What can I do for you?

My current state

Zach Hines- Happily married to Kayla Hines (a little over two years), no children, two dogs, working part-time (with full-time hours), recently graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. Christian Ministry), renting an apartment, attending a local church, reading books, writing a blog.

This is me at this very moment. I have bills to pay, places I want to visit, dreams I’d like to move towards, and a pain in my neck that never seems to go away. All of this bearing in mind, I feel the need to be useful, to be productive, and to help others. First, let’s examine why this might be and if it is a good thing. Next, we’ll look at my potential. Finally, we’ll determine what kind of goal I should have and what can keep me from reaching that goal.

What’s the point of being useful?

Is there really any use in being useful? For some, usefulness is a measurement by which one determines personal value.

“Make yourself so useful to other people, that they think you are irreplaceable.

Og Mandino

In Mandino’s pursuit of success and forward movement as a culture, to be unproductive or useless was to commit a crime against oneself and against humanity. The reverse of his quote might read something like this, “Other people will think you are replaceable if you do not make yourself useful to them.” Based on this mindset, one should strive to be as useful as possible in as many areas as possible, thus increasing your worth to others. However, not everyone believes that usefulness is determined by the diversity of ones productivity.

I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless.

Helen Keller

Keller understood that variety in usefulness is not necessarily as important as quality (and perhaps quantity) of utility provided. But why, then, do people wish to be useful? According to Keller, it is clear that to be useful is indeed work. Mandino would not argue that being successful requires effort, but what is the driving force behind being successful? Is the argument circular? Do people try to become successful so that others will find them useful?

Merriam-Webster defines the word useful ascapable of being put to use especially serviceable for an end or purpose.

The definition of the word itself indicates that the work done while being useful must serve some purpose or allow progress to some end. In that regard, there must be millions of ways in which a person might be useful. A mechanic is useful in fixing a car, a chef is useful in fixing a meal, and a doctor is useful in fixing a body. These are ways in which an individual might dedicate his or her life to being useful in one particular area… but what if the goal (or purpose) is to be useful in general?

Make yourself useful, not just on a day to day basis, but as a lifetime thing.

Julia Stiles

The quote from Julia Stiles pushes people to be useful for the long haul. For many, this means investing their time talents and money into making themselves as useful as possible in one area so that they might be useful in that area for the rest of their lives. They call this a career. I would like to change Stiles’ quote in one very meaningful way: Make yourself useful, not just on a day to day basis, but as a lifestyle thing.

You see, I believe that, as humans, we have a purpose. Some might claim that our purpose is to make progress; others argue that to be happy is the purpose of humanity. Me? I assert that our purpose is to be used.

“You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

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“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Isaiah 64:8, Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

If we are to understand that we were created as vessels, then the purpose of humanity is to be filled by God and poured out. What does being poured out look like? Poured out onto whom or what? In Genesis, Adam and Eve were put in the garden to “work it and keep it,” but perhaps a better translation of the Hebrew text there would be to worship and obey God to His glory. Worship is declaring the worthiness of God and obedience is being filled with His Spirit to do His will in all of creation.

Usefulness as a lifestyle, then, is determined by one’s ability to be used by God for His purposes… SO- why do I have this desire to be useful? The answer is simple: because I was created to be used.

What can I offer?

I am currently reading a book entitled: Conscious Creativity: Look Connect Create, by Philippa Stanton. In this work, she challenges her readers to analyze themselves to determine their creative strengths and weaknesses. Although she does not directly state what her personal motivations are for her creative work, the simple fact that she published this book indicates that she has a desire for her creativity to help or influence others.

I agree with Stanton’s assumption here, that what I do should serve a purpose. It is up to me to determine what my personal strengths and weaknesses are, find out what I can bring to the table, and do my best to allow what I do to benefit others.

My skills/talents include, but are not limited to- writing (hopefully), casual photography, listening to and understanding others, teaching, and encouraging. Naturally, this list is not exhaustive. Additionally, I am not attempting to claim that I am extremely good at any of these things. However, they are a few means by which I might be useful to God and others.

This blog is an attempt at being useful. I want to be able to help others by using the thoughts I have and the abilities I’ve been given. If that means I can make someone think deeper, I’m all for it. If it means that I can share a photo and allow someone to see the beauty of God’s creation, I’m interested. If I can provide a word of encouragement or council for someone who is struggling to find truth or guidance, let me try to do it here.

What do I hope to accomplish?

The purpose of this post and of this blog is this: to show the hope in my heart, to encourage others to be the best that they can be, to elicit honest discussion about difficult topics, and to gain a deeper understanding of purpose in life and how to achieve it.

Overall, whatever this turns out to be, I hope and pray that I might be used of God to accomplish His will. Pray for me, that I will fulfill my purpose in worshipful obedience throughout my posting here.

What can hinder me?

To have a goal is wonderful. To have a goal and not be aware of what can keep you from reaching that goal is irresponsible. Fear and pride and selfishness are the three greatest impediments along the road to reaching my goal. When it comes to fear, the most likely scenario would be experiencing fear of failure. Failure to others might not mean what it does to me. In my situation, my failure would be an ongoing struggle to finish. I have, in my past, failed to complete a great many things that I started. The greatest way to overcome this fear is to simply not look back on the past. A great quote from another book I’m reading goes,

Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?”

Diane Setterfield in, Bellman and Black

I love this quote particularly because of its imagery. The past certainly is longstanding and has the potential to overshadow the steps necessary to reach the future. However, since it is impossible to remove the shadow of my past, it would benefit me to simply turn to the Son. At graduation, Dr. Daniel Akin spoke from Hebrews 12, which encourages us to run the race set before us by God. To do so, the runner must set his eyes looking to Jesus with Him being the center of attention. With the Light of the World in my sight, how can the shadow of my past overcome me with any fear?

Pride and selfishness go hand in hand here as potential obstacles. My pride would tell me that I am useful enough to God without posting here. Selfishness would say that the time it will take will keep me from being useful in other ways. Perhaps there will come a time to stop posting. It will be important to follow God’s lead in the discerning the timing. I do not want to be so full of myself that I cannot be full of Him and poured out on others.

I want to be useful to God, and so I ask, “What can I do for You?”

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