Chapter Eleven

God's Power to Utilize People

When only the tasks of world evangelism, of edifying existing congregations, and of Christian benevolence are considered, the amount of work to be done for God is incomprehensible. When only one community is examined in regard to opportunities for compassion for the sick and elderly, for edifying the weak, for encouraging the troubled, for teaching the young, for reaching the distressed, and for doing good works, the task seems overwhelming. If the spiritual needs of one community are multiplied by all communities on earth, it is obvious that God needs an enormous work force. There is no talent or ability He does not need. His work is so diversified He can utilize anyone.

Suppose God composed a complete list of specific "jobs to be done" in today's world. Suppose every Christian had to examine that list carefully and select tasks he or she felt capable of doing. How many Christians would feel capable of doing nothing? If God had the freedom to use you in any way He wished, what could he accomplish through your life? How many Christians believe, "God could accomplish nothing significant through me. I have too little ability to be worth much to God. If God wants something important done, He will have to use someone else."

There are many tragic beliefs about God's ability to use people for His purposes. First, Christians commonly believe God cannot use "common people" to do anything important. Second, they believe He must use an extraordinary person if He is going to do something powerful, to cause a momentous change, or to cause an extraordinary happening. Third, they believe such individuals are rare with only a few living in each generation. Since most Christians believe themselves to be limited-ability persons, they are convinced God can make little use of them. Thus they sit waiting for God to find an exceptional person to do His work. As a result, many of God's important works go undone.

Most Christians find it difficult to discuss what they believe God can do with their individual lives. Some feel such discussion is presumptuous and arrogant. Others fear they will find previously unassumed responsibilities. Many feel so worthless that they regard such discussions as pointless. Most beliefs about God's ability to use people are in grave error. Jesus readily illustrates that error.

The Impressive Jesus
Jesus was undeniably impressive in many ways. His accomplishments are impressive. Regardless of who evaluates Jesus' life, no one can deny His life changed the course of world history. His life, teachings, and death produced changes in social structures, human values, ethical teachings, and moral standards unparalleled by any other person. The impact of His life has been a major world influence for almost two thousand years. The world will not outgrow the impact of the Man from Galilee because His influence is woven into the fabric of many of the world's societies. While Jesus' influence on everything from literature to social consciousness could be discussed at length, suffice it to say that the impact of Jesus' life, teachings, and death is impressive.

What Jesus was as a man is impressive. Those who possess sensitivity and feeling for people are powerfully attracted to the man Jesus throughout the gospels. The phenomenal qualities of His life grip them. (1) He touches them with His concern for unwanted, unimportant people: a leper; a widow who lost an only son; a prostitute; a despised tax collector; the maimed. (2) He touches them by treating every person as an individual. Society's prejudicial stereotyping never influenced the way Jesus treated anyone. (3) He touches them with a compassion so great that it felt for those who tried to exploit Him, and it asked for forgiveness for those who killed Him in ignorance. (4) He touches them with a commitment to God's will which could not be swayed by the emotions of His disciples or the pressures of powerful enemies. (5) He touches them with the forcefulness of His teachings.

The man He was made what He said powerful. Had it not been for His unique life, His message may have been striking and curious, but not powerful and life changing. The trustworthiness and power of His message are founded in the life he lived and death he died. In all this, Jesus was most impressive.

The Unimpressive Jesus
From another perspective, Jesus was not impressive. His life situation and life circumstances were most unimpressive. He was born in a small, insignificant village whose only claim to fame was some notable former residents. Part of His infancy was spent in exile in Egypt. He grew up in Nazareth, and insignificant town not even mentioned in the Old Testament. The man who served as His earthly father was a carpenter--not a priest, a Levite, a prophet, or a Jewish aristocrat. All Jesus' credentials for His mission and work were wrong. He was not trained in the schools of the Holy City, He never sat at the feet of a prominent rabbi, and He never lived in Jerusalem's prestigious spiritual environment. He grew up in, lived in, and died in poverty. He owned nothing but the clothes He wore. Prominent religious leaders of His day did not arise from that background.

Jesus left no descendants. No sons perpetuated His name and legacy. As an adult He did not travel outside the tiny nation of Israel. No powerful, popular figure was His confidant or friend. No influential person openly championed His cause.

Capernaum served as the Galilean base for His ministry. This rural community was noted for business and commerce, not for religious influence. His disciples were untrained in communicating with and teaching people and had no preparation for beginning a religious movement. Among them were some fishermen, a tax collector, a radical Zealot, and others of unknown backgrounds. As far as is known, all had rural backgrounds with no education under a recognized Jewish rabbi.

The Jewish religious communities never accepted Him. Religious leaders resented Him as a public embarrassment and a threat to the nation's future. They ceaselessly opposed Him.

Today no one would seek to produce the world's Savior by using a man of Jesus' background and life situation. His background and life's circumstances were completely wrong for His mission and His purpose. Yet, He succeeded. He succeeded so powerfully that the world cannot destroy His influence or ignore the reality of His accomplishment. God powerfully used Jesus to succeed in a manner that defies human planning.

Jesus: Not an Exception
Looking at God's achievement through Jesus' unimpressive life circumstances, most would say, "That is remarkable--even astounding. However, He was God's Son, and that makes Him unique." Being God's Son made Jesus unique. However, what God did with Jesus is not unique. It has been commonplace for God to use people of unimpressive credentials to achieve His purposes.

There was nothing impressive about Noah's life circumstances. Abraham was a nomad who wandered around the area of Palestine and Egypt as a man without a country. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, lived as a slave, and lived as a powerless, forgotten prisoner. As a shepherd in rugged Judea, David spent little time with people; that is hardly impressive training to be a king. Daniel was a captive, a hostage, and a prisoner of war. Esther was an orphan of exiled Jewish parents. Nehemiah was a descendant of captive people, a victim of the Babylonian captivity, and a royal slave who served the king his wine. Ezekiel was a priest with no temple who was a captive in a foreign land. Amos was a herdsman. Matthew was a tax collector. Peter, Andrew , James, and John were fishermen.

God used few people of illustrious background to accomplish His purposes. The only three prominent figures of illustrious backgrounds are Moses, Luke, and Paul.

There is a needed lesson to be seen in God's use of people of unimpressive backgrounds. God has tremendous power to use anyone regardless of who he is or where he is. God wants and can use anyone regardless of his background or his circumstances. The question is never "if" God can use a person. In God's countless tasks to be done, He can use everyone to do something. The questions is not, "Can God use a person?" The question is, "Will the person allow God to use him?" The difference between Noah, Abraham, Esther, Nehemial, and Peter and the thousands who did not serve God was not some exceptional ability which set them apart as extraordinary people. The difference was found in the trust each of them placed in God. Their courage to allow God to use them was the difference.

The Proper Focus
Many Christians fail to allow God to use them because their spiritual focus is wrong. Being faithful is the common concern of all Christians. In their anxiety about faithfulness, many Christians try to define faithfulness to the nearest half-an-ounce or thirty-second of an inch. While no one wants to oppose proper concern for faithfulness, Christians need to realize they are pursuing faithfulness in the wrong way. One does not worry his way to faithfulness or defined his way to faithfulness. When Christians have the faith and courage to let God use them freely, they are faithful. Knowledgeably doing God's will and work is faithfulness.

Following are some questions every Christian should ask himself. "What do I plan to accomplish for God? What are my spiritual dreams for serving Christ? Is what I am doing now all I ever plan to do? Am I at my spiritual peak rendering the best God can ever expect of me? Or am I growing? Will my growth allow God greater future use of my life? Do I live with a sense of spiritual mission knowing God's works are of eternal importance?"

The Christian who believes God uses only unique people of exceptional ability must realize that belief is a lie, a deceit from Satan. Most people who accomplished God's great tasks were unusual only in their faith and courage. Faith and courage are developed, not endowed.

God has urgent need for countless workers. The Christian who renders little or no service to God needs to ask himself, "Why has God been unable to make greater use of my life?" The answer to that question is the doorway to greater service.


  1. State two tragic beliefs among Christians concerning God's ability to use people.
  2. What is the effect of these tragic beliefs.
  3. Why do Christians find it difficult to discuss what they believe God can accomplish through them?
  4. Discuss the fact that Jesus' life was impressive in terms of what He accomplished.
  5. Discuss the unimpressive things about Jesus the man.
  6. Why do Christians often disregard the example of Jesus as proof that God can use anyone powerfully?
  7. How do the following people illustrate God's ability to utilize people?
    1. Noah
    2. Abraham
    3. Joseph
    4. David
    5. Daniel
    6. Esther
    7. Nehemiah
    8. Matthew
    9. Peter, Andrew, James, and John
    10. Can you suggest other examples?
  8. What was the difference between the people of question 7 and those who did not serve God?
  9. What will not produce faithfulness?
  10. How is faithfulness produced?

Thought Questions

  1. Why must all Christians have full confidence in God's ability to use them?
  2. How will a Christian be affected by the belief that God cannot use him?
  3. How can a Christian produce a growing, continuing confidence in God's ability to use him?
  4. In regard to God's ability to use anyone, what lessons should be learned from Jesus? Be specific.
  5. What is the most important lesson to be learned in this chapter?
transcribed by Debbie Hendrix
Copyright © 1983, David Chadwell
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