The world, and sometimes even the Body of Christ, are impressed by people with wealth, fame, beauty, popularity, and high levels of education and accomplishment.
Yet, these are not the criteria God uses when He calls people to be used by Him.
He isn’t looking for those who are flashy, charismatic, powerfully gifted, or highly accomplished to do His mighty works.
Quite the opposite.
Down through history, God has used simple, ordinary women, men, and young people who had a humble, passionate longing to be close to Him and were willing to do whatever He asked of them.
This quote by Frank Bartleman, the eyewitness historian of the Azusa Street Revival, captures this perspective:
“The Lord’s heroes will arise from the dust of obscure and despised circumstances. He draws from the deepest seclusion the weak instruments by which He purposes to accomplish great things. For this reason, most of those God used to set the world on fire through the Azusa Street Revival came from this obscurity.” Frank Bartleman
One of those “heroes” was William Seymour.
He was a poor, one-eyed, black man, with a severely scarred face. He was uneducated, totally unknown, and constantly up against the rejection that was part of being black in that era.
Yet, this was the man God chose to be the Apostle of that Revival.
William Seymour being used by God in such a far-reaching way reminds me of this verse:
“God chooses things the world considers foolish, in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chooses things that are powerless, to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 NLT Personalized
Another unlikely person was Smith Wigglesworth.
He was an uneducated plumber. He couldn’t even read. Nonetheless, he became an Evangelist who was powerfully used by God.
Amos also was an ordinary man.
He even said about himself: “I’m not one of your professional prophets. I certainly never trained to be one. I am just a shepherd and I take care of fig trees. But, the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go prophesy to My people in Israel.’” Amos 7:14-15 NLT
Then, he became a prophet to Israel.
Next comes Gideon.
The Midianites were so brutal, that the Israelites fled to the mountains. God called Gideon to deliver them. However, when He told this man how He wanted to use him, this was Gideon’s insecure response: “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15 NLT
But, even though he was this down on himself, and although he felt completely useless in the eyes of others, hidden inside of Gideon was someone the Father knew was a very special, humble man whom He could trust, and use to serve Him and His people. So, He looked past all the insecurity of this man who was beat up by life, and said to him, “Mighty hero! The Lord is with you!”
And, there was David.
When the Prophet Samuel asked his father, Jesse to bring his sons to him, he didn’t include David with his brothers. Only after the Prophet questioned, “Are these all the sons you have?” did Jesse mention his youngest one, who he saw as insignificant, and who was just taking care of the sheep.
Then, even after David was publicly anointed to be king by a highly respected prophet, his own brother, Eliab, demeaned him in front of other people. This occurred when David asked questions about Goliath, and Eliab cruelly responded:
“What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you are supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and dishonesty. You just want to see the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28 NLT
What he was actually saying to David was:
“Who do you think you are, David? You will never amount to anything. Just go back and do what you always do. Stop thinking you can do anything that matters, at all, with your life.”
Yet, this overlooked teenager was the one God “selected from the common people to be king.” Psalm 89:19 NLT
Even though no one else thought his life was worth anything at all, God saw David with very different eyes. That’s what He does for each of us, no matter what negative, crushing words others have said to us, and even if others have not seen who we could be.
Then came Jesus.
He could have been born into an elite family of great influence. He actually could have come as royalty, and lived in an exquisitely beautiful palace, surrounded by extravagant comfort. Instead, Jesus chose to come into this world in a humble, darkened barn. It smelled of sheep, camels, cows and donkeys. There was only a dirt floor to lie down on, and there was no way to fill it with welcoming light or warmth.
He grew up among the common people. As a young man, He preferred to spend time with the lowly and humble, rather than be with those who considered themselves important. He definitely didn’t try to hang out with anyone, just so that they could help Him build a big ministry someday. He also could have picked the most educated, gifted, articulate, accomplished, “important” people of His time to help Him set in motion His plan to evangelize the world.
But, Jesus didn’t do this!
Rather, He chose uneducated, simple people whom others saw as so insignificant that this is what they said about them:
“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. For they could see that they were ordinary men who had no special training.” Acts 4:13 NLT
This description of Jesus powerfully captures the humbleness of His life, and ministry:
He was born in an obscure village.
He grew up as the child of a peasant woman.
He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
For three years, He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He didn’t go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.
Jesus did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
Yet, He shook the world at its very foundation and became the Savior of us all.
I’m so thankful that Jesus decided to live this way, and that He chose to use “unimportant” people to serve the Father with Him. This inspires hope that God can still use ordinary women, men, and young people, and in powerful ways.
I’m someone who needed this hope.
My family lived in the slums of South Boston, across from a soot-blackened factory and a decaying, rat infested bus barn. Our home was a cramped tenement, with only cold water and no heat, except from a coal burning stove. Each day, I lived in dread of encounters with large rats, and swarms of huge cockroaches.
When I was six, we moved to California and lived behind an old donut shop. The only way to our front door was past a row of beat up garbage cans that were always stuffed with rotting garbage. The smell was nauseating. To make matters worse, I cringed as I stepped over the maggots that were everywhere. I was so mortified by the thought of anyone seeing where I lived, that I never invited anyone to come to our home.
The years when we lived in the Projects were even worse. I have vivid memories of what a scary, treacherous place it is to grow up. Every day, I felt that my life could be violently ended. I was terrified to walk home from school. So I always ran as fast as I could, to escape getting beat up again by one of the gangs that waited each day to pounce on me. Throughout every night, I cringed with fear and couldn’t sleep because of frantic screams, sirens, gunshots, and screeching cars outside my bedroom window.
At the same time, I didn’t have a safe mother or father. I was experiencing the worst kinds of abuse in our home. Four of us kids, at different moments, were screaming from what was being done to us. Hearing what was happening to my younger brother and older sister is what hurt me the most. I was horribly troubled that I was helpless to stop the terrible things happening to them.
In the midst of all this darkness, peace was not possible.
Life was only a treacherous ordeal of survival. I felt lost and empty, with no way out of the pain I constantly was drowning in.
But, shortly before I graduated from eighth grade, my older brother was very concerned about what was happening to me. He petitioned the nuns of an exclusive Notre Dame Academy to give me a chance to succeed in their school and I was given a full scholarship. Then, every day, I gratefully boarded the bus that took me across the railroad tracks, and far away from the Projects.
However, I dreaded the days when we didn’t have to wear uniforms, because the other girls came from wealthy families. They had beautiful clothes, and mine were old and shabby. This was humiliating for me as a teenager. So, I withdrew even more into my own world, where no one could get close to me.
At eighteen, I entered the convent.
As a Catholic nun, I taught second grade. When I left after five years, I could only get minimum-wage employment. I married a year later. But, it was a horrifically abusive, violent, often life-threatening relationship that ended after seven years. At that point, I was destitute. I had two young children to raise by myself, with no help or support from anyone. I was completely alone. Yet, one day God looked beyond all this, and told me these amazing words. He is speaking them to anyone who feels that their life is not of much value, at all.
My child, go for it!
As you do, please remember young David. I took him from a lowly, hidden away place, where no one thought he would amount to anything, and I raised him up to be king. I did that for him even though he failed in many ways. His failures could not stop My plan for him, because I saw the sincere humbleness of his heart.
I promise you, that if you will sincerely try to love Me, and to live by what My Word shows you to do, then I will do the same for you, as I did for young David. I will use you far beyond what others, or even yourself, have ever thought possible. Therefore, I urge you to lay down all the limitations you have put on yourself, and those that others have put on you.
I ache for you to stop thinking about the cruel, discouraging words others have said to you. Those mean words will only continue to hurt you. If you keep thinking about them, they could even destroy you, and all I have planned for you to live, and experience, that will bring you such joy.
I also want you to know, that I compassionately understand all the times you have felt like a useless, invisible, meaningless outsider, when you have been with other people.
But, that is not how I see you!
So please, take My hand. Step out of the darkness you have felt and begin to live the life I have planned for you. As you do, you will discover new hope, and so much encouragement about what I have destined for your life. And, come often to spend simple times with Me, talking to Me honestly about all that is in your heart. As you do, I will show you the way to a completely different path for your life, a path you couldn’t even see before.
Yet, as your Dad, I see it. And, I know how to help you find your way there, and how to give you the courage to walk along it.
So please come. I long to be able to help you begin living the life I planned for you, before you were even born.
Your Father and your Dad
Psalm 103:13, 103:5, 71:6, Isaiah 43:2, 41:13, Jeremiah 29:11, Hosea 2:15