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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”  -2 Timothy 2:20-21

Working at one of the top schools in the world, I am constantly surrounded by incredibly gifted and hyper-competent people. For many of the students in this environment, their exceptional competence in their studies and extracurricular pursuits is central to their self-identity and their sense of self-worth.  Being in an environment with so much giftedness can make people highly competitive or seriously discouraged.

Our personal gifts and competencies are things for which we should be thankful.  God fearfully and wonderfully made us with all our talents, aptitudes, abilities, and passions.  We should be good stewards of those gifts and seek to discover what God wants to do with them in His kingdom.  However, when our competency and gifts (or lack thereof) become our source of self-worth or self-identity, they can lead us toward pride, self-pity, and a competitive spirit that seeks to be distinguished above the very ones God calls us to love and serve.  Just because God gave us certain competencies or gifts, those things are not what make us valuable or useful in God’s kingdom.

So what does make us valuable and useful in God’s kingdom?  Holiness.  In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to be a good steward of the gifts that God has given him.  He should “fan into flame” his gift to minister and not shrink back from boldly using what God has given him.  However, giftedness is not enough.  Timothy must also be an “approved” worker, not using his teaching gifts to win arguments.  He should pursue righteousness instead of youthful passions and call upon the Lord with a pure heart.

Paul reminds Timothy that his ultimate usefulness and value as a servant of God is not ultimately in his giftedness or competency, but in his willingness to be consecrated for the Lord’s service.  Consecration makes us useful to our Master and ready for every good work He has for us.  Though it is true that we are reconciled to God solely by grace through faith, not by works, we will never be useful in God’s kingdom unless we walk in repentance and obedience, despite the many gifts God may have given us.  

So, do you find your self-worth and identity in the list of your competencies and accomplishments or in your holiness?  Do you work harder to look “successful” or to look like Jesus, fully devoted to the Father?  During this time of fasting, let us all cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable and ready ourselves for the good works that God has prepared for us so that we can walk in them.

Chris Matthews
Ministry Director at Yale
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