The other day, I was visiting one of the saints of our church. The doctor had just told her there was nothing more that could be done. Between her cancer and a bad heart, she was just running out of time.
She was ready. After a lifetime of serving Jesus, she was ready to meet Him at last. I don’t know, however, if she was eager to see Him for worship or if she had a few things she wanted to discuss with Him. I think she had disagreed with the way a few things worked out after she had prayed about them.
She was still feisty, and one of the things she was fussing about was how much her Sunday School class was doing for her. They were bringing meals. They were sending flowers and cards. They were, for all I could see, loving her well.
“But they don’t take care of me,” she huffed. “I take care of them.”
“Now,” I said as I called her by name, “the ladies in your class have been watching you love them for all of these years. You’ve walked with them through the loss of their husbands and every other kind of challenge. They love you and they want to give back. Don’t rob them of the blessing of ministering to you.”
“Well,” she said. “I didn’t think of it that way.”
Few of us do. Most of the time, we are so consumed with what Jesus is doing in us we don’t realize Jesus is working in everyone else’s life as well. That means, for every opportunity of service, ministry or mission, Jesus is preparing someone to be ready for that moment. In that moment, these individuals will know one of the most important blessings of all -- they’ll know who they are. They’ll know why they were born.
Several years ago, our church built a facility to support the work of our Deaf Church. The Inman Center for the Deaf is, as far as we know, the only building in the United States uniquely designed to support the needs of the deaf in worship and teaching. For instance, the sound system is designed to pump sound into the floor of the deaf worship center. The deaf feel the vibrations and then join in the worship songs and hymns by signing, and sometimes, singing. The best sound system in our church is in the deaf center. Go figure.
As we started making plans to build the facility, we were talking to architects, and in the middle of our conversation, the architects in the room got very quiet -- uncomfortably so. I asked the lead architect if something was wrong. “Mike, you’re not going to believe this. We had no idea about what you wanted to do, and now, we’re hearing about a deaf worship center.” He sat up as if he was trying to reinforce his own faith in what he was about to say. “Mike, we hired a deaf architect last week.”
Cynthia was indeed deaf, and when we showed her what we wanted to do, she broke down and started crying. “This is why God made me an architect.”
In that moment, Cynthia got her blessing.
Jesus did say it was more blessed to give than to receive. He didn’t say receiving gifts wasn’t blessed. Jesus Himself received gifts from people who loved Him. One of the most famous stories is when the woman broke the alabaster jar of expensive perfume and washed Jesus’ feet. While the crowd around Him was calling for Jesus to refuse the gift -- after all, the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor -- Jesus received her gift of worship and adoration.
As leaders, we need to understand one of our most important roles is calling out the gifts of others and showing them how they can be used by God in some significant way. God told Moses the names of the craftsman who had been prepared to build the tabernacle. God had been working in David’s life long before Samuel anointed him to be king. Samuel’s role was to call out and confirm David’s destiny. Years before, Eli had done the same thing in Samuel’s life.
Paul wrote several letters encouraging Christ followers to recognize the gifts the Father had given to them, and then, use those gifts to spread the gospel. The letters of 1 and 2 Timothy are prime examples of Paul’s encouragement to a young leader to not be afraid to use his gift and seize the moment.
As leaders, we will always face the temptation of just doing it ourselves. It’s faster. It’s easier. It’s also self-defeating. There’s no way any one person can accomplish all God desires to do without developing more and more leaders and then releasing those leaders to their calling. Too many of us are wearing ourselves out because we refuse to allow other people to do the ministry for which God has prepared them. They don’t “get their blessing” and we end up worn out.
One of the greatest thrills any parent has is watching their children succeed. It’s the same in the church. Our greatest moments come not when we as leaders do something for the kingdom, but when one of our students, someone we’ve poured our lives into, steps into the moment for which they were created and find their blessing.
In that moment, we find our own blessing as well, and if we rob them of it, we rob ourselves too.