Picture this scenario:
A small child has the exciting opportunity to play in the mud. He has all the tools that he needs to accomplish this task. He has his hands to shape and form the mud, his feet to make footprints and splash and squish, some pebbles, wildflowers, and sticks for decoration, and his imagination to pretend that the mud is a giant lake of chocolate pudding or that the mud monster is lurking in the depths below. Most importantly, the child has something else. He has a passion for mud play. He enjoys it thoroughly. He abandons any concerns about staying clean or messing up anything and just uses his ‘tools’ to have fun in the mud. He becomes an expert at mud play.
Then, the child has an idea. The joy of playing in the mud reminds him of all of the other joys in life. He realizes that he has had a lot of joyful times and times of being loved and cared for because of someone very special. He decides that he must do somethiing in his own childish way to say “thank you” to his parent (or parents) and to express the love that he feels. He doesn’t have much to work with; but he has become a mud play expert. The child uses the tools he has been given to fashion a message in mud. He creates the most beautiful mud pie that his little hands can form and carefully places pebbles and flowers on top to decorate it. Now, he is ready to present his mud pie to the recipient (s).
The mud pie is formed of the most elemental substance and is clearly not edible and not even something that can become a keepsake; and yet, it is special. It is special not because of the recipe used to make it or the skill of the mud pie maker. It is special because it expresses something that a small child may possess but may have a hard time articulating: a thankful and loving heart. Both the heart of the giver and the heart of the recipient of the gift are important, for both are equally involved in the importance of the moment. It is the love of these two for each other that gives the mud pie its importance.
For a moment in time, the child has taken what was available to him or her and has used it to create something that becomes an expression of love for a parent, thankfulness for the joys of life, and the recognition of the blessings of giving. The parent or parents have in turn accepted the gift and found their hearts touched by this loving and pure gesture from the heart of their child. At that moment, the mud pie is a symbol of their very real connection and loving bond, which is the true gift for both parties.
What do mud pies have to do with ministry?
Quite a lot, actually. When it comes to our relationship with God, we are His children. We are the ones who long to express what is in our hearts through taking what it available to us, doing our best to make it into something as beautiful and excellent as possible, and hoping that God will overlook the imperfections and accept our offering. We have a passion for using the gifts and abilities we’ve been given to create something that pleases Him!
At this point, we need to keep several things in mind about our “mud pies.”
First, God looks upon the heart.
It is the heart of the giver that is so much more important than the gift itself. While it is important to do our best and strive for an excellent love offering of the bits and pieces that make up our lives, we must not get so wrapped up in the excellence of the gift that we begin to forget the source of everything used to create it. If the gift of the moment is a song, remember that God not only invented music, but He also gave us the capability to produce and to hear a range of musical pitch that allows us to use this gift. He gives us life and breath and musical abilities and this moment in time to share the song. We cannot be wrapped up in what we have been able to accomplish when we remember that God has given every part of what makes it possible for us to take all those hours of practice and learning and share a song with some level of skill and artistry. He gave the very hours that we used to practice and learn and refine our skills, and He gave the abilities that were developed in the process. All of the elements used to create and refine whatever our gift and calling may be in order to bring glory to God come from Him to us and then through us back to Him. These blessings of time and abilities and purpose in our lives all flow from God’s ultimate gift: His desire for relationship with us and His willingness to sacrifice everything in order to make that happen.
The gift of the song (or whatever the gift may be) is a moment in time, a temporal expression of love and gratitude to our eternal God. It is a small child holding up a mud pie to the One who made both the mud and the child.
Secondly. all that we give back to the Lord will pass away except that which bears fruit for His Kingdom.
There will be a new heaven and new earth, a new body, and a new song. The only things we can do that will last are expressions of love and gratitude that God can use to impact the lives of others and turn their hearts toward Him. And even then, it is His Spirit that brings the eternal value to the gift. Without His Spirit indwelling us and speaking God’s love and mercy through us and through our gifts, the most excellent expressions of love and gratitude of which we were capable would only be a moment in time. Trophies and sculptures, paintings, buildings and inventions, books and blogs, a clean home, strong relationships, a job well done….these are all gifts that can be an expression of love and thankfulness to our God, seeking to bring Him glory. But the eternal fruit can only come by His Spirit, and everything else is a mud pie moment in time.
Finally, it is within the process of the doing and the striving and the seeking and the becoming that God can show Himself strong in our lives.
The presentation of the gift that is the fruit of your abilities and labors is secondary to God. More important to Him is that we are pressing toward the mark of the high calling…becoming like Christ. Likewise, to the earthly parent, the sweetness of the mud pie moment lies in what it says about who this child is becoming…someone capable of thankfulness and of love….someone who longs to express these and finds a way to do so. To God, our mud pie gifts are meaningless without the heart attitude that He desires in all of His children. His word makes it clear that he could cause the rocks to give Him praise. We must not become too focused on the vehicle of our praise (the use of our abilities and skills in presenting to God any gifts that we prepare for Him through our lives). Instead, our focus needs to be upon the Object of our praise…..our awesome and loving God and our victorious Savior.
In ministry, we often focus on plans and programs, goals, and ideas. Yet, we must remember that it is the ongoing process of becoming like Christ that is the ultimate gift to our God. With lifelong preparation and refinement by God’s Holy Spirit at work within us, our lives become a Kingdom gift that has eternal significance. We have taken God’s best gifts to us: His love, mercy, and grace, His forgiveness, His Son, His Life within us, His presence, His Spirit, His Word….and allowed these to transform us into the image of our Lord, which is our ultimate gift back to Him. All other gifts pale in comparison to a beautiful and eternally changed life..
So, when the process or the preparation in our service to the Lord becomes a priority above our relationship with Him, we must remember that without the work of God’s Spirit, this gift or service to Him is just a mud pie. Our intentions can be honorable in that we genuinely want to make a difference for the Lord. However, our very busy-ness can distract us from the primary priority of relationship with the Lord. Only His work in our lives transforms us into the image of His Son and allows whatever we do to make a greater spiritual impact. Without staying in fellowship with God and allowing His Spirit to work through us, our efforts become a mud pie moment in time and nothing more.
May God help us to focus on lasting expressions of His love in our lives that He can use through the work of His Holy Spirit to touch the world with the eternal Hope of His Salvation!
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4
This post was written by C. Boyd
For additional posts about the giving of our lives and all of our abilities and efforts to the Lord, be sure to view our posts entitled:
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