“PUT ME TO WHAT THOU WILT”
Today’s Scripture Reading
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
We are advancing nicely through part one of Wesley's prayer. On day one, we started with acknowledging that we are created in the image of God and with an understanding of what it means to have purpose and meaning in our lives. Day two, we progressed toward learnig what it means to wholly surrender ourselves to God's good work in the world. Day three, we briefly yet broadly outlined what God's good work in the world is -- a world restored. Now, here on day four, we are going to identify the kinds of actions God might require of us in order to live on mission, or to faithfully participate with God to restore the world toward its intended wholeness.
Wesley's prayer now guides us into action -- "Put me to what thou wilt" is a way of saying, "Use me for whatever you need, God." Once we realize who we are and for what we have been created, we can begin to see that within God's good, redemptive work in the world we play a vital role. we are the agents of reconciliation or the ambassadors that God is using to draw people toward God. Second Corinthians 5:20 says, "... we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you [the church in Corinth] through us [those who believe]." This is part of God's plan of grace. Wesleyans refer to this type of grace as prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is the grace God gives that is meant to prepare people's hearts in order to recognize and receive God's gift of salvation.
Like a messenger sent to bring the good news to the people of Israel in the Isaiah passage below, so do we as faithful Christians, designed with purpose and for meaning, bring the good news to all those whom we come into contact with whenever we live, work, study, or play. Isaiah's words provide a great picture to see how we might be used of God as we are put to God's will:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of a messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God rules!"
Listen! Your lookouts lift their voice;
they sing out together!
Right before their eyes they see the LORD returning to Zion.
Break into song together, you ruins of Jerusalem!
The LORD has comforted his people and has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm in view of all the nations;
all the ends of the earth have seen our God's victory.
We are the messengers that God wills. God directs and, as a result, faithful disciples respond submissively. Deeply committed disciples are to proclaim peace, bring good news, proclaim salvation, and shout (with word and deed) that God rules, God returns to God's people, and God redeems. We, the church are the holy arm that God enlists to see victory. This means that we drop our own agendas and self-interests, and take on more humility and generosity for the sake of others, or as Jesus prays in John 17:23, so the "the world will know."
In Jesus's High Priestly Prayer (John 17:1-26), Jesus prays for three matters. First, he prays for himself that he might honor God in his submissive actions leading to death on the cross. Second, he prays for his friends, his disciples. Finally, Jesus prays or all future believers who will come to a belief in God's goodness because of the work his disciples will carry out after Jesus' resurrection and return to God's side. In essence, Jesus prays for the sake of the world -- that the world would know the love of God as Jesus knows the love of God. This is an incredible illustration of Jesus living the prayer, "Put me to what thou wilt."
Like Jesus, when we as Christians live for the sake of others, we take thoughtful action on allowing God to "Put me (us) to what thou wilt." This means, as you might imagine, that we are subject to God's authority, and when we receive a special calling or a Spirit-stimulated impression upon our mind or heart, we must take action upon it. How might God put us to what God wills? First, God might ask you, similarly to how he asked the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament, to take on a task that seems to human logic like a waste of time. Or, maybe, like Moses, God asks you to lead a group of people that is marked by defiance, constant grumbling, and rugged hearts. Paul was asked to take the gospel to unfamiliar places and literally put his life on the line when doing so. When God puts us to what God wills, God gives us a special assignment in which to participate in God's redemptive activity.
Second, God may ask you to do what appears to be the mundane with your special assignment. Maybe your aren't asked to put your life on the line and take the gospel into the unfamiliar as Paul did. Perhaps you are, however, asked to simply pray, listen, and care. Praying, "Put me to what thou wilt," may mean you are called to pray for the sick, listen well to the stories of others, and care for others by meeting their needs. It may even mean you are called to share your personal possessions with those in need, or invite people into your community who may not otherwise have a community in which to belong and feel safe.
Finally, to ask God to "Put me to what thou wilt" might mean that you are unusually stretched beyond your comfort zone and asked to do things like speak up and speak out to your friends, or even strangers, when you hear them speak with prejudice or discrimination. You may be asked to help develop more opportunities for people of color or lead corporate, community, or church settings, or maybe even asked to protest or march for those oppressed by racism or any other of the many -isms afflicting our world today, such as classism, sexism, or ageism. "Put me to what thou wilt" may actually mean that you are putting your life on the line for the sake of others. Right now, as I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking that world by storm. Doctors, nurses, first responders, people in the service industry, pastors and others are quite literally putting their lives on the line each time they dare for a person who may be a carrier of the coronavirus. We pray, "Put me to what thou wilt," knowing that God's plan for our life is not our plan, and that if we are faithful to the prayer, we lay down our own selves for the sake of the other. This is how God's kingdom works.
How open am I to being put to God's work?
Why have I been created? Am I living into that?
Give us a clear picture of where we can be the messengers of God's good news. Give us compassionate hearts for others and grant us the courage to carry out any special assignments that God might have for us. Amen.
Make a list of three random acts of kindness that you can do today. Share them with others so that you are held accountable. Perform that acts of kindness and spend time reflecting on your experience.
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