“Put me to what you will…” What the Covenant Renewal service says about our view of gifts and ministry

What do you enjoy doing around the house?  I love making deserts like rice pudding I would say that’s my gift. I enjoy making them and I enjoy sharing in eating them with others. I don’t mind getting out in the garden and cutting the lawn either.  I’m not so keen on drying up or cleaning the bathroom, so I hope someone else will do those things.

What about being part of the church family? I enjoy preaching and leading Bible studies. In church, you’ll find others who like preaching, discipling young people, playing or singing in the worship group etc.   However, when it comes to cold contact evangelism, especially on wet wintery days, helping in the kitchen, putting the chairs out, you don’t tend to find that these are top of the list of gifts for many. Yet, these things are as much an essential part of church life as getting to play by guitar up front or to preach.

The other day, we made use of the Covenant Renewal service thar originated with John Wesley.  The service contains this fantastic and beautiful prayer at the heart of the service.

I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

It’s a prayer that in the light of the Gospel declares my complete availability to Christ, whatever I face in life. Yet, if we are familiar with the words, and even not, there is something risky about liturgy where we can end up just saying them, capturing a feel for the poetic rhythm and moved by the emotion but without really considering what we are saying.

So, it is helpful to go back a little earlier in the service where the minister, introducing the covenant prayer, says these words.

And now let us respond gladly to our covenant God once more, and take the yoke of Christ upon us.  This means that we are content for Him to direct our lives and be our only reward.  Christ has many services to be done.  Some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are acceptable to our personal tastes and interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ Jesus.

I want you to notice the following important things.

  • There is meant to be contentment in the Christian life.  Contentment should come from out relationship with Christ, not the circumstances around us. He is our only reward.  Note that this means finding joy in Christ comes even above finding joy in our ministry.
  • We are to live our lives in submission and obedience to Christ. We rarely like to use that word “obedience” these days and yet it is there in the Bible.  We are told in Ephesians 5:21 to submit to one another.
  • The Covenant service rightly recognizes that there will be some things that are enjoyable, some that are up front and get praise, some that seem easy. However, we will also be called to do things that are less “acceptable to our personal tastes.”

Body ministry means that there are things we will do because we particularly enjoy them. However, there will also be things we will be asked to do because they need doing, even though we don’t enjoy doing them. Can I add a third point here. There are things I enjoy doing and yet part of willingness to submit to one another means I choose to restrict my involvement. The obvious example in my case is preaching and teaching. I could easily preach every Sunday.  I do not. Why?

  • First of all, I don’t preach every Sunday because I need to be fed too. I also need rest. Want to
  • Secondly, I don’t  preach every Sunday because I need to keep myself from idols. The gifts God has given the church through me can become idols to me when I start to think of them as my ministry, my gift.  I can find my identity and status in the church in them instead of in the Lord.
  • Thirdly, I don’t preach every Sunday (In fact I probably do around about 30% of the total teaching at the Chapel) because I want to encourage others in their gifting and to enable them to have the opportunity to serve and grow. I enjoy preaching but I also enjoy others developing this gift.

Can I encourage you to do a couple of things? First of all, pause and pray. Ask God to show you where the needs are in your local church. Secondly, follow that up by asking one of the elders “Where and how can I serve? I want to help.”

It may even be that as together the church sees and responds to a need that some discover that this is a gift God has given them and learn to enjoy that area of service.

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