Years ago, as a plastering contractor, I had a unique tool that I favored above all the others. It was my finishing trowel. When it was new, it was just like any other trowel but it got better with age. Through years of use, the once squared sides had worn down until the front was considerably narrower than the back.
The rough unfinished wooden handle had been worn to a polished, bone-like finish from rubbing against my gloved hand and the edge was honed razor-sharp from use.
The old-timers used to tell me how their trowels would “sing” on the hard plastered walls. I never knew what that meant until my own trowel became well worn and I could hear the distinct ringing sound of a fine tool against the hardening plaster surfaces
I loved that trowel. One day, I set my tools on the ground while I moved my mortarboard. When I turned back, I found that a large tractor had run over my tools.
My trowel was broken into pieces. The handle was split into fractions, the shaft was snapped off and the steel blade was cracked and popped off its rivets. My favorite tool was useless junk.
I knelt down and carefully gathered up all the broken pieces. I carried them back to my truck and gently placed them in my toolbox. After a few sad moments of mournful silence, I picked up another trowel and returned to finish my work.
I learned a few things that day about tools in the hands of the Master Craftsman. God is at work in this world and nothing can thwart His purposes. In Matt. 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
That verse is clear; Jesus affirms that the Church is HIS and HE is the builder and protector.
In Eph. 2:10 we learn that “…we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…”
The subject, here, is the Church and God is the Designer, Creator, and the Master Craftsman. He uses His people to do His work. If we become useless or unavailable, He will still finish His work according to His plan.
This is important to remember lest we “think more highly of ourselves than we ought.” None of us is indispensable in God’s work and He is not dependent on any one of us, in particular, to get the job done. We are only His tools. And like a Master craftsman, God has special tools for specific jobs. In verses 6-7 Paul explains, that, for God to make the gentiles part of that “building,” he, Paul was “made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power.”
So, the Craftsman has the right to decide which tools to use and how He uses them.
Have you ever deliberately ruined a perfectly good tool for a reason? I have. There was a time that I needed a special tool for a particular, one time, purpose. There was nothing suitable for the job except the shank of a good trowel so I broke off the blade to create the custom tool I needed to complete the job.
Sometimes God takes a perfectly good tool and destroys it for His purpose. And people will ask, “How could a loving God do that?” Fanny Crosby comes to mind. Had she not been made blind, she might never have had the spiritual sight that inspired her great hymns of Faith.
God knows precisely what tools He needs to accomplish His purpose. There is a similar example in Scripture- “…as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Jn. 9:1-3
Some tools, like my trowel, get better when they are “broken in.” In God’s hand, we become honed and polished, through trials and hardships in our lives, to make us useful and favored tools of His choice. In Eph. 2:22-3:1 Paul introduces himself as a prisoner for “this cause…”
What cause was that? God was building His Church and, in His sovereign plan, He needed His servant to be imprisoned.
Tools can do nothing apart from the skill and ability of the craftsman and a skilled craftsman can accomplish very fine work with just mediocre tools. God is sovereign and all-powerful. He will accomplish His work completely and with excellence and He does it with imperfect tools.
Elijah was a prophet of God. His story reminds me of my trowel. Through his many years of service, he had been honed and polished to the point that he was a favored tool of choice in God’s hands. And I can imagine how Elijah must have been “singing” the praises of God as he personally experienced God’s mighty work through him.
But the time came when Elijah became unusable. When he looked around at his circumstances, he began to lose faith, he became fearful, and he ran away to hide. God came looking for him and demonstrated His power and provision but Elijah was still fearful. It was like that tractor driver had run over him. Elijah had become unusable.
So God picked up another tool, Elisha, to complete His work. Did God still love Elijah? Of course He did and He swept him up in a whirlwind and carried him off to Heaven in a chariot of fire.
Remember, God is the Master craftsman and He has many tools at His disposal. Should we become unusable, He may lovingly take us up and carry us home.
Now, that brings me to an important point for our local congregations. About 60 years ago, my church family was devastated. We had lost our pastor, our pianist, our choir director, and a couple deacons and Sunday school teachers all within a few short weeks.
I was fearful and uncertain about our future. I asked a long-time member, a godly elderly woman, “what was going to happen to our church?”
She was quick with a comforting answer.
“You don’t need to worry about that,” she said, “This is God’s church and He is at work to accomplish His will for our good and His glory.”
She was right; in just a few months God had raised up new people to serve in our church.
My question to that woman came back to me recently when we announced our move away from our church. Someone asked me, “What are we going to do without you and your family?”
And I had the answer – “This is God’s church. He is in control and He will raise up people to continue His work.”
Our responsibility is to be ready, available, and willing, to be useful tools in the Hands of the Master. And whenever we feel like we are not good enough, smart enough, or skilled enough to be of any use to God, we should think again about this passage in 1 Cor. 1:27-29; “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Did you catch that? NO ONE can boast; God gets all the glory.
The great hymn, TO BE USED OF GOD, was written by Audrey Meier and it expresses her desire “to sing, to speak, to pray, to lead, or TO BE USED by God” in whatever capacity He deems fit.
And that should be the desire of every Christian.