Monday, November 5, 2007

Ministry of the Shelf Life

We find many products on our shelves that have a shelf life. They are best if used by the date stamped somewhere on the package. We often keep certain things for rainy days, for someday down the road, or we would just like to try it sometime. Often, we find the day we desire to use it, and the date is expired… we wonder can it still be used. Maybe it’s best before this date, but certainly it would be fine after the date…wouldn’t it?

During certain times of our lives, we might find ourselves where God has prophecied, developed, and prepared us and we are ready to be exactly who He has called us to be. He then allows us to step out, maybe even pushes us out to begin to function in those giftings. Just as we begin to gain confidence and see why we’ve been through the refining process, what all the heat and stretching on the conveyor belt of His divine factory was all about, we are removed, boxed and shelved…to be used at a later date.

Yet, the shelf life is not what it seems. It is not that you are not useful, you messed up, your best days are behind you or that your creator likes to play mean games. He is not just getting your hopes up to then crush them. No, the shelf life is when you know who you are, the product God has made you to be. But the shelf, the still, unuseful, not being utilized, or added to anything around you place of seeming stagnation, is the final test of where your heart is. The test of where your security truly lies.

Is it in who you are, your gifts, and abilities? Is it in who others think you are? Is it in you thinking that you know how you will be used? Can you be just as satisfied, secure and confident in the hidden place on the shelf as you are in the obvious, public, useful place?

This is the place where it’s wrestled out from within…whether your identity is in Him who made you or in what He called you to do. This is the place of patience and trust knowing that HE has stamped seasons on our life and He knows when those times expire. He knows that we will be best if used by… but His timing isn’t necessarily about a specific day, it often involves the response of our heart…our heart readiness.

He is not just after the product being useful and having purpose. He cares about us and how we will be affected by the pressures, requirements, and temptations we will face once we are fully released.

He knows the end from the beginning and knows what faces us down the road. The greatest gift of love is to test our security so that we will know regardless of being loved or hated, our identity and safety lies in Him. Our hope is in Him, our purpose is in Him and for Him. But, we have to taste usefulness, success and then have it be pulled away to test us to see if our identity, passions and heart are about the call or about Him who called us.

He gives and He takes away. Does He do it to frustrate, embitter, or cause us to doubt. No, He does it to do us good in the end. He tests us so we can travel through the paths of frustration, visit the streams of bitterness and taste the fruit of self doubt and doubting Him. We then have to choose if we will walk from frustration to the path of peace, visit but not drink in bitterness, wrestle with the taste of doubting, and decide that we like the taste of His goodness and trusting Him much more.

We then realize that regardless of where we find ourselves, being added to other ingredients in His kingdom or placed specifically on the shelf to be called upon for another time, we are secure. Secure in knowing our life is not our own, we are His for whatever He needs, whenever He sees fit.

Down the road, we may be the donkey He needs to carry destiny on our back whether to Bethlehem or through the streets of Jerusalem. We may be the tree that helps others climb to see Jesus. We may be the clothing used to cover another’s shame, or a stone to slay a giant.

We might find ourselves called to be a deliverer of millions, shelved in the desert for 40 years, or shelved in prison until the time to save a nation. Maybe we will be a voice in the wilderness, or an alabaster bottle filled with the fragrance of Christ’s character broken just to minister to someone our great love in a time of their greatest need.

The shelf life is a special time that digs into deeply hidden places in order to bring them to the light so that the fullness of all He is will be what brings us life.

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