God’s dexterity in employing men and women for His purposes is clearly evident throughout both Bible and church history. Sometimes God uses the most unlikely person for a particular work. Some of His choices would never have reached my list of possibilities.
For example, I don’t believe I would have chosen the apostle Peter for the position of disciple. There were too many problems to work through with him, not to mention his volatile disposi #31;tion. But Peter went on to be an outstanding apostle of Jesus Christ.
God’s instruction to Samuel in locating a replacement for King Saul sheds some light on the criteria He uses to select His choice servants. To alleviate possible failure on Samuel’s part God said, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16.7, NlV).” Humans constantly look on outward appearances, such as education, natural ability, physical demeanor and past suc #31;cesses. Appearances, however, can deceive the casual observer. Nothing surprises me more than buying a book only to discover the cover misled me. How disillusioning.
But this works both ways. God can use anyone, but He never lowers the standard for anyone. He always raises the man. That gives hope to someone like me.
A PREPARED MAN
Jeremiah, troubled by his unfitness for the task, discovered an important principle at the outset of his ministry. The LORD said to him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, / before you were born I set you apart; / I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).” God knew Jere #31;miah; therefore He called him. It is that simple.
When God initiates a new ministry or work, He always prepares a man or woman and then works through that individual. The Scottish Presbyterian minister Dr. Alexander Whyte often gave this challenge to his ministerial students: “A congregation is awaiting you, to be made by you, after you are made by God.” This is true for every other area of Christian service.
God oversees the preparation for each person. The pattern is this: God makes the man; the man makes the ministry; the ministry makes the church. But God always begins with a man. E. M. Bounds challenges us with these words. “The church is looking for better meth #31;ods; God is looking for better men.” This has always been the case.
Such men as Peter, Paul, Luther, the Wesleys, Spurgeon, Moody, Simpson and Tozer brighten church history. The unde #31;veloped potential of each of these men lay buried in their personalities. God sees in us what nobody else can -- not even ourselves. Only He knows our actual potential and can bring it out into useful service.
We will not always be aware of our preparation. It seems sometimes that God delights in keeping us in the dark. Some of His best work occurs far from the prying eyes of men. Therefore God will never call upon us to do that for which He has not already prepared us. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing. Therefore, whatever opportunity pre #31;sents itself to us, as Christians we must believe that we have been prepared for it. The promise remains. “God’s calling is God’s enabling.”
A PROVEN MAN
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul pre #31;sented this warning regarding the selec #31;tion of overseers’. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become con #31;ceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” A similar caution is also needed today.
Paul’s use of the word “novice” in the King James Version denotes a new con #31;vert, one who by inexperience is unfit to act as a bishop or overseer in a church. In this area many churches can make catastrophic mistakes. A new convert thrust into a ministry without a solid foundation can encounter difficulty.
What God insists on is a man who is proven faithful in personal spiritual mat #31;ters. This crucial area does not get enough emphasis. And yet, apart from steadfast discipline, spiritual growth does not happen. Anyone can be steadfast without resistance. But how a person deals with friction, ridicule, opposition, loneliness, discouragement and failure reveals a person’s real spiritual qualities.
A person respected in the area of Christian character proves himself to God. Do the people around us, as well as those who live with us, give a good report of our Christian behavior? Stephen R. Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People states
“Many people with secondary greatness - that is, social recognition for theirtalents - lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later,you’ll see this in every long-term relationship they have, whether it is with abusiness associate, a spouse, a friend, or a teenage child going through anidentity crisis. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, ‘What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.’”
A person committed to Christian ministry is invaluable in God’s scheme of things. Those who are proven dependable always seem to be available for even those insignificant things that need to be done around the church. This type of Christian character honors God and advances the Kingdom of God.
A PROSPEROUS MAN
David, the psalmist, wrote, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. / He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season / and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers (Psalm 1:2-3).”
When people hear the word “pros #31;perity” today, they usually think about financial matters. It is true that a person in leadership should have his finances in order. The pocketbook is the most revealing book in a person’s home, for how he spends money shows his real priorities and interests. A person can have plenty of money, however, and still not experience the abundance David refers to in this psalm.
One area of spiritual abundance that requires careful understanding is the world’s concept of success. Everyone wants success. But from a Christian point of view, success is achieved when a believer knows the ways of God as well as the Word of God. These go together. The successful Christian models qualities found in Jesus Christ. These qualities are both attractive and gratifying. #31;
A productive spiritual life will be healthy and growing with visible results. In other words there must be fruit in the person’s life. Fruitfulness is a result of abiding in Christ.
My grandfather took pride in his pear trees. Careful husbandry on his part brought each tree to fruitfulness. Nothing delighted him more than to see his tree yield fruit. He expected fruit.
God works in our lives to bring about fruit. Jesus taught this in John 15. Abid #31;ing in Him will result, most naturally, in fruit. The gardener pulls a tree without fruit to make room for a tree that will produce. Therefore, there must be visi #31;ble proof of my relationship with Jesus Christ. To say I’m a Christian is not enough in today’s society. It never has been enough. What in my life -- and yours -- is proof positive that Christ lives within?
A POSSESSED MAN
Stressing the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, Paul cautioned the church in Ephesus: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). What a wonderful contrast Paul paints for us in that verse. A person under the influence of alcohol walks different. His speech is slurred. He even smells bad. Alcohol influences everything about him. Paul says that this is the way it is with the person under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Everything changes about him. A force which dwells within the heart, controls his every thought and action.
A former generation often spoke of a God-intoxicated man, meaning, of course, a person filled with the Holy Spirit. Possessed by the Holy Spirit in such a compelling manner makes him different than before. A peculiar fra #31;grance lingers around such a person’s life. His is not a “platform presence” but a presence permeating all areas of life.
One of the highest goals of the Chris #31;tian is to be used of God. It is something we strive for and pray about constantly. To understand just how God uses men and women in His scheme of things encourages me to think that somehow God can use me.