Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nothing Out of the Ordinary

We’re enamored by famous people, celebrities and superstars. We gather by the thousands for their concerts. We throng to their public appearances and book signings. Judging by the array of gossip magazines and tabloid newspapers, not to mention late-night TV shows and online “news,” we can’t get enough information about them.

An industry has emerged with the sole purpose of making people famous for no reason other than being famous. Members of the Kardashian family and “stars” of other TV reality shows come to mind. Many of us know far more than necessary about people like Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber. If you were to ask any of them to identify their greatest achievement to date, they should answer, “Becoming famous.”

It takes people of all kinds - famous
and unknown - to build our lives.
Yet fame and being famous aren’t as important as we might believe. For every well-known individual that’s become a household name, hundreds, even thousands of people who will never gain public acclaim are making noble contributions to society. Consider the soldiers in the Middle East, serving for low wages, facing daily threats of being killed or maimed. Law enforcement officers have received lots of negative attention of late – at times justified – but countless thousands quietly walk their beats or cruise the streets, poised to step forward to protect us if needed, even knowing they do so at their own risk.

When we visit a doctor’s office or get admitted to a hospital, nurses whose names we’ll never remember attend to our maladies and offer comfort and compassion. We hear about “teachers of the year,” but countless others equally deserving of honor instruct in obscurity, solely for the joy of helping to influence young minds in a positive way. When we enter our 24/7 supermarkets and see products neatly displayed on shelves and floors swept and mopped clean, it’s because of not-famous grocery clerks faithfully performing their jobs virtually unseen.

The list could go on, but every day we benefit from ordinary people doing things that make our lives a little easier, safer, cleaner and more enjoyable. Each time I’ve read the Bible, it’s struck me how God seems to have a special affection for plain ole, ordinary people.

Years ago I heard a little song, “Ordinary People,” written by Mom Winans. (Not to be confused with other songs also called “Ordinary People,” by John Legend or Neil Young.) The one I’m thinking about has a very simple message that affirms we don’t have to be famous or someone extraordinary to make a difference. Here’s a portion of it:

Just ordinary people,
God uses ordinary people,
He chooses people just like me and you
Who are willing to do as He commands.

God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you,
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Master’s hand.

Think about it: For decades Christianity’s most famous person has been Dr. Billy Graham. Each of his worldwide evangelistic crusades attracted many thousands, but by the time he arrived in a city to speak, most of the hard work had already been done. News releases were sent and advertising paid for to publicize the event; venues were secured and then prepared for the huge crowds; many people gathered to undergird the meetings with prayer; volunteers handled myriad details; friends invited friends to attend, and plans were made to follow up on people responding to the messages.

Jesus Christ spent most of His time hanging out with ordinary people. In selecting His disciples, He didn’t choose civic or religious leaders, the “movers and shakers” of the towns where He spoke, taught and healed. He chose obscure fishermen, humble folks, a despised tax collector. Acts 4:13 tells us, When 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.”

For the first 30 years of His life on earth, Jesus also would have been described as ordinary, a simple carpenter. Early in His ministry, He returned to His hometown and began to teach, but some of the townspeople resented an “ordinary person” having such impact. “’Where did this man get things things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:2-3).

The Scriptures are littered with accounts of how God used common, unassuming men, women, and even children to carry out His work. This should encourage us all, knowing we don’t have to be the smartest or most articulate or most skilled person for Him to utilize in a very special way for His glory. He loves to use the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. As the song says, “little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand.”

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