When I first became a Christian, I was in awe of members in my church that seemed so sure of their calling and gifting. One member would teach weekly Bible studies with boldness and confidence, while another would sing from the depths of their soul, stirring the hearts of the congregation on Sunday mornings. However, the members that really left me awestruck were the intercessors--The men and women who understood their gifted-anointing to battle against the devil and all of his evil work by using the right scriptures at just the right moment as their weapon of warfare through prayer.
I will admit as a young-in-the-Lord, impressionable Christian I desired that gifting. I wanted God to anoint me to be a great prayer warrior like the believers I encountered.. Not because intercessors were the most recognized in the church, or held a place center stage, but because they seemed to have great impact on people around them. Bold prayer warrior’s who called down heaven to heal, bless, restore, and touch the life of a hurting soul, one right after another—I wanted that kind of impact. And so I began to pray and ask God for the gift of intercession.
I prayed, and prayed, AND PRAYED. And while it became clear that my heart was certainly bent toward praying for the needs of others, the more I asked God for the specific gift of intercession, the more obvious it became that I wasn’t going to get it — The gift of intercession wasn’t my calling.
Indeed, we are all called to pray and intercede for one another and when are prayers are offered in faith they are effective, but as I asked God for that particular gift and all it entailed, God made it plain that I had been given the gift of encouragement and that’s how he wanted to use me. I knew deep down that it was true but the more the idea of being an encourager filled my heart the more I wondered how effective that gifting could really be. Honestly, how many batches of cookies could I bake, or “Thinking of You” trinkets could I make, or big bear hugs could I give all for the sake of encouragement and still have great impact on others?
Though the gift of encouragement didn’t seem nearly as exciting as the gift of being a Mighty Prayer Warrior, I nevertheless obeyed. I kept myself open to encourage others as God led through all sorts of creative ways. Before long, encouraging through writing also became part of the equation and it truly has been wonderful. Still, regardless of how many opportunities I’ve had to impact various people through the gift of encouragement, I still struggle once in awhile with the idea that I’m not having as much impact as I could have.
I was thinking about this particular struggle of mine the other day when I came across Luke 2:37. I’d read it before but you know how it goes. You can read something the same way nine times and then on the tenth time you understand it differently than you ever had before.
“This woman (Anna) was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.”
At eighty-four years old, a woman named Anna had a gift and calling to serve God through the simple act of fasting and praying and it made me wonder. Did Anna at any time in her life, crave a gifting that would have a little more impact on others than just fasting and praying in the temple? Did she ever question God if hanging around the temple was really effective? In her younger days, maybe she had bigger ideas of how God could have used her who knows. But from what Luke 2:37 says, the old woman was obedient and did what she felt led to do, a humble service of fasting and praying between her and her maker.
If by chance Anna was like most well-meaning Christians today, wanting something bigger, better and more significant as part of her service to God, all doubts, questions and wonderings, were settled the day Mary and Joseph walked into the temple carrying their child—the bundled up Savior of the world. As the old woman saw the young eyes of baby Jesus, I’m certain she knew then, that her obedience to the calling on her life of the seemingly small task of praying and fasting in the temple had all been part of God’s grand purpose.
Did Anna have great impact in her time? She might not have felt that way, but two thousand years later, we still remember Anna who in her old age didn’t strive for anything more than serving God in the way He had impressed upon her heart and because of it, she saw the Savior.
What has God impressed upon your heart? How does He want you to serve Him? Yes, God calls and gifts some to be preachers, teachers and intercessors, but he also calls and gifts many to give great big bear hugs and bake yummy cookies.
Instead of comparing ourselves to others, striving for bigger, better ways to leave our Christian stamp on this world, let’s try serving God in the little ways He leads us, and let Him take care of how that service will impact the world.
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