Our family is headed on a mission trip this summer and in order to raise some funds, we decided to have a garage sale. It’s a daunting task. I find the preparation exhausting, and if I’m honest, somewhat angering. I am unsettled by the amount of material possessions we have but no longer have use for. Electronics that still work but have been replaced by the latest and greatest. Clothes that are perfectly good, albeit a little out of fashion. Furniture that simply doesn’t suit my taste anymore.
But perhaps the thing that gets me fired up the most is the things that never, ever got used. Primarily these things belong to my children, but I am certainly guilty of a few items myself. Games that were not only never played, but actually still have the cellophane wrapping. Books that were never read. Picture frames that never held a single photograph of my loved ones. Most of them gifts that were received but never put to use.
While obviously scripture doesn’t have anything to say directly pertaining to garage sale fodder, a verse I recently rediscovered certainly applies to the idea of being unused. Last week I delved into John chapter 17 and the glorious prayer Christ offers up for us. Buried in the middle of that prayer is a verse that struck me as both beautiful and convicting.
“For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
It seems awfully straight forward. Christ came to give the disciples, and us by extension, the words of truth and they received them. He handed them over and the disciples took them. But is it really that simple? If we look a little closer, we find something extraordinary hidden in what seems ordinary.
The Greek word for receive in this verse is “lambano”: to take with the hand, lay hold of, any person or thing in order to use it. Did you catch that? To lay hold of in order to use it. When Christ gave the disciples the profound truth from the Father and the absolute reality of who He was, they took hold of it and used it. They didn’t set it to the side. They didn’t admire it only to stash it on a shelf. And they certainly didn’t store it away in a closet and sell it at a garage sale years later. They took the truth and they wielded it. They woke up each morning and strove to apply that truth to their relationships, their actions and their decisions. They filtered life through the truth they had been given. They took hold of what their Savior offered and found every way imaginable to put it to divine use.
I wonder, do we do the same? We have been given the same truth, the same glorious gift as the disciples but do we really use it? We sit in our kitchen reading our daily devotional and embrace the scripture before us. We assemble in church and marvel at the verses taught there. We drink coffee with fellow believers and nod in agreement over the profound truth we’ve found in the word of God. But often we leave that truth right where we found it. We leave scripture’s revelations on the kitchen counter. We forget to carry the lessons out of the church sanctuary. We abandon those profound truths next to our discarded coffee cup.
It’s not that we don’t believe it. It’s just that we don’t carry it. We get busy or distracted. We get angry or disillusioned and we leave it behind. Perhaps we worry about what others will think. Perhaps the truth that was so light when we first discovered it has become heavy with our own baggage and shame.
We offer excuses regarding why we can’t love. We justify withholding forgiveness. We dismiss our lack of boldness under the umbrella of tolerance. And while we are all certainly weak in these areas, we accept our weakness with resolve and satisfaction. Instead of claiming God’s truth, instead of accessing the power we’ve been given, we give up. And before you know it, the truth we have been given is collecting dust in the garage sale pile.
I want to be like the disciples. I want Peter’s fire and John’s devotion. I long for Paul’s determination and Stephen’s fearlessness. I want to take the treasure I’ve been given and use it to the fullest. I want my employment of it to be so constant, so consistent that it begins to resemble an old book with torn pages and a missing cover. I want it to live in me, to breathe and grow in me. All we could ever need is before us for the taking. Every bit of strength and power, every ounce of love and grace is ours. Let us lay hold of and use that which Christ died to place in our hands.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
2 Cor 4:7