Chosen Instrument . . . "
After physicist Richard
Feynman won a Nobel Prize for his work, he visited his old high school.
While there, he decided to look up his records. He was surprised to find
that his grades were not as good as he had remembered them. And he got
a kick out of the fact that his IQ was 124, not much above average.
Dr. Feynman saw that
winning the Nobel prize was one thing, but to win it with an IQ of only
124 was really something. Most of us would agree because we all assume
that the winners of Nobel prizes have exceptionally high IQs. Feynman confided
that he always assumed that he had. If Feynman had known he was really
just a bit above average in the IQ department, we wonder if he would have
had the audacity to launch the unique and creative research experiments
that would eventually win him the greatest recognition the scientific community
can give. Perhaps not. Maybe the knowledge that he was a cut above average,
but not in the genius category, would have influenced what he tried to
achieve. After all, from childhood most of us have been led to believe
that ordinary people don't accomplish extraordinary feats.
Most of us fall short
of our potential because of little things we know or assume about ourselves.
And the most self-defeating assumption of all is that we are just like
everyone else. (Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, Page 7-8)
God Chooses the Worst
A most perplexing aspect
of understanding how God works is how he chooses to use certain people.
It may be even more perplexing to contemplate how God can use us individually.
As we observe God's choosing we often think that the Lord made a bad choice.
Ananias thought the Lord had made a mistake in sending him to preach the
gospel to Saul. Listen to Ananias arguing with God. In essence Ananias
says, "Lord I think you have made a mistake by choosing the murderous Paul
Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the
harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with
authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
The Lord answered
Ananias' response saying, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry
my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel."
God deliberately chose
Saul because he was the worst of the worst and the meanest of the mean.
He was a Christian's worst nightmare. He was so mean that no one wanted
to trust him. "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple."
(Acts 9:26 NIV) They believed that he would stoop to any level to make
their lives a nightmare, including disguising himself as a Christian. Sure
he was religious and sincere but he could also sacrifice the lives others
for what he believed. Paul gave an account of his own murderous past in
the following verses.
was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name
of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the
authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and
when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I
went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to
force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign
cities to persecute them . . . "(NIV)
I have often believed
and even taught in my early years that God chose Paul because of his fine
Jewish pedigree, his Roman citizenship and his ability to speak Hebrew
and Greek fluently. Paul says God chose him because he was the worst of
of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love
that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full
acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of
whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that
in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited
patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal
Paul calls himself
the "worst" of sinners. He tells us exactly why he calls himself this.
First of all, the things about his past: "I was once a blasphemer and a
persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13). Before his conversion Paul
hated Jesus Christ and His church, he persecuted Christians, and he was
at the forefront of those who stoned them to death. Paul thought nothing
of cursing Christ. This certainly makes Paul a sinner.
Secondly, Paul is thinking
not only about his sinful past but also about his sinful present. He writes
in Romans 7:
not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I
hate I do ... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil
I do not want to do--this I keep on doing ... So I find this law at work:
When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
God allowed Satan
to buffet Paul with a thorn in his flesh in order that Paul might learn
that he was weak. But he discovered that when he was weak the power of
God was strong enough to accomplish what God desired in spite of the fact
that his feet were made of clay.
me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment
me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he
said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me. (NIV)
that God could make the weak stand. (Romans 14:1-4) Notice the weakness
in the following verses. Yet, take note of where Paul's confidence lies.
do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered
in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability
to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed,
in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we
might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
He has delivered us from such a deadly
peril, and he will deliver us.On
him we have set our hope that he will continue
to deliver us, as you help us
by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious
favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (NIV)
Paul seems intent on
reminding us that the power displayed in his life was from God. He reminds
us of the weakness of the vessel into which God placed the gospel.
who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our
hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show
that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (NIV)
The emphasis is
on God and not the one carrying the message. God chose to place the greatest
treasure on earth, the gospel, in weak vessels so that his power might
be manifested through weak vessels.
Often a person seeking
a place to worship calls and asks what the congregation has to offer them.
In certain instances this may be a great question, but I wonder if those
asking the question ever think about what God might want to do for this
congregation through their lives. Too often we look at what others have
to offer and too many times we think we have nothing to offer. More than
anything we need a sense of God's calling in our lives in spite of our
belief that we have nothing to offer.
if it is to be, it is up to God is where we begin our walk with God.
I think this is the only place to start our own personal call to service.
The truly great heroic figures of the Bible rarely saw themselves as having
much to offer. When Moses was called from the burning bush, he responded
in unbelief that God could accomplish his purpose through him.
4:1, 10, 13
answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The
LORD did not appear to you'?" . . . Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I
have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken
to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." . . . But Moses said,
"O Lord, please send someone else to do it." (NIV)
Gideon could not
believe that God could use him to deliver his people.
the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you,
mighty warrior." "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why
has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers
told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?'
But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."
The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save
Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" "But Lord," Gideon
asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and
I am the least in my family." (NIV)
When Isaiah was
called by God, he responded, "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I
am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and
my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5 NIV)
The truly great
Bible heroes never had much faith in themselves. What little faith they
had was placed in God. It is God's power that makes the vessel
into a vessel of honor. The honor does not reside in the vessel itself,
but in the power of God that works through the broken vessel.
No where is this more
powerfully exemplified than in the ministry of Jesus Christ. When God became
flesh he went to the weak and powerless to demonstrate the power of the
gospel. Jesus came preaching to the outcast and sinners. He came helping
the helpless. The multitudes marveled that he would show such compassion
to the weak and helpless.
Jesus used the weak
and powerless to reach those who had all the power and influence. Those
who stood up to speak on Pentecost were considered ignorant and unlearned.
they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled,
ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had
been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing
there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them
to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we
going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem
knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But
to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must
warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." (NIV)
God has always chosen
the weak to accomplish his will. He has been doing it since the Egyptian
bondage of the Hebrews. Do you know why God uses the weak, the worst and
Paul, the worst of sinners
was chosen so that God could " . . . display his unlimited patience
as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:16 NIV) It is a display of his unending grace. God wants us
to confidently believe that he can completely save. "Therefore he is able
to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always
lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)
Jeremiah went down to
the potter's house and observed a potter working with a piece of marred
went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But
the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter
formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the
word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you
as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the
potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (NIV)
God shapes and uses
these earthen vessels we live in to his glory. The power to accomplish
God's will for our life comes from God.
How Do I Discover
God's Power for Living?
In a mission's class,
Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that
would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised
a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some
children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds,
he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this
ingenious procedure for two years.
Ill health forced the
Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When
Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started,
the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete,
the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble
is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car,
pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to
For two years needless
trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose
connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.
When we make firm our
connection with God, his life and power flow through us. I believe we have
often overlooked the power of God so readily available to us just as the
missionary overlooked the key to starting his car.
J. B. Phillips translates
Ephesians 1:19-20 "How tremendous is the power available to us who believe
A new beginning
starts with faith in the grace of God. It begins with a faith that
he can salvage our lives and make us useful in his service regardless of
our weaknesses. God used the chief of sinners as an example for those of
you who wish to believe and receive eternal life. It doesn't begin with
what you have to offer; it begins with the availability of God's power.
Paul said, "The grace
of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly . . ." (1 Timothy 1:14) Paul
is attributing his success to the power of God's grace. From the outset
God showed Paul what he must suffer. He was never left with the impression
that it would be a stroll through a rose garden. The person God chose was
skilled in making havoc the lives of those who believed in Christ. Yet,
God says, "I will show him how much he must suffer form my name." (Acts
9:16) Paul is going to realize God's power as he suffers as those he persecuted
had suffered. Paul was repeatedly attack by men and Satan, yet God manifests
his power through him in the worst of circumstances.
I think that most of
us would be totally shocked at what God could accomplish through us if
we would only trust in his grace.
It begins with
looking to God for the strength you need. The book of Acts impresses
me with the power of God making possible a new beginning for his kingdom
on earth. From Act chapter 2 through Acts 28 we are impressed with God's
power for renewal.
Immediately after recording
Paul's conversion in Acts 9:1-30 Luke writes: "Then the church throughout
Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened;
and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear
of the Lord.
(Acts 9:31 NIV) Here you see God's power not only
in Paul's life but God's Spirit empowers the church as the Spirit strengthens
and encourages it.
It begins with
trusting in God's directions for a new life in Christ. Paul discovered
the power of God when God opened his eyes to a new way of thinking. You
can't rely on you old belief system that somehow the power to be is within
me. You must allow God to open your eyes to his power given through his
eternal Spirit. Paul discovered God's power for renewal as he embraced
the teaching of Ananias. Paul died to his old belief system when he was
baptized into Christ. His baptism was a commitment to die to his old belief
system. When Paul committed himself to die, then God was able to resurrect
him to a new life in Christ.
was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What
is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not
having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which
is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and
is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his
death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of
me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But
one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called
me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should
take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently,
that too God will make clear to you. (NIV)
Paul gave up all
things to discover the power of Christ resurrection through sharing in
Christ sufferings. In these verses you see a clear decision to die to the
old way of thinking to be resurrected in Christ Jesus.
It begins with
a commitment to surrender your life to Christ. This initial commitment
is made at baptism.
you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized
into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into
death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the
glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united
with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with
him in his resurrection. (NIV)
been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me and gave himself for me. (NIV)
Playwright George Bernard
Shaw was playing the "What If?" game with some friends shortly before he
died. Mr. Shaw was asked, "If you could live your life over and be anybody
you've ever known, or any person from history, who would you choose to
be?" Mr. Shaw's reply was, "I would choose to be the man George Bernard
Shaw could have been, but never was."
Have you ever thought
about what you could be if you would only surrender to God's power for
power for living begins, as you become a member of Christ kingdom through
the salvation Christ offers.
We need personal
revival throughout the land. Spiritual revival can be a reality for each
of us as we trust in Almighty God to use our weak vessels to his