by Michael E. Brooks
“‘You are my battle-ax and weapons of war: For with you I will break the nation in pieces; With you I will destroy kingdoms; With you I will break in pieces the horse and its rider; With you I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider; . . . And I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for all the evil they have done in Zion in your sight,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 51:20-21, 24).
A frequent frustration I experience in my travels is to seek to do something, only to find there is no tool available with which I am familiar to help me do the work efficiently. Sometimes it is that technology has simply not caught up and they do not yet have those tools where I am. At other times, it is that the tools they use have adapted differently, and though those accustomed to them use them comfortably and effectively, I do not have the same skills.
For example, most dirt is dug in Bangladesh with a short-handled, wide-bladed hoe (which they call a spade). A Bangla person can dig a hole or fill a cart with dirt using such a tool as easily as I can with a shovel. If I try using their spade not much dirt gets moved; rather I quickly get a sore back.
I have long since concluded that there are at least three essentials to good work: knowledge, effort and appropriate tools. No matter how strong and willing a laborer may be, without the right tool and knowledge of what he is doing his effort will largely be wasted. Even the right tools, without fundamental instruction in how to use them, will accomplish little. But when all three are present, excellent results follow.
Sometimes it is more important that we become tools, than that we use them. In Jeremiah’s prophecy quoted above, the prophet describes Israel as God’s tool (or weapon) with which Babylon would be brought to justice. A casual reading of the Bible confirms that God often uses human agents in the accomplishment of his purpose on Earth. For example, he used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to punish Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25-26). Later he used Cyrus, King of Persia, to free a remnant of Judah to return to Jerusalem (Isaiah 45:1).
God continues to use human tools in his service. Paul pointed out, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). If God uses a preached message as his instrument of salvation, it follows that the one who preaches that message is an agent of God (i.e., a tool) in the process. Even those who support (i.e., send) evangelists are tools for the work of salvation (Romans 10:13-15).
For a tool to be effective it must be of proper design, good material, and maintained properly. The finest axe, if dull, pitted, and rusted, cannot easily cut wood. As Christians we must allow ourselves to be fitted and transformed to God’s purpose (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:21-24). We must become spiritual in nature, rather than material or carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Romans 8:5-8). And we must maintain ourselves in cleanliness and readiness (Ephesians 6:13-18), so that when God takes us up in service we will perform adequately.
by Michael E. Brooks