Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Instruments for the Master

mission tools

By Dennis Pollock

I have now been engaged in regular missions in Africa for around fifteen years, and one would think that as a seasoned traveler I would have learned to pack lightly. But in fact nearly the opposite has occurred. It is true that I pack a little lighter when it comes to clothes. But in other things my packing could hardly be called light.

My problem is that over the years I have discovered all kinds of gadgets and various items which make my life a little nicer during my stay in hotels which, although nice by African standards, cannot possibly match the conveniences I have in my home. As I pack to leave for an overseas mission, I have a checklist that has evolved and grown longer and longer over the years. I go down the list, one by one, and mark a large thick check with a red marker every time I put the specific item in my suitcases. When I arrive at my hotel in Africa it takes quite a while for me to unpack and organize everything the way I want it, so I can find it quickly when I need it.

Most of the items are not expensive. One of my favorites is my coffee cup. I have lost track of how many trips it has made with me, but it is a bunch. When I first started going to Africa, I looked for just the right mug. It had to be the right size – not too big and not too small. It had to be a hard plastic, not porcelain or glass, which could easily break in transit. I found the perfect mug, strangely enough, in a Goodwill shop. At the time it had a Salvation Army logo on it, it was white in color, and the perfect size. And it was made of a very hard plastic. I immediately knew this would do nicely. There was no price on it, but I wasn’t too worried about that. How much could a plastic coffee mug cost in a Goodwill Store full of used, donated items? As it turned out I think it was a quarter, or maybe even a dime. But it was perfectly suited to my needs and has given me years of service. The Salvation Army logo has long since washed off as a result of time in the dishwasher, but I didn’t mind that. The mug does its job well.

Often, after going through a miserable fifteen-hour flight, I sit down in my hotel, make a cup of tea, and allow the tea to help me relax while I begin to look forward to the ministry. Or after preaching I have a dinner and a low-carb snack with a few peanuts, and a cup of coffee in that mug.

Portable Worship and Praise

Another “must-have” item in one of my bags is my mp3 player and a little portable speaker. I have gone through several of these in my trips, but they play a vital role in my missions. Around an hour or an hour and a half before I preach in the evening evangelistic meetings, I will play praise and worship music with the player/speaker combination, drink tea, and give thanks to the Lord for His goodness. This is a time to be refreshed and to position myself in a place of worship, so that I might be more fully prepared to minister in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. I consider this audio player every bit as important as my toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, and shoes.

Another electronic device which is invaluable to me during these missions is my digital tablet. In most African hotels the lighting is not good. There is enough light so that you don’t stumble over things as you walk around, but that’s about it. The light is extremely poor for reading. But one of the major means I use to stay in the Spirit during those hectic days is to stay in the Word of God. When I am not preaching or sleeping, I am frequently reading the Scriptures aloud. But to read an ordinary Bible would be quite taxing on my eyes attempting to use such dim light. My digital tablet is backlit, so there is always light for reading no matter how dark a corner I happen to be in, or in those frequent cases when there is no electricity at all. I can just keep reading the gospels and the epistles without losing a beat, drawing spiritual strength from the words that have proceeded from the mouth of God.

Anointed Shoes

I even have a special pair of airplane shoes which are a blessing during my long, mind-numbing flights. When I first started taking fourteen to fifteen-hour flights, I was startled to find that my feet grew one to two sizes by the end of the flight. All the long, inactive hours of sitting upright were affecting my circulation, and my blood was collecting in my feet causing significant swelling. When I wore shoes that fit me at the beginning of the flight, I found they were painful and even hard to get on by the end (I always take off my shoes during those long flights, which I am sure is not so pleasant for my neighbors, but hey, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do).

But after a couple of long flights in those early days, I got the bright idea of using a pair of brown shoes, not especially good looking, as my flight shoes. The thing that made these shoes ideal is that after I bought them, I realized that they were an extra wide size. They were really too wide for my feet in normal situations, but they were perfect for these terrible flights. I could simply loosen the shoelaces a bit when I put them back on at the end of the flight, and they fit me like they were made for me. Over the years I have become fond of these old, comfortable extra-wide shoes, and even though they are now ancient I cannot possibly bring myself to throw them away. They still accompany me on every overseas mission. When I am at home, they sit in a closet, never worn, and completely ignored. But as I pack for a mission, they are brought out and they admirably fulfill their duty.

I could list more of such useful “instruments” that make up the totality of what I bring to Africa, but I think you get the idea. These are my “tools of the trade,” without which my journeys and my ministry would not be what it is today. They could not be more different. A twenty-five-cent plastic coffee mug has almost nothing in common with a complex electronic tablet, – except for the fact that I need both of them and I use both of them. I have selected them over the years according to my own purposes and pleasure. And they are mine. They do not belong to anyone else; no one else has a right to use them. They are, to use a Biblical phrase, “vessels of honor.” Others would have no way of grasping the pleasure they bring to me, but in my eyes they’re perfect and their value is inestimable.

Instruments in Jesus’ Hands

As I have meditated on my little collection of mission items, I have come to see that what these are to me, we, the body of Christ, the sheep of Jesus, are to Him. We are His instruments, for the fulfillment of His great mission of salvation in the earth. And just as a pair of old, extra wide shoes could hardly be more different from an mp3 player, we are all uniquely different from one another. We have different gifts, various levels of anointing, differing passions and interests, and are used by the Lord for His own purposes. If our gift seems to us to be superior to the gifts of others, we need to be careful in our estimation of things. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of thee,” nor the head to the feet. Every believer in Christ is needed and useful; we are all instruments in the hands of our Lord Jesus, and He is quite adept at using common and seemingly dull instruments to accomplish great things.

The day will come when I will no longer take mission trips to Africa. One day I shall be gone and my little coffee cup probably thrown in the trash, along with my old shoes. Some of the items may be sold at a garage sale for two or three dollars. Their time of usefulness will be over. But of course, it does not work this way with Jesus’ instruments. He has promised that those who trust in Him as Savior will live forever with Him. Our service will not be ended but magnified a million times what it is now.

But none of us know precisely how long our service on earth will last. God is so very creative, not only in the gifts He places within men and women, but in how and how long He chooses to use them. In the Book of Acts we read about an incredibly gifted, anointed man of faith named Stephen. The Bible tells us: “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). But although he could presumably have had a long and successful career as an evangelist and perhaps a pastor, God did not will it to be so. His flame burned brightly but it did not burn long. After a very brief season of powerful, anointed ministry, the legalistic Jews of his day apprehended him and stoned him to death. A young zealot named Saul was among the crowd, and no doubt marveled at his dying words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… Do not charge them with this sin.” I suppose Paul replayed those words again and again in his mind, until finally Jesus appeared to him in a vision, and converted him from persecutor to preacher.

As He Wills…

Evan Roberts was used by God as an instrument of spiritual awakening in the amazing Welsh Revival. Everywhere the young preacher went, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell. But after about a year of such incredibly fruitful ministry, Roberts withdrew, apparently from a nervous breakdown. He recovered but never seemed to be able to get his revival ministry on track again, and lived out his many remaining years, quietly, doing a little writing and no doubt fondly remembering those glory days. His flame had burned brightly but only briefly. Other ministers such as Billy Graham and John Wesley, enjoyed decade after decade of steady, fruitful, blessed ministry.

But whether God chooses to use us over decades or over months, whether He places us before tens of thousands or simply tens, our job is to present ourselves to Him for His good pleasure, beseeching Him to do with us, through us, and by us as much as He wisely can. If I choose to replace my current missions coffee mug with another larger, newer model, the old mug has no reason to complain. It has served its purpose admirably and must “retire” with grace and quiet submission.

The Bible says of King David: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep…” (Acts 13:36). David had his day in the sun; he enjoyed great victories and blessings from God during his life. But he was never destined to live for hundreds of years. He served his generation, and then wisely had his son, Solomon, anointed king, and drew back quietly, knowing his season of leadership had come to an end.

To be an instrument in the hands of our God in proclaiming and advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ is an incredible honor. It is far superior to any political office, far more noble than the attainment of fame and celebrity, a million times more blessed than mere wealth. We are, in essence, the fish and the loaves which, when placed in the mighty hands of Jesus, can be used to feed and bless multitudes. But just how He will use us, when He will use us, how long He will use us, and the measure of His blessing on our service… these are all up to Him. He is the potter; we are the clay. Paul writes: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). We are Jesus’ “coffee mug,” His “mission shoes,” His “mp3 player.” And we find tremendous satisfaction in knowing that He takes pleasure in using us for His purposes, and for the sake of His elect.



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