The question is not whether you are talented enough to be used greatly by God, the question is whether you're weak and humble enough. God delights to use the weak things of the world to shame the strong . . . which camp do you fall into?
"Using the Unlikely"
I believe that many if not most Christians, live in a state of semi-discouragement because they do not fit their concept of what a Christian must be before God can or will use them.
The reasons are a diverse as the Body of Christ. Some are consumed with guilt over past sin; some are dehabitated by failure which is interrupted only briefly at times by success; others feel inadequate because they lack a formal education; some suffer with the scars of their family history or personal background (children who are way-work). Still others seem overwhelmed by physical problems or limitations; others have difficulty accepting themselves as less than perfect; surely God can't or won't use me as he would really like to!
These problems can be boiled down to the following statement: Many Christians are paralyzed by the belief that since they do not measure up to the model, they then do not fit the mold of useable Christians.
If you are merciful, ask the average . . .
Ask a Christian lady, "Say, what kind woman does God use; they will come up with a hazy but very idealistic form - the woman will look like a mixture of the following: a industrious ability matched only by the Proverbs 31 woman; the submissive - Sarah who called Abraham lord; the grace of Queen Ester, the hospitality of Lydia, the teachability of Mary, the faith of Ruth and the body of Miss America; who would like to apply?
Ask a man; what kind of man doe God use, "Someone who takes charge like Elijah, can build cities like Nehemiah, debate with Kings like Daniel, speak with the wisdom of Solomon, endure the hardships of prison like Paul and at the same time, have a lake front cottage like the disciples and spend lots of time fishing.
You ask the average woman - the answer will be a woman who drips with perfection; a man whose "resume is filled with accomplishment.
When we turn to God's Word, we discover a wonderful truth - God is not stuck on one pattern. He does not have a heavenly mold that produces paper doll Christians. . . perfect and accomplished. . .the world produces conformity/God individuality.
Think of the people in this church -- it's diversity and variety. Some of you like classical music - others like to pat their feet while others wouldn't know the difference between a minuet and a march -- and wouldn't care! There are people in here who are Republican. . .
No other book spells it out more clearly than the Book of Judges, where we find 12 men and 1 woman that God used to impact a nation. All of them different from each other - yet if their is one common ingredient in them all -- they were all made from clay, ordinary if not unlikely candidates for God's service. They were called judges.
Now the first thing we need to clear up is a misconception of these judges. They had no courtroom, wore no robes, received no salary. In fact, these people were probably more like Matt Dillon and John Wayne than a dignified Supreme Court Judge. They resembled western sheriffs, who with forceful personalities led the people and enforced justice. Their function (2:16) was that of a deliverer. Judges 2.16. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.
Their story is actually a lesson on human nature - we observe how people act when there are no external restraints - take a class of second graders - let teacher leave the room and erasers fly; bubblegum appears out of nowhere. How many Moms have had wild things happen as soon as you've gotten on the phone. What is it about getting on the phone? It's like the kid knows how far your telephone chord will reach - she can't reach this far - what kind of chaos can I create? (not my kinds - I've just overheard)
How Joshua has recently die - the people fall into idolatry - then
Chapter 3:7. And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
8. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the os Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.
9. "And when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
10. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel.
Now each judge seemed to have one primary enemy. For Othniel, it was the King of Mesopotamia. . . he had enslaved the Israelites for 8 years.
Now note the rest of v. 10b - ". . . When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over-Cushan-rishathaim.
This king is a interesting figure - his name is Cushan - the last part is really a nickname; rishathaim - "double evil; wicked; trouble"
Like Ivan the terrible; who'd want to get into the ring with a guy named bone-crusher Smith?
Who would want to face "Twice as evil Cushan; Double Trouble.
v 9. "But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them."
Othniel did and won by God's power and grace.
Now you remember earlier I spoke about God using the unlikely; by now your assured that Othniel is exactly the kind of man God would use:
- he had a great family heritage - the younger brother of Caleb
- he had all the right connections
- he had experience in war
Believe me, God can and will use people like that! If you are like that; don't be intimidated by someone's criticism that you've got all the right connections; in fact, I myself am the 8th generation of a preacher in my family. . . what I want to do by God's grace is capitalize on that heritage - I want to stand on the shoulders of my predecessors for the benefit of God's glory.
You say I don't have that experience or heritage. Well, take a look at the next judge! He certainly doesn't fit that mold!
Othniel dies, the people sin - read v. 12. Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, So the Lord strengthened Eglon the King of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
READ 3:15. But when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man.
Notice right away two things:
1) Ehud was a Benjamite - the smallest, most unlikely tribe for a national hero to come from. In fact, when Joseph blesses his brothers in Egypt before dying; Benjamin is the last to be blessed and he only gets one sentence worth.
Right of the bat, you recognize that Ehud didn't have the right connections. He wasn't related to the right people!
2) Ehud was left-handed - at first glance this surprised me. Is being left-handed so odd! How many here are left-handed? It's tough isn't it - notebooks were designed for right-handed people as are appliances and filing cabinets.
A man who is awkward is called in french a word that literally means left-handed. If something is evil or wicked it is called sinister - Latin for the left hand. There was a time in our own American history that being left-handed signified a bad omen - the child was forced to write with his right hand.
I've got good news for you lefties. Recent studies of the brain have surfaced the understanding of the brains two hemispheres; those you are left-handed are dominated by their right hemisphere - which goes to prove that left-handed people are the only ones in their right mind.
How many think I ought to stick with teaching this passage? Look at all those right-handed people raise their hands.
Seriously v 15b. "a left-handed man" the literal Hebrew text - Aster yadyomenu - literally translated is - "Hindered/impeded/defective in his right hand"
Ladies and gentlemen, Ehud was left-handed because he couldn't use his right hand. Perhaps he's been born crippled; an accident had crushed his arm; broken and improperly set; perhaps he had some neurological disorder that caused his arm to draw up and hand to curl under.
We're looking for a man to take on the pagan King Eglon - we need a mighty warrior to represent the sons of Israel - Israel needs a savior - v.15. "The Lord raised up a deliverer - yeshua - savior."
Who will God choose???!!! A crippled man from the smallest tribe in Israel. The next verses reveal Ehud's courage - he singlehandedly infiltrates the enemy palace - kills the kind, escapes and no one notice
Let's read what happened;
v. 16 And Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cutit in length (from your hand to your elbow); and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak.
v 17. And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man (the Bible picks on lefties and now heavies - no, this is inserted to explain whatwill occur later).
v 18. And it came about when he had finished presenting the tribut (the protection money), that he sent away the people who had carried the tribute (Ehud is now alone)
v 19. But he himself turned back from the idols which were at Gilgal (this is inserted to remind the reader that Ehud is about to rid the land of an idolater; not just a gangster who is forcing Israel to pay protection money; Ehud is acting as God's instrument of judgement) "I have a secret message foryou, O king." And he said, "Keep silence." And all who attended him left him.
(Now the camera slips into slow motion)
v 20. And Ehud came to him while was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you" (hmm, he really did!) And Eglon arose from his seat.
v. 21. And Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly.
v.22. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out.
v. 23. Then Ehud went out into the vestibuleand shut the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them. (This chamber by the way was also the bathroom of the king; typical of that day)
v. 24. When he had gone out, his servant came and looked, and behold, the doors of the roof chamber were locked; and they said, "He is only KJV - covering his feet - using the bathroom! in the cool room.
v. 25. And they waited until they became anxious - literally - embarassed! Their muttering under their breath, "Should we check on him. . . what's taking him so long. . . we'd better use - if he's in the their reading a magazine; he'll chop our heads off for interrupting him."
Therefore they took the key and opened them, and behold, their master had fallen to the floor dead.
v 26. Now Ehud escaped while they were delaying, and he passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. He's not finished yet.
v 27. And it came about when he had arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel went down with him from the hill country, (note!) and he was in front of them.
v 28. And he said to them, "Pursue them, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hands". So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan opposite Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross.
v 29. And they struck down at that time about 10,000 Moabites, all robust and valiant men; and no one escaped.
v 30. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel and the land was undisturbed for 80 years.
A cripple - used by God to become a crusader! No family connections; no physical appeal. . . no great experience to draw on - Let's have tea! 70 pall bearers. Root of our problem is that we facilitate between two extremes. We are far important for the service God is making available (or) we are not important enough!
C. Judge #3 - Shamgar:
Shamgar, a man who judged as well, yet given only 1 verse. Lets read it together
v 31. "And after him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel."
One verse - but enough clues here to tell us volumes.
Clue #1 - Shamgar was not an Israelite name - it was Canaanite. This informs us that Shamgar did not grow up with the kind of background and heritage that you'd expect a national religious leader to grow up with.
Clue #2 - His fathers name, Anath, was the name of the Canaanite god of sexual immorality and war. IT seem likely that his father and family were part and parcel of the Canaanite idolatry. A father who was named in honor of an immoral and violent Canaanite god.
Clue #3 - Shamgar was probably poor. We can assume Shamgar's financial picture by talking a look at his weapon - an oxgoad. That was a long wooden stick tipped with metal at one end, and a blade on the other for cleaning the plow. This was the tool peasants used to keep their oxen plowing together in the fields. Shamgar - a Canaanite - a peasant.
But a man who followed God and risked his life by fighting the Philistines.
When God chooses his servants, he isn't interested in externals, He is looking for dynamic resumes. God doesn't care if his servants make fashion statements. If God doesn't care, should the church care?!
Furthermore, God isn't concerned with the physical attractiveness and virility of his servants. He chooses the paralyzed bodies like Joni Erickson Tada and Scott Mitchell to challenge his church; He chose a blind girl named Fannie Crosbie to give the church many of it's hymns; He chooses the ordinary, unlikely. . . He chooses you and me.
These three judges had one thing in common - They were willing to give all that they were, for God to use in whatever way He chose.
I love Isaiah 40:29-31 - turn there.
v 29-30. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the week. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; v31. but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
There is an interesting word in verse 31 - it is the word to exchange or to replace. It's translated "will gain new".
"Those who wait for the Lord will exchange their strength for His. . ." That's what these three men did - in varying degrees, yet totally. . . so should we.
Lord, I need a fresh exchange - my weakness for your strength
my failure for your accomplishment
my lack of discernment - wisdom
my smallness for your greatness
Hudson Taylor, as he looked back over his ministry during which he was 600 missionaries respond to his vision to reach China through the China Inland Mission (which he founded) summarized his life in these words he wrote, "God is sufficient for God's work. . . God chose me because I was weak enough. God does not do His great works by large committees. He trains someone to be quite enough and small enough, and then he uses him."
You want to be a judge - are you small enough? - you want to overcome the enemies that hinder your personal walk and conquest in your life?
The real question is - are you small enough for God to use?! Are you weak enough to need God's power?
God delights to use Othniels and Ehuds and Shamgars; He uses the ordinary, the unlikely, the people who are willing to stumble up to His throne and say, "Warts and all; problems and all; handicapped somewhere, emotionally, physically, socially, intellectually, certainly spiritually, but here I am, use me for your glory."
Turtle on a Fencepost.