God has always used flawed people. This is primarily so that God gets the glory when miracles happen through ordinary individuals. We are often tempted to think that God prefers to use the good-looking, charismatic, “I’ve got it all together” ones to do his best work.
Jesus Himself proved that this was never going to be the case when He washed His disciples’ feet, stating:-
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”. (John 13:14-17)
Having been immersed in the book of Judges recently, I know that many of those who led Israel in times of great difficulty and warfare were not exactly prime examples of servanthood. We read of Gideon, who started out doubting God’s calling on his life, went on to win mighty victories, and then got caught up in the trappings of the adulation offered. We read of Jephthah, born in illegitimacy, who overcame huge family rejection to become a commander, but who did not choose his words – and one particular vow – carefully enough, with tragic consequences. And then of course there was Samson…
I have been blessed and challenged by one particular Study book , Timothy Keller’s Study guide “Judges: The Flawed and the Flawless” (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judges-Flawed-Flawless-Guide-Guides/dp/1908762888/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518722527&sr=8-1&keywords=timothy+keller+Judges+the+flawed+and+the+flawless)
He describes Samson thus:
“(In Samson) we find by far the most flawed character in the book; a violent, impulsive, sex-drive complacent man… (who) uses his Spirit-given strength selfishly, to extricate himself from the trouble his weaknesses get him into”!(page 67)
Yet Scripture gives a huge portion of the Book of Judges over to this man (Chapters 13-16; 4 chapters in all). If ever there was someone we might consider totally unsuitable to do God’s work, it would have been Samson.
But Keller writes so wonderfully about all of the Judges, and I have been mulling over one of his phrases for days; he notes that “God can write straight with crooked pencils”.
There are many times when I feel scared about doing life, and especially about doing ministry, for it is indeed a high calling.
In those times, I have to do it scared.
And there are even more times when I feel totally unworthy of being a vessel fit for God’s use. Paul the Apostle felt like this when he said that “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
In those times, I have to do it flawed.
The Message rendition of 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 is very graphic:
“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. 8 As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, 9 but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. 10 What they did to Jesus, they do to us — trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us — he lives! 11 Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. “
- On those days when I feel utterly useless, God can, and does use me.
- On the nights when sleep deserts me, and I worry so much, God can use me.
- At those times when I question the hurtful and unjust thoughts in my head towards others, wondering if I actually said those thoughts out loud ( as I often want to!), God can still use me.
- When I try to share His words and His love for others, and end up in an emotional heap feeling like I have failed Him, God IS using me.
I need to start viewing my life as God sees it, not as my own perception of “success” or “failure” would lead me to believe.
Straight lines being drawn with crooked pencils
And oh, what a picture He is creating!
- Have you felt recently like a crooked, or even a broken pencil in God’s hands?
- What do you imagine He will do with you in that state?
- What if you could truly believe that God has very different value judgements when it comes to those He will use – what difference would it make to you?
- How have you been valuing yourself lately?
- What is your definition of “Ministry” – and how do you minister where you are?