September 21, 2015

Using What You Know

Devotion for the Week...

Beginning writers are often told "write what you know." That doesn't mean that everything I write must have actually happened, but if I'm going to write a story, I probably shouldn't set it in the American West, since I've never been there. I'd be pretty much guaranteed to get a lot of details wrong, unless I'm willing to do mountains of research to get it right. Writers certainly do use their imaginations, and they do research, but it's easier to get the story right if they know at least some of what they're writing about.

I think that when it comes to serving God, we should also start with what we know. For example, my sister-in law, Nancy, loves to feed crowds of people. It's nothing for her (and her husband) to prepare a turkey dinner for 20 people, complete with placecards and fancy table settings. A few years ago tragedy struck a family Nancy knew, and it did not at all surprise me to hear that she invited the extended family in for a proper meal. Feeding people well is one of the many things Nancy knows, and she uses it to serve God by serving the people around her.

There's a brief story in Acts 9 about a woman named Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who had died. The people were mourning for her, very upset to have lost this woman who "was always doing good and helping the poor" (Acts 9: 36). Her friends heard that Peter was nearby, and that he had the power to heal, so they sent two men to him, asking him to come at once. When Peter arrived, "all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them" (v.39). 

The story really doesn't tell us much about Tabitha. We don't know if she was young or old. We don't know anything about her family situation or her upbringing. We know that she was a disciple (v. 36), that she helped the poor and that she sewed clothes. That's it. 

But did you see what the widows did when Peter came in? They showed him the clothes Tabitha had made. Those clothes were significant because she made them to give to the poor. Widows were often the poorest of the community, so were they maybe wearing the clothes they showed Peter? Was it a case of these women saying, "She made this robe for me when I had nothing"? 

Making clothes was what Tabitha knew, and she used that skill to serve God by serving the people around her.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). 'To each one' means to everyone, with no one left out. That means that every believer has some gift meant to be used 'for the common good.' What is yours? What is it that you know, and that you could use to serve others? It will be different for each of us, but each of us will have something. 

Your skill may not seem like much to you. It may seem like something anyone could do, but the truth is that not everyone is comfortable preparing meals for large crowds. I can cook a turkey dinner, but I would never even consider doing it for 20 people. Likewise, not everyone knows how to sew. Though it seems simple and not very special to you, the thing you know how to do well will be of huge benefit to someone who needs your skill.

The next question is simple to ask, but harder to answer: Are you using what you know for the common good? There are people in need all around us and we can help them if we are willing to use what we know. First, are we able to recognize the needs, and then, are we willing to help meet them?

As for Tabitha, Peter went into the room where she lay dead, sent everyone one else "out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive" (vv. 40,41). 

I wonder how long it was before she got back to her sewing?


  1. Good message. Our pastor talked about Tabitha in recent months. Have a great week.


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