‘God must love ordinary people because he made so many of them.’ We laugh. But the truth is profound.
From tongue-tied Moses (to er is human) to cave-mouth Peter; from down-in-the-mouth Jonah to high-as-a-kite Noah;a from Job in his trouble-bath to Mordecai having the last laugh, the Bible bristles with ordinary folk who achieved extraordinary things for God. And you were born to continue this tradition.
If to the world you seem insignificant, it merely intensifies God’s longing to raise you high.b
Recall the Messiah’s birth. The leaders, the teachers, the theologians, and the priests, were oblivious to it. Heaven shared the news with shepherds at work; with old, temple-bound Anna;c and with ‘wise men from the east’. The latter presumably weren’t even Jews.
It was the common people who heard this Man gladly.d And it was from their ranks that he handpicked the ones to fire the world with his glory. He chose hotheads with provincial accents, a tax man – a small-time turncoat any self-respecting citizen would spit on – and logheads with the stench of fish on their callused hands.
Christ was continually aware of the invisible people, whether it was a despised tax collector peering through the leaves, or an unclean woman pressing through the throng; a wild-eyed madman in the Decapolis back-blocks, or a luckless loner at the pool; a sightless misfit, or a stinking leper; a cripple, or a mute.e To a tired and hungry Jesus, befriending a spurned woman – giving hope to a Samaritan living in shame – was more important than food. Society’s rejects warmed his heart.
It seemed wherever there was a paltry act of kindness you’d find religious people simmering with contempt, and Jesus glowing with admiration. A pauper slipping a pittance into the offering,f a street woman’s pathetic washing of his feet,g a boy’s fish sandwiches,h thrilled him. Mary just sat on the floor in rapt attention. That was enough to fill him with praise.i
Jesus was forever shocking his observers by selecting non-entities for special attention. Society saw a dirty beggar, a nauseating blotch on the neighborhood, a curiosity for theological debate (is it right to heal on the Sabbath? who sinned, he or his parents?). Jesus saw a worthy recipient of his powerful love; a precious work of God brimming with beauty, dignity and heart-wrenching need; someone to die for. While crowds turned up their noses, he poured out his heart. The masses tried to silence blind Bartimeus, the loud-mouthed groveler.j They sneered at Zacchaeus, the money-grubbing runt who soon towered over them by displaying exceptional generosity.k His followers wanted to push aside snotty children.a They opposed the Canaanite bitchb whose incessant nagging was driving them to distraction. No one could guess who Jesus would next honor. It was sure to be some faceless loser they had not even noticed, or an embarrassing nuisance they wished would skulk away.
Jesus came to show us the Father.c Today, the religious world still looks at the big names, while God treasures the ‘unknowns’. He delights to endow with eternal grandeur their simple acts of service.
From the time Mary, ‘just a housewife’, mothered the Son of God, and the world’s greatest Teacher spent five or six times longer as a carpenter than as a teacher, humanity has had living proof that the mundane can be holy.
The world is filled with God’s undercover agents – ministers of the gospel who have successfully infiltrated enemy territory using all sorts of ingenious covers – housewife, plumber, bus driver . . .
One of the most powerful influences in evangelist D. L. Moody’s life was the now-famous statement, ‘Moody, the world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to him.’ The words that moved the man who moved the multitudes was uttered by a butcher.28
In Argentina, around-the-clock pray-ers do battle in what is possibly one of the most powerful centers of prayer earth has seen. Some independent observers have concluded that it is bolts from this continual prayer storm that fuel the massive Argentine revival and spill over to the rest of the world. The participants are 2,000 prisoners.
Brother Andrew, ‘God’s Smuggler’, tells of a girl who became a Christian because he obeyed the Spirit’s prompting not to share the Gospel with her. He was in the ideal position to witness, but his Spirit-led refusal to exploit it, seized the girl with fear that she was becoming past hope. This moved her, like nothing else could, to give her life to the Lord.29
The journalist who found Livingstone and was converted by him, initially grabbed headlines and published a book about his adventure. It is not this that interests me, however, but a letter Stanley wrote some years later. According to a modern appraisal of missionary history, this solitary letter, published in a newspaper, did more for the cause of missions than many missionaries have achieved in a lifetime.30
Try not to underestimate God’s ability to use for his glory, even the most trivial things you do. (I’d like to say never underestimate it, but that’s a tall order when living within you is the One whose power surpasses our wildest hopes.d)
CHAPTER 6: I’VE GOTTA BE ME
Heaven’s honor roll reads like a Who’s Who of bungling. And I love it!
I must have slammed into so many closed doors in my spiritual job search that my whole head is a dead end. Of my legendary brain malfunctions, you’ll squeeze just one example from me. Divulge more, and I’d be sentenced to wearing a paper bag over my head for the rest of my natural life – and that’s a prospect I don’t relish, no matter how much you think it improves my looks.
I was about to go home when a manager said he couldn’t start his car. Some idiot had left the headlights on. Suddenly my nerves thought I’d caught malaria. That morning I had tested the lights of our entire vehicle fleet. ‘That’s funny,’ added another manager, ‘I can’t start my car either – battery’s dead.’ (It was definitely malaria, maybe yellow fever as well.) Up walked another manager – and was that another one behind him?
I’ve got a mechanical mind; it’s just that the gears have jammed.
When I have mistake and onions it’s neither rare nor well done. And just when I’ve had my fill I’m forced to eat my words. And that’s only the entrée. Somehow I always end up in the soup and have to pay for it. Humble pie follows with a generous serve of raspberries and I scream.
I make more slips than a lingerie company. As my mind lurches from one goof-up to the next, I fill with despair. Then I limp to the Bible and find comfort. I bump into Isaac, who blessed the wrong twin;a and Jacob, the scheming mummy’s boy, who had to marry his sister-in-law to patch up his first mistake.b I hear Job clawing for words to recount the tragedy that marred his childhood – he was born alive.c I see Saul hiding amongst the baggage;d David squabbling with his brothers;e Jonah bewailing the death of a weed;f Thomas poking holes in Jesus’ side.g I don’t know that they had pogo sticks back then, but if they did, they played under the table for too long. Hard-boiled? These egg-heads were always in hot water. Whenever they had a brainwave heaven ducked for cover. Of course, Solomon had a good head on his shoulders – a cute brunette one night, a redhead the next. I think he ended up counting his wives and kissing his money.
Jesus hand-picked the quiet, intelligent type. When they were quiet, they were intelligent. They spent the rest of their time turning howlers into an art form. Their business cards must have read Bloopers for Every Occasion. There were the sons of blunder, James and John, armed with tongues programmed to shoot first and ask questions at the inquest. Those thunder-heads even though the Prince of Peace was into star wars.h Then there was Peter, whose mouth went into spasms whenever his brain died. He always spoke with his mouth full, and still found room for the other foot. (Any normal sized mouth would have had corns.) You were sure to find this crying shame somewhere between boo-boo and boo-hoo. And while our silver tongued, lead brained hero was doing what came naturally, everyone else was scrambling to prove they had the IQ of a doughnut hole. Who could forget that ridiculous prayer-meeting when the maid left Peter locked out in the cold, the pray-ers thought the maid had gone around the twist for being so stupid as to think their prayers had been answered, and they finally made the brilliant deduction that the guy, who looks and sounds like Peter bashing on the door, must be Peter’s angel?a They believed in keeping their brains in ‘as new’ condition. Remember the dozer with the window seat who fell three floors to sleep during Paul’s sermon?b They make that drop-out look like a genius. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said that by normal standards few of the Corinthian Christians were wise.c If they were anything like the rest, you could pool their intellects and not have enough to power a headache.
I could put my feet up with folks like that. And what fires me is that these scatter-brains are God’s sort of people – the type through whom he changes the world.
Christians squabble over whether tongues have ceased, but no one doubts that signs and blunders are with us still. The centuries have made Christians no brighter, nor any less treasured by heaven. My favorite is Dwight Moody. He hated his first name,31 pronounced Jerusalem in two syllables,32 and wrote without a speck of punctuation. Can you guess the words he was attempting to spell in the following: sucksead, beleave, shure, clurks, bead, hav, don, bimb bi, peter?d ‘I am getting over the difficulty,’ said middle-aged Moody about his spelling, ‘I am always sure of the first letter and the last . . .’Such shortcomings are endearing. To scorn them is to act like a thirteen year old despising childish behavior in his little sister – behavior that more mature people find adorable. Had we a massive intellect and love approaching that of our great King, we would not only discern the frailty of the even greatest earthly minds, we would probably feel as warmly about their foibles as we do about those of the cutest child.