In our home church (ie. Bible study) we have been studying evangelism over the past four weeks. One thing we seem to keep coming back to is the difference between what our work is and what God's work is. I guess we often get confused between the parts of the process that God holds us responsible for and the parts that we have to just leave in His hands.
My son provided me a great metaphor for this on the weekend. We got some new bunk beds (new to us, anyways - they were actually hand-me-downs from some friends) and they came to us in many pieces. I got tasked with putting them together. My son, of course, wanted to help out as any four-year old boy who wears Bob the Builder underpants would want to. After I had lugged the frames, the supports and the mattresses upstairs, I gathered a selection of tools from my rather paltry selection and headed to the kid's bedroom. My son, following behind me, went to his toy shelf and selected his own little tool case. When we got upstairs we both cracked open our tool chests. I selected a screwdriver and a wrench and got to work bolting the frames to the supports. My son pulled out an oversize plastic screwdriver and a plastic wrench. The tip on his screwdriver must have been a quarter of an inch wide and certainly could not be of any use. The wrench obviously could not turn a metal bolt. Yet he did not seem to care at all. As I worked away with my real tools, he worked beside me, somehow expecting in his little-boy mind that his toy tools were doing just as much work as mine.
I chuckled as I saw him trying to screw in a bolt with his enormous plastic wrench. He just didn't realize that his tools were completely inappropriate for the task at hand. He did not have what he needed to do the job. Eventually he realized the futility of his tools. He looked at me, looked at my toolbox and selected a real screwdriver. Taking that to the screw he immediately began to make a little bit of progress, one tiny twist at a time.
Right away I realized there was a metaphor there that applied to me! I thought of how often I find myself trying to do jobs that only God can do. How often do I try to do the job of the Holy Spirit and convict other people of their sinfulness? Do I have the ability to change lives and regenerate hearts? Absolutely not! So why is it that I approach people with the goal of making them see their own depravity? Why do I want to convict them of sin? No wonder I often feel discouraged when my own efforts fall flat. So often I try to do things my way, using my own "plastic tools."