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A USEFUL PERSON
by Philip Owen

             Have you ever wondered what makes a person useful to the Lord?  Is it special talents or unique skillsets?  Do certain mental abilities or personality traits render someone more useful in God’s service?  In other words, do those of us who seem to lack what others might consider first-rate abilities in this or that area have neither opportunity nor hope of valuable service for the Lord?  While it is certainly true that some talents lend themselves to a particular area of service (A person without musical skill, for example, is probably not going to serve the Lord by accompanying the congregation on the organ during congregational singing.), neither a certain level nor a certain number of talents is a prerequisite for being used by the Lord.   The truth is that we know little about many of the servants of the Lord regarding their gifts and skills.  Habakkuk the prophet is such a person.  Almost nothing is said about him personally, and very little personal information about him can be deduced from his recorded prophecy.  But Habakkuk’s comments in the first verse of the second chapter of his prophecy speak volumes about the sort of individual God delights to use:  “I will stand upon my watch,” he vows, “and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.”  Note the remarkable attitude expressed by this servant of Jehovah.

             A useful person watches.  Habakkuk has questioned the Lord (Hab. 1:13-17), and now he awaits a response to His questions.  The three synonymous phrases at the beginning of our text do not suggest a physical activity or a literal place:  Habakkuk has not climbed a stone parapet to view the landscape or scan the natural horizon.  Instead, they describe an attitude: Habakkuk is preparing his heart to receive the response of the Lord.  The poetic repetitions serve to emphasize how earnest are his preparations to receive God’s answer and how intense is his determination to recognize and understand God’s voice.  His life is ordered in such a fashion that he will not be distracted by the ordinary activities of life.  His spiritual eyes are focused on looking for and seeing God’s response.  Others may be consumed with keeping up, getting ahead, or being comfortable; he will be consumed with receiving the Word of God.  How does he watch then?  Earnestly, devotedly, single-mindedly.  And who or what does he watch?  Habakkuk certainly watched his people, Israel.  He also watched the Chaldeans, the enemies of his people.  But his eyes were most especially upon the Lord:  “I will stand upon my watch . . . to see what he [the Lord] will say unto me.”  Habakkuk had every reason to be vigilant for and wary about the state and circumstances of his people.  And watch them and watch out for them he did.  But his heart and mind remained fixed upon the Lord.  Whatever he might know about the status of his people and their relative security or jeopardy—God knew it all far better than he.  It was not his first concern to be able to know and understand their circumstances and report them accurately to God.  It was his primary concern to hear what the Lord had to say about those circumstances—their nature, their end, their remedy, if remedy there might be.  Who or what does a useful person watch?  He watches the Lord.

             A useful person submits.  “What I shall answer when I am reproved” is how Habakkuk expresses it.  He has made a complaint to the Lord and realizes that he may misunderstand what he sees on the ground or that he may not understand God’s purposes.  He certainly has an opinion about those circumstances, but he wants to hear God’s view and submit to that whether it confirms or refutes his view.  Humility, submission, and a willingness to be corrected, rebuked, and even chastened are hallmarks of people who are useful to the Lord.  Not the strong-willed, certainly not the self-willed, but the “thy-willed” are those whom God can use.  Some are useful to God in serving as followers; others are useful in serving as leaders.  But both must have wills that bow to the Word of God if they are to be of any value in service to the Lord.  The naturally bold or brash have no advantage over the naturally bashful or backward.  A submissive heart serves to put a brake and a steering wheel on the bold and brash and an engine and a drivetrain on the bashful and backward.

               In short, God delights to use those whose hearts are fixed on His Word and whose wills are submitted to Him.

 

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