Labels#6. “Useless.”

Before I had a major operation the surgical team visited my bedside. I appreciated the reassuring tones of the conversation and admired them for believing it possible that I might be able to understand a word they were saying. When they asked me if I had any questions, I saw myself as a TV Medical Drama patient who was trying to nod and smile in all the right places. This team had a job to do, and someone somewhere had decided that they needed to talk to the patient first. Personally, I did not mind that anything I might contribute was useless to their cause; they knew what they were doing, and praise God, they did it well. “Uselessness” was my greatest contribution.

Christians do well to acknowledge their potential for uselessness in the cause of Christ. I am reminded that the church was great before I arrived, and it will be great long after I’m gone. I can only pray that I have faith enough to rise above Isaiah’s chilling words:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Simply put, our usefulness in the Church is lived out by doing godly acts. These good deeds result in discernible fruits of righteousness. Hence it is vital that we be reminded of where that fruitfulness originates, and from where it is sustained. Jesus says:
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

The apostle Peter commands us to add to our faith (in ever-increasing amounts): goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).

“Useless” is not a label that we want stuck to us.

John Staiger

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