I have often worried about not being “good enough” to be useful to God. I have also heard that exact fear from others, even as I saw them doing wonderful things in His name. These experiences have convinced me that we often have a deep misunderstanding of what it actually means to serve God.
I believe that there are many who are perfectly ready to be an instrument in God’s hands, but are simply uncertain of how to behave as such. It is not only our sins that we must overcome in the path of discipleship, it is also our ignorance.
I wanted to conduct this study to see how one is meant to be of use to their Maker and their fellowman. What is required of us? What is not? How does one overcome feelings of inadequacy? Over the last several days I have found some governing principles which can help gauge what sort of vessel one is preparing themselves to be.
The Vessel of God Must be Clean
There are no prerequisites to coming to God. No matter where you are at in life, the next step to approaching Him is already before you. There are, however, prerequisites to becoming his servant. The path of discipleship exists in two halves. The first is one of seeking forgiveness, being washed clean, and made ready to receive the Spirit of God. The second is being worked upon by that Spirit to do God’s work and help our fellow man.
Now yes, these two halves of discipleship are mingled with one another. One does not seek forgiveness only once. One repeats that first process many times, even after getting started on the second walk of discipleship. Even so, there is a first time of coming to God, where one lets go of all their worldly ways, and commits to a life of forever “trying again.” Often this initial purifying is symbolized by the ordinance of baptism. Every repentance afterwards is then to simply return to that first commitment.
Once one has entered into that pact with God sincerely, then they are cleansed by the Spirit, and made ready to do His work. It is true that all people can strive to do good things to their fellowman, regardless of whether they are trying to do it with God or not. They can work to be a sincerely good person in their own right. But they cannot be His agent to do His good until they have let Him clean them and have taken upon them His Spirit.
John 13:4-8- He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
The Vessel of God Must Be Willing
There are those that would confess their sins, partake of the emblems of Christ, enjoy the blessings of being cleansed, and then stop there. Many of us come to the gospel out of a desperation for forgiveness, not out of a burning desire to do service.
And perhaps that is sufficient reason to begin, but we misunderstand the whole point of Christ’s doctrine if we try to limit ourselves to these initial steps only. We are not just meant to be cleansed, we are to be cleansed for a purpose. If our faith is geared towards returning our soul to God that is good, but it is supposed to be geared towards bringing back many others to Him as well.
Of course the desire to do this work is not something that we have to try and muster up within us. It doesn’t work to “make” yourself want to serve others. Rather this is the result of God’s purifying us with His Spirit. That Spirit does not only expunge our sins, it puts desires into our hearts that were never there before. It lights a fire that makes us want to be useful to God and our fellow-man.
Ezekiel 36:26- A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
2 Timothy 2:21- If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
The Vessel of God Does not Have to be Powerful
But as we feel that desire to be useful to God, we might naturally question whether we even can be. We might desperately wish to serve Him, but hesitate because of our own flaws. We might think that after we have made ourselves smarter, wiser, or more convincing we will finally be ready to do His work. We think to ourselves ‘how can I accomplish His purposes when I still don’t even have my own life figured out yet?’
There is a half-truth to all of this, because yes, to be perfectly honest, we are flawed and we are inadequate. We, ourselves, are genuinely not sufficient to do the work of God. That much is true.
But there are two things to remember. One is that the growth of character we desire does not come first and then the service of God second. It is actually the other way around. By trying to do the service that we are inadequate for, we grow to become the sort of person who can do it. Though that growth which we will experience is not enough to qualify us to ever do this work alone.
And that is the second thing to remember: that no one is sufficient to do God’s work. Not your far more successful neighbor, not the future you that has figured everything out. It is called “God’s work” because it is His work to do. He does not ask you to do His tasks, He asks you to let Him do them through you. And no matter how personally powerful you might ever be, it will always remain His miracle that you can bless the lives of yourself, your loved ones, the circle of all those about you, and return glory to His name.
3 Nephi 18:24- Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.
Exodus 4:11-12- And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.