Someone once said, “Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires, but according to our capacities.” We can all see the truth in that statement when it comes to serving the Lord.
When God told Jonah to go and preach in the city of Nineveh, Jonah did not care to go. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, hated enemies of Israel; he did not want those people to repent! So he decided quite literally to travel in the opposite direction. He attempted to live according to his own desires, and look what happened to him. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, and He meant for him to do just that. Jonah finally, reluctantly, went to Nineveh (and then pouted when his preaching was successful!).
When God told Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice, Abraham did not want to do it. No one would say it was according to his desires. But he took a position contrary to that of Jonah. He did not try to run away from God. I doubt that he even allowed that thought to enter his mind. He believed in God; more than that, he trusted God. His faith did not ask God for reasons, only directions. When God pointed in some direction, Abraham was willing to go that way. So, without any hesitation, he took his son to offer him as God directed: not according to his own desires but according to God’s desires.
In sending the apostles to death by commanding them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus did not question them concerning their desires in the matter. He ordered them to go. They were not under any illusions about what awaited them. He told them that they would be hated, despised, persecuted and even killed if they did what he wanted them to do. No one would say it was their desire to have those things happen to them. No one in their right mind relishes the prospect of being tortured and killed. But Jesus knew what he wanted them to do; without considering their likes or dislikes in the matter, he commanded them to do it, and they did.
There are any number of examples we could pull from Scripture to illustrate the principle, but these are sufficient to demonstrate the truth of statement made at the outset of the article We are not to be useful according to our desires, but according to our capacities. Jesus taught this lesson in the parable of the talents. He taught it when he said from those who had much he would require much, and from those who had little he would require little. He taught it when he said those who have shall have more, and those who have not shall lose what they think they have. It is the only way service to Christ can be accepted. But it is fundamentally fair to us: he would not have some eased and others burdened.
In light of this, it might be well to ask ourselves this question, “Am I being fair?” We value fairness in all aspects of life. We want people to play fair in any game – no cheating. We demand that they be fair with us in business dealings. Don’t try to push us around. Are we being fair to God?
We have to work hard all week for our employer. We don’t like it. So we treat the Lord like we feel that others have treated us and run out on him Sunday. Parents, you expect your children to be fair. If you provide a comfortable home for them, and the advantages of the best schools, you demand a decent report card. Yet, we are so unfair with God as to neglect to study his word. We might not even talk to him on a regular basis. Where is our sense of fairness?
How useful are we to the Lord? Do we have the capacity to be more useful? If so, the Lord demands it of us. He may not prepare a fish to swallow us like he did with Jonah. But there is a day of reckoning coming.