“I really want to tell my story, but… who’d want to hear?”
The question was asked tentatively by a woman who usually hung in the shadows. Her story was a dramatic one - a drug-induced spiral into an insidious street-life, where pimps and dealers enforced self-made laws, with the occasional run-in with the police thrown in for excitement. The streets were South African, the drug lords our own, and the story of her escape from the living hell around the corner from our schools and churches was nothing short of miraculous. But, as she said, “It’s not like I’m the first person to escape from a life of addiction. I’ve read tons of biographies of people’s journey of recovery, and frankly, I was quite cynical about them all. Why tell mine?”
What a great question! Why should we share ourselves - our talents and our stories - with the communities that we live in? Why should we bother, when the world at our fingertips offers everything we have to offer, but instantly, effortlessly, and more fantastically then we ever could. Why should we write music, put on plays, preach sermons, make movies, write books, design clothing, or sing songs? With the world being so international, so small and so connected, you can always find, within seconds, someone who’s doing what you want to do, only better. “Isn’t it vanity to think I have anything more to add or different to tell?” she reasoned. “Who am I?”
I wonder if you have asked yourself the same question. Why would I give myself to the world when the world already has so much talent, so many gifts, so many stories? I’m going to make this personal for a minute, and then bring it back to you. One of the things I believe I am called to is to be a prophetic teacher in the church. That means that I am gifted to teach, and also to bring a message of what God is saying to the church. Now, you are welcome to listen to my messages online, and I think you will conclude two things:
1. I am gifted to teach and to bring messages on God’s behalf.
2. I am nowhere near the best teacher that you have ever heard, and if I was to measure myself against other preachers, it would be a very dismal contest for me indeed.
So what am I to do?
Honestly, I sometimes find it tough to get up and preach, knowing that there are others who could, and do, do it better than me. Just click on a podcast and you can listen to the greatest preachers in the world. But I believe that God is the one who gives gifts to the local church - to our local communities - and I believe he’s given gifts to every church and community.
Now Christ gave gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of traveling or of watching travel documentaries, you will probably have noticed that each place in the world has its own kind of beauty - mountains, seas, lakes, and plains - God has left no part of his [unspoiled] planet devoid of beauty. But as you travel, you also realise how beautiful your own country is, and it feels silly to have had to travel around the world just to realise that God has put equal and breathtaking beauty all around us right at home.
I am of the opinion that God has done this intentionally. No matter where you live, you will be able to see the glory and magnificence of His creation. I believe in like manner, no matter where you live, as long as you are in community with others, then right there in your midst, in the people around you, are gifts for your strengthening and encouragement and enjoyment.
And so we come back to the brave question I was asked. “Isn’t it vanity to think I have anything more to add or different to tell? Who am I?”
If you think you need to be a voice to the world at large... then perhaps (possibly not, but...perhaps) that might be vanity. If you think you need to add something more or tell something different, then perhaps... perhaps you will be under so much pressure to come up with something new under the sun that you will be unable to get started. BUT if you understand that God has placed YOU into a certain community, that He has determined the exact time and place in which you should live (Acts 17:26), and that He has placed certain giftings and a unique story WITHIN YOU, then it would make sense that He has done this for a reason.
And so I will give to you the same answer I gave to this woman as she warily considered the value of coming out of the shadows of obscurity and into community: We need you. We want you. We want to hear your story, we want to share in the victory of God in your life. It makes sense to be cynical when we read stories of people we don't know - that's the very reason why we need to have living testimonies among us.
God has given gifts to His church. He is not expecting us to travel the globe to find them. Right where we live He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Locked up in you and me are the gifts and stories and creative talents that our community needs to be able to live an abundant life and see God's glory. Let the light within you shine! If you're not the best singer in the world that really doesn't matter. If you are the singer God gave us then you're the singer we want! Whatever it is that is inside you, don't hold it back from us. The gift is through you, but it's for others. Any inspiration that shines through you allows us to see the Spirit in you. The word 'inspiration' means to be 'in spirit'. It speaks of the life of God welling up inside you and urging you to act. So live inspired, give way to the inspiration, and release the life within you for the good of the community around you.
Who are you, you ask? You are God's gift to the community you live in!