Monday, June 29, 2020

Equipping the Called, Not Calling the Equipped

Years ago I heard the statement for the first time, “If you want to get something done, find a busy person to do it.” Meaning that people who are “doers” are most likely to throw themselves into new projects, even if they already have a full plate of projects and goals.


The contrast to this would be that if someone’s not busy, it’s probably because they’re undependable and unlikely to get that important matter accomplished.


In the work world, this might have some credence. People who are workaholics – or whatever we choose to call them these days – seem to thrive when there’s more and more to be done. “So what if Bill is already putting in 70-hour weeks. He can handle one or two more projects.” So what if he might be neglecting his family, his health and personal well-being in the process. All that matters is that we get accomplished whatever we so desperately want to get done.


Interestingly, that’s not how God seems to work. When it comes to matters of greatest importance, He often chooses those who might have been labeled as “most unlikely to succeed” in their high school yearbooks. The Scriptures are chock full of examples. 


Moses was the infant son of a Jewish woman who was raised in a royal Egyptian home. Then, after he had intervened to save the life of an Israelite slave, the one-time adopted prince had to flee for his life. Add the fact that he wasn’t a gifted orator. Yet it was this same Moses whom God chose to lead the Israelites out of bondage after more than 400 years, taking them to the Promised Land. 


After King Saul proved to be a total bust as Israel’s first king, God didn’t decide to replace him with the cover guy on Hebrew Man Monthly. He opted for David, a humble shepherd boy who was nothing more than an after-thought even for his father, Jesse. However, this was the fellow who would successfully defeat the giant Goliath, lead the nation of Israel to greatness, and for good measure, personally write the lion’s share of the Psalms.


When Jesus was choosing key followers to carry on His spiritual mission, He didn’t select prominent religious leaders or members of the Jewish high society. Instead, the Lord handpicked the likes of Peter and Andrew, James and John – lowly fishermen. Also among his 12 closest disciples was a detestable tax collector named Matthew.


It was another Saul, to be renamed Paul, who turned from zealous persecutor of Christians into a courageous, unwavering spokesman for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This phenomenal transformation belonged in the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” of his day.


Why is this? Why does God seem to take such pleasure in designating misfits and the unqualified for His eternal, kingdom work? Because, as I heard someone recently describe it, He equips the called. He doesn’t call the equipped.


Paul summarized this well in his first letter to believers in ancient Corinth: “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).


The apostle reaffirmed this in another letter, declaring, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake…. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).


Throughout church history, some of the most fruitful servants of God have been people dealing with various physical maladies, depression, and other limitations which from a human perspective should have rendered them unsuitable for their holy callings. But God has had a different view.


I remember my first trip to Brazil in 1999 on behalf of CBMC International, a marketplace ministry I was working with at the time. When my boss insisted I make the journey, I thought he was crazy. I couldn’t speak Portuguese; I was a writer and editor, not a ministry developer; and I knew absolutely no one in that huge, cosmopolitan nation. Just boarding the plane for the 10-hour flight there was an act of faith, trusting God would have someone to meet me and serve as my guide for my time there.


Thankfully, I had embraced two central truths about the Christian life, teachings I’d need to rely on for such a broad step outside my comfort zone. In Jesus 15:5, Jesus had told His followers, “without Me you can do nothing.” I already understood from experience that was true. The other precept was Paul’s confident assertion, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).


As I embarked on my flight to Sao Paulo, and then on to other Brazilian cities, I had one consuming thought: “Lord, I’m willing, but you’re going to have to do it – You will have to accomplish whatever you want through me!” And that’s exactly what He did. More than 20 years later, I still maintain friendships with several of the men I met, an enduring bond we share in Christ. As Ephesians 3:20 promises, God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think.”


Has the Lord ever impressed upon you to do something for which you felt totally unsuited, utterly unqualified? Perhaps He’s doing that right now – or will do so sometime in the future. In any case, keep in mind: God equips the called; He doesn’t call the equipped.

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