What's in Your Hand? Four Ways You Matter in Mission, but Might Not Realize
By Shane Bennett
A long time ago, God asked Moses to do something pretty big. Moses, famously, whined about his inadequacy for the task. God asked him, "What's in your hand?" It was just a stick, but a soon-to-be-extraordinary stick.
Moses may have hefted that staff all over the wilderness. Maybe he'd traded up from time to time, finally settling on this as the perfect one. Even so, it's safe to say he never imagined it would turn water to blood, split the sea, and (on a darker note) disqualify him from his great third-career quest. It had always been a sweet stick. It turned out to be something entirely more.
I think we have similar "sticks" in our lives, particularly as we think about contributing to God's global purposes: we have gifts, capacities, and connections that matter hugely but often remain overlooked. Because of this we downgrade the role we imagine God wants us to play. We assume we matter less and that we can accomplish less than we really can.
Like with Moses and the stick, God says to us, "Think about what you already have. Your stuff, empowered by my Spirit, might just be enough for some pretty big things I'm asking of you." Here are some unnoticed "sticks" you may have in your hand, or on a shelf, or, in the case of the first one, lying around the house.
1. Your kids
Now back in the old days, people like us produced a lot of kids in hopes that some would survive to adulthood and feed us when we were too old to feed ourselves. Since those dynamics have pretty much passed, many of us decided it a better idea to have fewer kids. (Perhaps we also thought it would be more fun to spend our money on ourselves!) Take a look at those you may have: while you hope they'll do well with their lives, maybe you've not thought of them as a world Christian asset, a stick in your hand. But really, over whom do you exercise greater influence than your own little flock? I know it doesn't feel like it when they're 12 or 18, but think back over all the years.
Your shaping influence on your kids is almost incalculable. And while I'd never coerce my kids into becoming missionaries, I most certainly want to encourage them to align their lives with God's purposes. The outcome of that effort may well be my greatest contribution to world evangelization.
2. Your age
Since we don't really keep track, I'm just guessing when I say that few Missions Catalyst readers are under 16 years old. (If you are, let me know. I'd love to meet you.) So, few of us are likely saying, "God can't use me 'cause I'm too young." On the other hand, maybe a lot of us think God won't use us in any cool way in the world because we're just too old.
I don't know how it is where you are, but I have noticed that my culture, though it has many strengths, is weakened by a disdain, distrust, and disrespect of age. (The older I get, the more this is a big deal to me!) The great news is that just as we feel the "younger is better" mentality beginning to nudge us out to the rocking chair on the porch, we're entering a season of honor and authority in many more traditional cultures that those "Johnny come latelys" won't experience for years to come. We have something to give that the younger set cannot.
I encourage older people (a term I use gingerly and with utmost respect!) to expect that God wants to use us in amazing ways. For instance: become snowbirds, but replace Phoenix with Antalya. You'll save money, chat with people who've never met someone who loves Jesus, and have way better stories for the young whippersnappers back home!
3. Your tribe
Do you realize there is a set of people watching your life who think you have it all together and assume you totally know how to follow Jesus the right way? Once you've stopped hyperventilating, let me tell you this is a gift from God. In the unlikely event that you don't have it all together, don't worry: it was the same Paul who confessed he was the chief of sinners, who also said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."
So it's fine if you think you're a dope. People will still look to you for guidance and example. Happily, humbly point them toward aligning their lives with God's global purposes. Of course the best way to do this is by example. Actively love the nations, and your tribe will learn to love the nations too.
4. Your sphere
Orbiting beyond your tribe is a set of people to whom you have connections and over whom you exercise some influence. Think in terms of the people you know at church, at work, and in the 'hood (neighbors, parents of your kids' friends, the pseudo friend who sells you coffee). God wants these people involved in his kingdom, both in terms of finding life in Jesus and participating in the reconciliation of all things.
This is one of the foundational assumptions of my life.
a. Your church
Whom do you know at church, and how can you help them take God-ordained steps toward people far from God? What resources do you know about that might help them? What opportunities? To what groups at your church could you extend this offer: "Hey, I realize a lot of people are troubled right now by Islam and what's going on. I'd be happy to lead a discussion that will help us get God's perspective on the whole matter"? (Let me point you to some audio resources that will help with this and some books and links to help you plan.)
b. Your workplace
Is your job a drag? Don't despair. God put you there for a reason. You'll touch people's lives that I never will. I know, partly because we live in different states, countries even! But there are also the sociological reasons. Though it seemed like such a good idea at the time, many young Christians find that their Bible or missions degree doesn't help them connect with certain segments of society. Because of what you do and among whom you do it, you have access to relationships, skills, and influence other people never will have.
Some of your co-workers may be ready for life in Jesus. Or, already loving him, they might be ready for action that you could catalyze. Your co-workers might not think it's cool to give Bibles to Muslims, but they might rally to an officewide effort to get malaria drugs and mosquito nets to a small town in Mozambique. Jesus is into all those kinds of things.
c. Your neighborhood
OK, now you tell me. How do the same kind of principles carry on out through the casual relationships you have with people around your town? Have you discovered ways to help them see Jesus and invite them into what he's doing?
These are just four "sticks" that I see often overlooked in the hands of people I minister to. Surely there are more. Could you do two things for me?
1. Share other overlooked missional capacity that you see in the comments section for this article on our website.
2. Think about others who might benefit from this. Hit the "forward" button below and send this on to them. I'd appreciate it.