The True Gift
K.C. Tsai―Toronto, Canada
I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider
who comes near shall be put to death. (Num 18:7b)
Just as God gave the priesthood to
Aaron and his sons, any opportunity to serve Him is a gift and a privilege
bestowed by Him. It is not for man to decide whether he wants to serve the Lord.
God has the absolute sovereignty to choose His servants. Therefore, if we are determined
to serve God, we should seize the opportunity to cultivate ourselves spiritually
and await His calling. If we steadfastly continue in spiritual cultivation and sanctification,
God will reveal His purpose for us in His time.
Participating in church work
requires time and effort. Many regard it as a sacrifice and a contribution of
their talents. They may even claim that a certain task was completed because they
had sacrificed much precious family time and contributed their talents. But is this
really the case? The God whom we serve is almighty, lacking in nothing. He does
not need man to complete His work. On the contrary, His providence surrounds us
and it is we who are always in need of Him.
By the word of the LORD the
heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
The Lord speaks, and it is done;
He commands, and it stands fast. This is why He is worthy of our worship and our
trust. His power is absolute and requires no human assistance (Isa 40:12–17). However,
out of His love, He is willing to work with His loved ones, allowing them to participate
in His salvation plan and to share in His glory.
A SMALL GESTURE OF THANKS
On the third occasion when Jesus
appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He performed a miracle by the
Sea of Tiberias (Jn
21:1–14). The disciples had fished the entire night without success. Then Jesus
appeared and, on His advice, they caught 153 large fish. This miracle immediately
strengthened their waning faith. Jesus’ crucifixion had left the disciples at a
loss so they returned to their previous occupation of fishing. But seeing Jesus
immediately brought to mind His promise to them at their initial calling: they
would be fishers of men. And when they reached the shore, they saw fish being
cooked over a fire, and bread. Jesus then said to them, "Bring some of the
fish which you have just caught."
We rarely notice this detail but
Jesus’ choice of pronoun was meaningful. The disciples had actually not caught anything.
The fish in their boat were entirely the result of the Lord’s grace. Their
professional skills and experience which they applied the whole night had
netted them nothing. But Jesus regarded these fish as the fruit of their labor!
Without going out to sea to fish, Jesus
already had fish and bread prepared for His loved ones. Yet He asked them to take
the fish that they had caught to the fire. It was certainly not because He had
not prepared enough nor because He could not have produced some more. Instead,
He invited them to contribute because He delights in offerings that come from a
sincere and thankful heart. It means much to Him to see a genuine willingness in
His beloved people to present part of what He has given them back to Him (1 Chr 29:14). It may be the smallest gesture but to the God
who loves us unconditionally, it touches Him to see that we love Him too.
A CLEAN VESSEL, READY FOR THE MASTER’S USE
Moses was learned in all the
wisdom of the Egyptians and mighty in words and deeds (Acts 7:22). Motivated
and talented, he decided—at the age of forty—to do something for his people. He
presumed that his brethren would understand that God would deliver them by his
hand (Acts 7:25).
What possessed Moses to make such
a bold assumption?
Moses was young and powerful, possessing
great talents and holding a position as Egyptian prince. He thought that he had
been given all these to deliver his people. But God’s time had not yet come.
Besides, God did not need to tap on Moses’ talents or connections to save His
people. Delivering the people from slavery could not be accomplished by might
or by power but only by the Spirit of God.
Hence, God waited another forty years
before He called His servant. By that time, Moses had neither eloquence nor
self-confidence. In human eyes, Moses was a “has-been.” But in God’s eyes, this
was the right time for God’s call and commission—when Moses can take no credit for
the deliverance of Israel.
From that moment, Moses would go on to become a great spiritual leader, a
servant of God and His people, denying himself in total obedience to the word
of the true Leader of Israel.
The forty years Moses spent in the
wilderness were vital to his complete submission to God’s leadership. It was God
who paved this way for him. However, the earlier forty years that he had spent
in the Egyptian palace were not without God’s purpose. It had been a time for
Moses to acquire the knowledge of Egypt while learning about his true
identity. Although being a part of Israel—a
people separate to God―had become more precious to him than the treasures
(Heb 11:26), Moses studied diligently and became mighty in words and deeds. Eventually,
God made use of Moses’ knowledge and talents to pass down His ordinances and to
compile the Pentateuch, leaving no excuse for man to claim ignorance of His
will and His commandments.
Today, we do not have to hail from
royalty—as Moses did—in order to be used by God. The Lord called not only
priests and scribes, but also shepherds, farmers, tax collectors, fishermen,
But in a great house there are
not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor
and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he
will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for
every good work.” (2 Tim 2:20–21)
We do not have to be a vessel of
gold or silver to serve God. But we do need to be clean and sanctified to be
ready for God’s use. The prophet Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying:
"Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" and replied, "Here
am I! Send me." But this was after the seraphim had touched his lips with
a live coal from the altar and cleansed him (Isa 6:6–8). Isaiah knew it was
important to serve but understood that being cleansed with the word of God was
even more important.
Paul was called when he was still
completely ignorant of the Lord Jesus. He was on the way to Damascus to persecute those who believed in
Jesus, when a light from heaven suddenly shone on him. He fell to the ground
and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
Paul was caught unprepared. He
loved God and thought He had been serving Him. Ironically, it turned out that
he had been persecuting the Lord. A sudden blindness made Saul see this reality.
In complete darkness for three days, he came to understand the purpose of his
calling. Immediately afterwards, he began to preach Christ in the synagogues in
without success. Worse, he had to flee for his life, leaving in a basket lowered
from the city wall, since the Jews were watching the gates day and night,
plotting to kill him.
When he eventually came to Jerusalem, he spoke
boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He debated the Hellenists who responded
by trying to kill him. Therefore, the brethren had to send him away to Tarsus. It was only later
when Barnabas took him to Antioch
that the Holy Spirit sent both of them out to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.
Although Paul had the zeal to
serve God even before he was called and had studied the Scriptures diligently
(Gal 1:14), he did not possess true wisdom for salvation through faith in
Christ (2 Tim 3:15). After his calling, he was truly sincere in his desire to
serve the Lord Jesus. But before the Holy Spirit commissioned him, God wanted Paul
to reflect on all the events in his life and to understand who the Messiah truly
was, according to Moses and the prophets. Through all these, he became more
humble and learned how to wait on God.
Was Paul’s exceeding zeal for the Jewish
laws and traditions in his youth all in vain? Had he studied the Scriptures for
nothing? No. His knowledge of Moses and the prophets came in very useful when
he witnessed for Christ and expounded the truth of salvation. Well-equipped with
the knowledge of the Jews when God called him, Paul went on to be an indispensable
vessel in the house of God.
Analogously, we do not know when God
will deem us ready for His use. But we know that we can only be called to serve
if we persevere in learning the truth and transforming ourselves into a useful
vessel. There are various vessels in the house of God, each with its unique
function. Most importantly, a vessel has to be clean in the eyes of the Master
and dedicated to its unique usage.
OUR GIFT TO GOD
With what shall I come before
the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with
burnt offerings, with calves a year old? (Mic 6:6)
When we come before God, we
naturally want to present an offering to Him. But if everything comes from Him,
what can we offer to show our gratitude and praise? We have only ourselves to
present to Him. Therefore, Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by
the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1).
The examples of Moses and Paul
remind us that the journey of faith begins with an encounter with the Lord and
concludes with a living sacrifice. In between, we are to equip ourselves with
the truth, identify God’s purpose for our lives, and watchfully wait for His
Once God calls us to serve, it is
for life. Serving Him is a life-long process that gradually transforms our
lives. And this is the true gift from Him. Hence, we ought to offer ourselves
as a living sacrifice—the true gift that we can present to God in return for
all His goodness to us.