Serving God

[This speech was given by a High School senior at her Graduation. It is presented here in written form for the value of its insight.]

Here we stand at the brink of the next phase of our lives, but what I really want to do in the next five minutes is to turn our attention away from ourselves, onto God.

This year's theme - molded in His image - what does this mean? The very idea of being molded suggests that I do not make myself something-God makes me something. Isaiah 64:8 - "But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand."

So, you may ask, if He is the potter, and we are the clay, what is there for us to do? God is making us something, but surely we help somehow. We can't just sit around and wait for God to make something happen. Shouldn't we be helping?

There's actually a story about this in Luke 10:38-42. It goes something like this: Now as they were traveling along, Jesus entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparation; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

This story always bothered me. It seemed unfair, because Martha, after all, was serving Jesus. And yet He said that Mary, the one doing nothing, had chosen the better thing. We are taught to serve-why did Martha get rebuked for it?

But listen again to Jesus' answer; "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…"

Martha was bothered, yes. She was bothered that Mary wasn't helping her. She was worried-worried about all the work she was doing for Jesus; but where was her trust? Where was she putting her faith?

Martha was working and serving Jesus, but Mary was listening and believing Him-and Jesus said that what Mary chose to do would not be taken away from her. Why? Because what God wants is for us to believe Him.

So again, if He is the potter, and we are the clay, what is there for us to do? We can believe Him, as Mary did, but what does that do?

I'll give an example from my own life. Two months ago I had to take the SAT. A month before the test I felt awful. My practice test scores stank, and to be honest, so did my attitude. As the test drew closer, my attitude got adjusted and my scores improved. Two weeks before the SAT, I felt unconquerable. Nothing could stop me. I was trusting God. A week later (with only five days until the test) I again found myself worried and troubled. I was bothered by so many things that weren't important. I knew that had to change.

Knowing that God promises to work all things together for good, I chose to believe His promise and rely on Him. The night before the test, I was again sitting at His feet and listening. The next morning I woke up, smiled and thought, "Well God, here goes. I don't know what you're going to do today, but I know it will be good."

It was good. The first section of the test was the essay, which I was worried about because I hadn't practiced it much. But I smiled and thought, "I know You'll work things out." and He did. I got the perfect question. The rest of the test was just as good.

I trusted God, and He worked out the minutest details; even the essay question! Many of you can relate to similar situations in your own lives. No matter how great or small our problems are, He is bigger.

So again, why did Jesus say that Mary's belief was better than Martha's frenetic efforts? Because Mary trusted God, and any of us here born of God know that when we believe God, things work out.

What is better-for the clay to try to turn into a pot, or the potter to shape the clay? Clay has no more ability to make itself a pot than we have ability to make ourselves what God wants. Only God can shape us into what He wants. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

This verse reminds me of one of my original questions: If God is doing the work, what is there for us to do? This verse does not suggest that trusting and believing God leads to sitting around. On the contrary, as a result of our belief in God, we walk in the good works which He prepared beforehand. The neat thing is that when we perform these works, it isn't us doing them! It is God. "For we are His workmanship… created for good works… which God prepared beforehand." We aren't doing the work, God is working in and through us.

So you see again that sitting around is not better than serving, just as serving is not better than just sitting. It is Who we are trusting while we sit or serve that matters. Martha did not get rebuked for serving, she was rebuked for not trusting.

"We are the clay, He is the potter." What does He want us to do? He simply wants us to believe Him. He does the work. He makes us beautiful, righteous, forgiven, holy-in fact, He says He has made us new creatures in Him. We do not need to work to gain what He has already given us. And we cannot gain it by working. We can no more make ourselves perfect than that lump of clay can make itself a pot. But He can, and has. Major Ian Thomas put it well: "If you are born again, all you need is what you have, and what you have is what He is! He does not give you strength, He is your strength. He does not give you victory, He is your victory."

What more is there to say? "But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand." May we live believing Him whether we are sitting or serving.

Thank you. Grace and peace be multiplied to you.

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Updated 1/19/2010