It was the probing question God asked Moses at the burning bush. And it is the question each of us must answer in our own dealings with God and His people. Until we’ve listened to the question, reflected on it, and answered it, we will never know quite what we’re doing.
You remember the story that begins in the third chapter of the Book of Exodus. Moses had spent forty years in the wilderness working as a shepherd when he saw something one day that drew him aside from his tasks. He saw a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. Curious about the phenomenon, he approached.
Then he heard the voice of God. It was the first time in four hundred years that God had spoken to His people, so no one was expecting this. And no one, certainly not Moses, was expecting God to say what He said to him that day.
God told Moses that He had heard the cries of His people in bondage in Egypt, where the entire nation had been enslaved. God said that He was going to deliver His people from their slavery in Egypt and take them to the Land He had promised to their fathers.
This all sounded good to Moses, I’m sure, until God told him how He would deliver His people.
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).
Then Moses protests.
For several paragraphs, well into the next chapter, Moses tries to get away from God’s call on his life.
Finally, God asks him the question, the same question He’s asking each of us: “The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’” (Exodus 4:2).
Moses has good reason to doubt that God could use him. He’s got a checkered past: First a prince and then a fugitive of Egypt and now, an eighty year old shepherd, Moses has every reason to believe that his useful days are behind him.
But what Moses has in his hand is his staff. He has no idea why that was significant. He has no idea that God will use that staff to perform miracles in Pharaoh’s court to astound the Egyptians.
He has no idea God would use his long-honed skills as a shepherd to spend the next forty years herding the people of God toward that Promised Land.
He has no idea that God has been preparing him for this moment for the first eighty years of his life.
And that is the question each of us must hear from God: “What is that in your hand?” What gifts and skills and passions do you possess? How have your background and experience equipped you to serve God and His people and the people around you?
And that question is just as intimidating for us as it was for Moses. What do I have in my hand? And how can I use it to serve God’s purposes in my life?
There is not just one answer to that question; there are many answers for all of us. And if we want to answer God’s question, we need to give it careful thought.
What gifts and passions do I possess? We suffer from tunnel-vision in this matter. We imagine that God can use only a narrow range of gifts and talents. If we can’t sing or teach or lead from the front, we assume that we can’t be of much use to God. That’s because we are so aware of the gifts of the people who are in front, we don’t see how much work goes on behind the scenes. God has gifted His people to serve in a marvelous variety of ways.
I’m a good listener. I can hear not just what people are saying but also what they mean. I’m good at reading people and reading between the lines of what they are saying to get at the heart of their real concerns.
I’m good with my hands. If it’s broken, I can usually figure out a way to repair it. And I love working with my hands. And I love to help people by using those gifts.
I’m a good organizer and planner. I can foresee details and implications that don’t occur to most people until it’s too late. And I love organizing and arranging and tidying up. I love to help people with this sort of thing.
You get the idea. It’s not just the up-front talent that is useful to God. God gives gifted people to His church to serve His people. And the variety of those gifts is nothing short of astonishing. God gifts people for ministries of compassion and mercy, for ministries of serving and helping in practical ways, for working behind the scenes to make sure everything in front goes smoothly.
Moses had every reason to suppose that his useful days were behind him because of his age and his dubious legal status. But all along God was using all of that to prepare his man for the task.
And did you notice the pattern? There’s great joy in discovering the natural and spiritual gifts God has given you and employing them in His service. (If you want to learn more about your unique spiritual gifting, you can take an online spiritual gift survey to discover more about what gifts are in your hand.)
But there’s another question that we must all answer together:
What gifts and passions and skills to we possess as a body to serve and bless our community?
Patterson Park Church is a gifted, skilled, highly competent group of people who have a lot to offer. While we use those gifts to serve one another, we also must consider how we can use our gifts to serve the people around us.
When the tornadoes struck in May, we gathered by the dozens to help with clean-up. And that was good. Our leaders are now looking at ways that we can be better prepared the next time natural disaster strikes our community.
But we have so much more to offer our neighbors than chain-saws and rakes and strong backs. We have skills and knowledge that can be a great blessing to our neighbors and friends.
If we were only to begin with our local partners, the local ministries we already support, we would find many opportunities to help serve our community:
Below are listed some of the local ministries PPC supports. Many of our people are already involved in serving in these ministries. Click on a link to find out how you can get involved to serve.
Just in this short list, you can find ways to
befriend lonely international students (International Friendships)
help tell children about Jesus (Child Evangelism Fellowship)
help with boys struggling with emotional and behavioral issues (Operation Rebirth)
provide support and encouragement to women in crisis pregnancies so that they can find viable alternatives to abortion (Miami Valley Women’s Center)
work with athletes (Athletes in Action)
This is just a start. There are many other local ministries that our people are already involved in.
So this is the question each of us must ask ourselves and all of us must ask ourselves together: What is in our hand?
What background, experiences, skills, and talents has God entrusted to us to serve one another and serve our neighbors?
Let’s give that question careful thought.
Let’s discern what is in our hand.
And let’s get to work.