“Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.” Psalm 86:6
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
I’ve been encouraging my Sunday School kids to memorize the Bible verse that the curriculum highlights as a memory verse each week. I’d really like them to learn the actual verse, not just the paraphrased version that the curriculum gives them, so I print out the verse for them on a card and send it home to add to the ring I gave them for that purpose. I am working to memorize the verses, too, because I don’t want to just encourage them by telling them only, but by doing it alongside them by example.
Psalm 86:6 was the verse a few weeks ago, and I’ve been pondering on it, especially in light of how poverty-stricken I feel in regards to my ability to teach my little class. I thought I’d share some of my pondering.
Far too often I find that I do not step out in faith to serve because I fear that I will not serve well, that I have nothing to offer, that I’m not ready, not equipped, you can probably name all the excuses that paralyze me often. My perfectionistic bent leads to sin when I fail to serve at all as I wait for the time when I feel that, in my own ability, I can do a job perfectly, and when I, in my own comfort, sit and wait for just the right opportunity to feel just right, because that time never comes, and I find that I’m still sitting in that warm pew when I want so much to be living as though I am an attached and usable and teachable part of the Body of Christ, serving Him and serving His Body through my local church. That time never comes because I am waiting on a feeling and trusting my own ability rather than recognizing my abject poverty of spirit, and surrendering my need to know enough, be enough, and start resting in the grace of my Savior and understanding that it is in His strength, and His alone, that I can obey and serve.
I confess to you that I get overwhelmed each week when I look at the curriculum lesson for that Sunday and try to get my brain wrapped around it. So many little things to remember and do. And every week I am assaulted by the thought, "Who am I to think I should stand up and teach these kids? Surely someone else could do such a better job at it." But as the anxiety wells up, I have learned to pray, and pray fervently for grace, mercy and wisdom and for a clear mind as I prepare. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently for Him to develop in my heart such a love for Him and a passion to obey out of heartfelt gratitude for who He is and what He has done in me that it will be evident to the kids that Jesus is the only One worthy of praise. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently that I would rightly teach the Word and not get so hung up in the fluffy details, recognizing that this is the main thing: to teach them rightly about God and His word, not so much whether I remember or do every little activity exactly as the teacher book says. And I have learned to pray, and pray fervently, that He will grow in me a love for the kids I teach so that I move beyond checking the boxes and going through the motions the lesson plan has for me, but that I be communicating with these kids wonderful truths about the God who created them and sent His Son to die and rise again to set them free from the bondage of sin.
And because of who Jesus is, for His sake, God has clothed me in His righteousness. It is for Jesus’ sake that God hears my prayer and listens to my plea for grace and that I can boldly approach His very throne of grace. Finally, finally I am learning what a depth of need I have for grace every single moment of every single day in every single step of obedience I seek to walk. And friends, He supplies my every need, abundantly and more. He quiets the anxious thoughts that spiral and allows me to think clearly. He allows me to see that it is not my perfect presentation that will turn the hearts of these children to Him. I have absolutely no power to convince them of their need of a Savior. He, and He alone, can open their eyes and ears and hearts to the gospel. It is all grace.
So, yes, I want to be a willing servant. And yes, I recognize that I am not able on my own. But He is. He is. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, even as He commanded us to teach the gospel. And I know that He will work through me and grant me the ability to serve Him and teach those He has granted me the privilege to teach.
And I know that this poverty of spirit is exactly where I need to be. The minute I start thinking I’ve got this, I can do this without those desperate prayers for grace, that is the minute I’ve forgotten just who I am and just Who He is. I don’t want to do this with my perfectionistic imperfection alone. I don’t want merely a nice presentation with no power. I want it to be all His. I’d rather be a little less ‘perfect’ but very, very real and very, very dependent on His grace and mercy, and I want the kids to hear what a great God and Savior He truly is.
**As I was thinking on this subject and working out this post, I listened to Alistair Begg's radio message today. It was extremely apropos. I'm thankful he shared that today. Truth for Life is the organization, and I highly recommend the messages.