what would the church look like? What would the world look like?

We Will Never Be “Good Enough”

I understand the underlying concern: there is too much wrong with the world, and the church, for me to have any sort of significant impact. Here’s what Mother Teresa has to say about that

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.

My responsibility, and your responsibility, is to figure out what God’s calling for us is, and then to do it to the best of our ability. Even though we’re not talented enough, or clever enough, or righteous enough. Let me encourage you with this: God’s calling for your life is not to passively criticize other believers. It’s not to sit back and say “you shoulda said this…” It’s to take what little you have to offer, and offer it, letting God work through your offering. Think of the story of the boy with the loaves and fishes in John 6: 9-11

Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

You might think my offering isn’t sufficient. That I’m not talented enough to make a difference. And if we’re talking about me, as a person, separate from God, I agree with you. But when we offer up our imperfect and insufficient selves, God will do the rest.

Questions

Do you trust God to work though your offering? Are you ready to listen and respond to the Lord, and refuse to be intimidated by the circumstances? Are you ready to look a little bit foolish, offering up your measly loaves and fishes in front of a crowd of 5,000?

Remember what Jesus said to his disciples?

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

I think part of “denying ourselves” is giving up our need to feel “good-enough.” Giving up our need to feel like we’re making a big stinking difference in the world. We have to understand that it is a privilege to die to ourselves in order to live for him.

(And I promise that you will be far more satisfied in fulfilling God’s calling for your life than you ever were armchair-quarterbacking on the Internet.)

xoxo,

mj

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I’ll be back on Friday with this week’s update on the 40 Day Makeup Fast!

Let’s be friends!

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44 Comments

  1. So so true! Amen! I’ve been thinking alot about the widow’s mite lately. She didn’t have much but she gave what little she had. I believe God gives all of us a banner to wave. No one’s banner is better than another. You offer what little you have and He decides how big a ripple you will make. Thank you for sharing this!

    Reply
    • I was thinking about that story as I was writing this! I think for us as believers, living in the culture that we live in, it’s a struggle to get in agreement that “no one’s banner is better than another,” because that’s the opposite of what we see in the media every day. So is the idea of letting go of control of “how big a ripple you will make,” and understanding that God’s plan for us is supreme. It makes me really reconsider how much time I’m spending consuming media, versus how much time I’m spending in God’s word. Anyhoo, I’m glad you liked this. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Reply
  2. Lisa

     /  July 18, 2012

    Thanks for sharing. I am thankful that God does not call the qualified but qualifies those He calls in whatever area it may be. Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your posts.

    Reply
    • If God only called the qualified, I’d be completely useless. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and I’m happy you like it!

      Reply
  3. Tracey

     /  July 18, 2012

    Your post today speaks volumes to my innermost. What I have been called to do is teach. I didn’t ask for it, I’m unqualified to do it, and kick and scream to and from my prayer closet most times I’m required. It is my gift. He has asked the least to do His will, for sure. This Sunday I was asked to teach our Sunday School Class. God had given me the topic months ago and assured me that discipline was what I was to teach on. “But what if I offend someone?”, I prayed. “If someone is offended it will not be by your words but by the conviction of The Holy Spirit in their own lives,” The Man explained. Good enough for me. My responsibility is to proclaim His glory and spread the gospel, His job is to convict.

    Reply
    • “If someone is offended it will not be by your words but by the conviction of The Holy Spirit in their own lives,” YES. If you’re speaking the truth in love, you’ve done your part. Sometimes I get down on myself about being “ineffective,” and I just have to remember that being ultimately effective isn’t my responsibility. I just have to do the little part I’ve been given, and like you said, God’s job is to convict. Letting go of that responsibility was liberating, and gave me so much more energy to do my part. Thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  4. I appreciate your words and thoughts, I couldn’t have said it better. ‘We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

    Reply
  5. Right on! I’ve been thinking about lately, especially with our cultural and Christian focus on doing good in the world. There are so many needs, especially in the 3rd world, we can always feel guilty for not doing enough. That is never what God intended. I wrote this in an email to a friend on this very subject:

    ”I think at the end of the day, all we can do is seek God, be obedient, and be grateful (and NOT guilty) for everything we have. And, come to God openhanded and willing to give it all away if he says to.”

    Thanks for your voice!

    Reply
    • My heart breaks when I take time to consider all of the pain and injustice that people are experiencing, and for a long time, that heartbreak was immobilizing. I sometimes wonder if that guilt you mentioned isn’t the enemy’s way twisting God’s plan for us around, so that we’re totally inactive. And I love that quote from your email. It’s going on my document that I keep encouraging words. 🙂

      Reply
    • Oh my goodness. I’m not sure if you’re still reading the books on your “books I’m reading” widget, but I am reading two of them! Creepy! TKaMb is a perennial favorite of mine, and The War of Art is pretty spot-on. Grace for the Good Girl has been on my list for a few months, and I just haven’t gotten around to starting it.

      Reply
      • Well, I’ve finished TKAM and the War of Art. I’m nearing the end of Grace for the Good Girl so I’m open for any suggestions!

        Reply
  6. paulhunter7

     /  July 18, 2012

    I agree 100%. I don’t think you should spend any time addressing the negative, “armchair quarterback” types. Stay positive. Your writing is very uplifting and challenging.

    Reply
  7. Dear Melissa, your words are both comforting and full of truth. It is the small thing in life which will count in eternity…good stuff.

    Reply
  8. thank u. will share with fb and twitter!

    Reply
  9. Dear Melissa, what an amazing woman of God you are! I have been so blessed to read what you write! How you honor God with your heart. I can see His heart in your writing. You write with such passion and such tenderness, it is truly a gift from God. You are being effective in your writing and what you share. It is touching hearts and I know it is having an impact on lives. I will be sharing your posts from now on. I just started reading your articles yesterday, as one was posted on a friends page on fb and I had to share it after reading it. Then I came here. Please know that I value and appreciate what you are doing, and I know that God does too.

    Reply
    • Goodness, thank you so much. I certainly do enjoy writing, but for years I’ve been fighting the urge to write about my faith. I don’t want to alienate people, and I don’t want anyone to feel as if I think any less of them because they don’t share my faith. Most of my friends, and almost all of my family, are nonbelievers, or Atheists, so I’ve always written with them in mind. But over the past few months, through a series of interesting events, I’ve come to realize that I’ve got it all wrong: I’m supposed to be writing about my faith journey, and fighting it is pretty useless. So I still try and make sure that I don’t alienate nonbelievers, but at the same time do my best to stay true to the words God has put on my heart. It’s a strange place for me to be, and I’m grateful to be here, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared every time I post something new. I’m not sure why I just told you all of that, so I hope you don’t mind my blabbing. 🙂 Thank you SO much for your encouragement!

      Reply
      • Melissa, I am so very moved by your reply. Thank you for sharing your heart with me. I have been in that same place and I know how scary it can be. But can I say that I am very proud of you, even though we have just met? It takes great courage these days to stand up for what you believe in and to give voice to what you know in your heart is right, even when you know you are “going against the odds” especially when you may not get welcoming feedback. It is like being “between a rock and a hard place.” You know you have to say it, yet you know in your stomach what kind of results may follow. And that my new friend, takes great courage. Most of the time it is much easier to just turn a “blind eye” or say to yourself, “someone else will say that” and then let it go, and hope you are right…. but what if? What if they don’t…. I think of the verse that says, “How will they know unless someone tells them?” It is not easy to be “Naked” before others and to “bare ourselves” (which in a way you are already doing), but I think more and more, God is looking for the willing. I am so very proud of you Melissa. Keep giving voice to what you know in your heart needs to be said. I will stand right there with you. Thank you for caring enough to do it. It means more than you know.

        Reply
  10. Great post! and very true! It is very freeing to me that I don’t have to make it all work out. I just have to step forward every day into the kingdom things that God is calling me into!

    Reply
  11. I recently started to follow your blog and I love that you live out LOUD for God! It saddens me that people would rather critisize then move on and say nothing at all. Unfortunatly bitterness is a huge stronghold for christians, I struggle with this myself sometimes. I am thankful for your blog, and feel a little silly (and kind of thankful) that I had never heard about 50 shades or magic mike, but that was the post that kept me reading. I want the REAL thing, not someone to tell me a candy coated fairy tale, sometimes we need to be reminded what we are Saved from! Keep it up! 😀

    Reply
    • Thank you! But I don’t want to seem like I’m above reproach: I struggle with bitterness, too. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement!

      Reply
      • Not at all do you seem above reproach…I recently realized how much bitterness I have and how much negativity spewed from it…So I have been more careful about what I ingest (media, blogs, music, books). I am happy to be reading something that is fresh, honest, intresting and edifying!

        Reply
  12. I love this post. You are a fantastic writer. You are constantly encouraging & inspiring other christians to live passionate lives for God. That is awesome. I love how you call them the “armchair quarterbacks” – so true. It just amazes me the things people will say to other bloggers… i mean, there is a PERSON with feelings behind that post!

    Reply
    • Well thank you very much. 🙂 I’ve been told several times that, as a writer, I “need a thicker skin,” but the thing is, I’m not so sure I want to be that way. I think our hearts should be sensitive, and remain soft to the thoughts and feelings of others. When someone is being particularly nasty, they’re revealing things about themselves, and venting because of wounds that haven’t healed, or issues they have not dealt with. Of course, some people are flat-out trolls, but most people that are hostile towards strangers on the Internet are hurting in some way. I try and remember that when people are being terrible.

      Reply
  13. LeneeB

     /  July 18, 2012

    Wow, powerful in a big way. Let me begin by saying that while others might think of your blog as having little impact, it has had a HUGE impact on me. I came across your blog through a friend’s reposting of your Magic Mike and 50 shades. Boy, was I immediately called by God to become humbled. He knew what I was struggling with and all those around me don’t appear to want to change in the midst of all this macho meat festival. I wish that other strugglers like me would voice this because in the sea of flesh lovers, I feel adrift. Your voice was the anchor to my unanswered prayer.

    Reply
  14. Denise Carrera

     /  July 18, 2012

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU!!!! You tell it like it is without being disrespectful AND you are right on point!
    Your blogs bless me. You wrote one last week “A Letter to the Single Ladies.” Let me tell you I was in tears when you referred to the father leaving the daughter. I couldn’t even comment because I lost it. I have been dealing with that root of rejection my whole life. I am 48 years old, divorced for 3 years after 20 years of marriage and I am struggling with being alone and single at my age. This was not the plan!
    But back to you…You’re writing stirs things up in me. You are ministering to me as well as many other people! Ministry is supposed to begin in the home so I believe anything done outside those walls is fulfilling His calling.
    Jesus would die if it was just for one person. So no matter if you minister to one or thousands, you Melissa Jenna are making a difference for the Kingdom.
    I know that my ministry is at the gym and at work along with Facebook. I am touching people hearts, one heart at a time. I believe that one of your blogs, all will be archived, will be pulled out to bless someone who needs just the message you’ve been given to share by Jesus Himself. Armchair-quarterbacks, go sit on the bench or get in the game!

    Reply
    • Well thank you very much! I have a real heart for the fatherless, and I know first-hand how deeply it can effect a person. I’m writing a book about fatherlessness, and how it shapes women’s understanding of relationships, marriage, sex, God, etc. It’s somewhat cathartic to be reading and writing so much about it, but at the same time it’s hard sometimes because I feel like every time I write a story of my own, I’m reliving it. It’s so hard to acknowledge that you’re wounded, you know? Like, if I just continue ignoring it, it will go away. (Which couldn’t be farther from the truth.)

      I have a somewhat recently divorced (been about three years, I think) friend your age, and after dealing with a super-messy divorce, she seems to be having the time of her life. Granted, she is still healing, but every time I see her, she shines even brighter. She’s told me a few times that dating is tough, and I believe it. But nowadays, when I look at her, I see a confidence and a joy that wasn’t there a couple of years ago. I pray that God heals your heart, and that he continually pours his peace into you. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing, and your encouragement means so much to me. I’m so proud to have such awesome sisters in Christ! ❤

      Reply
  15. Kimberly Stone

     /  July 18, 2012

    WOW!!!! What a powerful and trueful post. We are doing a Wednesday night bible study on spiritual gifts .Amazing how God works and brought me right to your post. I am having a hard time trying to figure out what spiritual gift God has given me. I love reading your blog. Your words in this post have blessed me more than you will ever know. Keep on keeping on for God!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! I hope that your bible study went well tonight, and pray that you gain some understanding about your spiritual gifts. I’m curious to hear what you figure out!

      Reply
  16. Kim

     /  July 18, 2012

    I want you to know that this post was an answered prayer. Thank you for writing this. I prayed for God to show me what to do with my life and he answered me. Like a defiant child, I asked that he assure me that I h
    eard him right and today you wrote this. Thank you!

    Reply
    • WOOOHOOO I LOVE an answered prayer story! That’s what I’m talking about! I mentioned this to someone else earlier, but I’ve fought the pull to write about my faith for years, and over the past few months, through a series of interesting events, I finally gave in and decided to write the words God has been putting on my heart. So I know what you mean about being like a defiant child. 🙂 It’s scary every time I post a new thing, but accepting God’s calling for me, and faithfully serving him has changed my life. It’s enough to keep me going out on limbs when I don’t feel comfortable. I am so pleased that this reached you. God’s timing is so perfect!

      Reply
  17. I think that any time we start trying to define who someone else is, we need a big sign to pop out of the ground. It would say something like, “Get the phone pole out of your eye first! Love, God” or “Work out *your own* salvation, not theirs. Love, God”.

    We do such horrible jobs of defining ourselves; why do we think we can define others? Only God can do either. But we do like playing God.

    (And all those things you say you aren’t? God says you are. He made us perfect. We were born into an imperfect, messed up world, but grace is there to restore. We can’t see it, but Daddy God sees the perfection he created, because he looks at us through his grace, through what Jesus did.)

    Deny yourself, take up your crioss, and follow Jesus. But having lost ourselves, we find ourselves– and everything else.

    Reply
  18. Love, Love, Love it! You’ve inspired me to start writing, God has put this on my heart and I’ve put it down for so long that its become something that seems out of reach. Satan is a liar and God is in control, hallelujah! You’ve definitely awakened some gifts here, so glad He’s using you in such a sweet and powerful way to put spark back in us all. I described you’re last blog about “Magic Mike..” as being a Holy Ghost slap up side the head!!! Loved it! – Lizzy

    Reply
    • Yesss! I’m so excited for you! Satan IS a liar, and he is disgustingly manipulative. I’ve struggled (and continue struggling) against believing his lies, and the more I step out in faith, the easier it’s getting. A “Holy Ghost slap up side the head,” I love it! 🙂

      Reply
  19. Keep on writing what God lays on your heart to write. 🙂

    Reply
  20. LeneeB

     /  July 19, 2012

    MJ, you also need to remember that while what the world views as insignificant is probably large in God’s eyes. In addition, those who chose to complain and do nothing do far more damage than the sharing of those things that God places in your heart. We will never know the true impact but like a ripple, it can grow in a huge way.

    Reply
  21. Hi! I’m new to your blog. Someone posted on a Facebook page your post on Magic Mike. I wanted to let you know I really appreciate everything you wrote. I think what you said was perfect. I am so looking forward to reading all you write. What I see is wonderful enough and I thank you so much for sharing what you do.

    Reply
  22. Sharon Jeanguenat

     /  July 19, 2012

    Amen to this message, Melissa! It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, & complain & tell others what they OUGHT to do. But, IF you are obeying God’s call on your life, then you must do what HE tells you to do. If He wants you to write about certain things, then that’s what you do. The Scripture DOES say that ‘obedience is better than sacrifice!’

    Reply
  23. Nicole

     /  July 20, 2012

    Wow, great message! I can’t even tell you how many times I said AMEN while reading this post!! 🙂

    Reply
  24. Judy

     /  July 20, 2012

    Thanks you so much MJ for this thoughful and inspiring post! I am new to your blog, but so thankful to have found it. You speak out for the hearts of many of us, and I am so thankful for your courage and obedience to God to do so. I love your blog and feel that I’ve found a new cherished friend and kindred spirit in your writings. Thank you for using the gifts that God has given you to do “the little bit of work that God has put on your heart.” I believe that God is using you to speak to a generation, and as you continually place your gifting in HIs hands, you will see that the impact will be far from “little.”

    Reply
  25. Nathan

     /  September 25, 2012

    Really enjoyed reading this. I leave inspired and encourage you to continue doing the little bit God has put on your heart.

    Reply
  26. Susan Helms

     /  January 17, 2013

    I finally got around to reading this email. I have not had computer access. PLEASE keep up the good work, sweetheart. It is valuable and so are you. You affect all generations, not just your own. Older ones just sometimes have a more difficult time opening their eyes and minds!

    Reply
  27. Hannah

     /  February 11, 2013

    Here’s a fun story: I was looking for encouragement for a make up fast but not for the reasons in your make up fast. My reasons were much more vain… like I have the skin of a 14 year old boy more often than not. And covering it with so much make up like I have for the past few years has been great, making me look better and all, but then I thought maybe all that make up is part of the reason why I break out so much. So I thought I should give make up a break, give my face a break. In finding your blog posts (so far) about your make up fast, your reasons became my reasons. Why should I feel like I have to cover up what God gave me to feel accepted by others? Why do I feel like I need to prove myself with my face? I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ve loved reading what you’ve posted up until day 16 where I’ve read to. But all the posts in between have been answers to prayers. I’m Christian too, probably not of your same faith, but that doesn’t matter. It’s so comforting to find people who share your same beliefs, whether or not we believe the exact same things. The principles are all the same. We believe in God, we try to do what he asks of us. Sometimes we feel inadequate, but it’s through Christ that we can do what God expects of us. He makes up the difference. As long as we try our best we are succeeding. All of our rights and wrongs don’t add up to who we are. We are who we are trying to be. So thank you for your uplifting posts and remarks. You have a wonderful attitude, something I admire!

    Reply

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