Qualifying the Unqualified
The past several weeks I have been struggling with back pain on top of everything else. Not the typical ache but excruciating stabbing pain taking place in muscular areas. The doctor decided that my fake leg and forearm crutches were responsible for the healing lapse and advised me to “get off my foot” and use a wheelchair for a few days to allow my muscles to recover with some medicinal assistance. Sitting in a wheelchair, unable to walk or even push myself around in my little “chariot” gave me a lot of time for reflecting and also left a lot of room for sadness. (I am a highly active person so being told I must sit still for days at a time was a nightmare.)
Prior to the diagnosis I had been struggling with writing as of late since my confidence seemed to have taken a slight spiral downward. The past few months I suddenly began to feel unqualified to write or share what God has put in my heart to share with others. I had begun to feel that perhaps with my own personal struggles I was not “healed” enough inside to properly write and speak. Each time I had a physical or emotional flare-up such as anger, back pain, or PTSD symptoms, this belief of not having “arrived” at the place of being capable to properly minister to others concreted itself in my mind. To top off those doubts there had been backhanded comments and put downs from people around me which reminded me immediately of Job’s friends and how they could not stand by him supportingly in his time of trial but rather pointed out his weaknesses instead. Even though I knew I am called to write and share I still wondered inside of my heart, “Is it true? Are they right? Perhaps I truly don’t know enough about the bible and I am imagining the things I think God puts in my heart? Maybe my timing is off? Maybe I didn’t hear God?”
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
With all fairness to reality it has been tough lately and would be taxing on anyone not just me. You, my readers, know more than anyone how difficult it can be to be disabled and limited in every way both inside and outside of the body. The medicine to help me heal was basically knocking me out for several hours each day and then as I awoke I would spend a few more hours in a zombie-like state coming to. My husband had to assume the household and lawn chores that I usually took care of behind the scenes all the while holding down his job as a truck driver. We were offered help by several people but it just seemed to be easier emotionally and mentally to hold down the fort on our own. You better believe that I was frustrated and angry throughout the process of not being able to walk or move or enjoy canning the fresh produce pouring in from our garden. All of those things seemed to beat to the drums in my head of “you’re unqualified, you’re unwise, you’re unfit, and you’re unworthy”.
Yet as the clouds lifted in my mind I started to see the truth: God does not choose the strong, the healed, the “wise”; he chooses the EMPTY so He can fill.
When I saw the above sticker I realized how true the headline statement is. If I believe I must be qualified for God to use me then I am in this for the wrong reasons: pride and recognition. If others believe I must have certain notches on my belt as far as healing or struggles or memory verses prior to being used by God then they are not reflecting the law of grace. Anyone that makes us feel as if we need a formula to gain acceptance/cleanliness or freedom from sin is not preaching grace. Even those that feel they alone have heard God’s wisdom for everyone around them and obnoxiously bully their points are clearly missing the truth that each of us is His sheep and we each hear his voice individually for our own lives (John 10:27). In my last article I spoke about grace and how each of us is under grace whether or not we recognize it. Grace isn’t about anything that we can do or go through but only about what Christ already went through for all of us. Dr Michael S. Heiser teaches that the bible was not written by a bunch of men zapped and taken over by the Holy Spirit in a trance-like state. It was written by real men that lived in the true struggles and circumstances of everyday life. Circumstances that were conditioned and controlled by Yahweh. The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers while he used their minds and bodies and experiences in total conscience awareness to dictate the scripture as we know it. When I think about that and then revisit the image above reviewing all of the character “weaknesses” I am amazed that God’s perfection came through such imperfect people.
God chooses the empty. God chooses the weak. God chooses the broken. Do I qualify to be chosen? Do you? In skimming many of the biblical stories I noticed a simple pattern in the lives of those chosen by God:
It seems each person and prophet used by God consciously emptied themselves and stood before God in their weak and fragmented states while making a choice to be used. They wanted to be chosen and they wanted to be God’s hands and feet on earth.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8
Isaiah was ready to rumble! He was standing in the presence of the divine council and yet seeing God in all His glory Isaiah wasn’t focused on his own weaknesses or shortcomings but was rather enraptured in the majesty of God and wanted to join in His work. When we keep our eyes on Jesus and the fact that we are saved by grace and covered by His righteousness we too can stand boldly before the divine council and ask God to send us, use us, mold us, fuse us.
THEY SET ASIDE STRIVING…
Do you realize the moment that you start striving to complete a work you are stepping out from under the protection grace provides? You are saying that you can do it alone and you can complete it without God, or at least mostly without God. I always think of a small child trying to open a heavy door. Every child I’ve ever seen will grasp for the door handle, stretching on their tip-toes as far as possible, and attempt over and again to open the door while an adult stands by patiently smiling and waiting for the child to give it up and step back and ask for help. I believe God is like this when we are striving to open doors. He simply stands there and waits for us to stop so He can hold the door open and let us pass through with ease. I read recently where someone wrote “When you are working God isn’t, when you stop then God starts working.” God doesn’t need our help in providing for us or for those around us. He is the Almighty and can in one word change the entire course of our lives. Joseph Prince teaches that when we begin to rest then he restores. Once we have asked God to use us we must be determined to keep to the narrow path of resting in Him and not putting any weight on our own deeds or hangups. Jesus paid the price once and for all so let’s stop focusing on our own righteousness and sin and shortcomings and rather rest in redemption.
David was a wonderful illustration of this in the bible. He knew he was anointed to be the next king of Israel yet he chose not to strive and take what was rightfully his to take. He did not kill Saul when given the opportunity, he did not militarily invade the palace and take over the kingdom God anointed him to rule, he did not even rush God in the process as he fled for his own life as a fugitive. He waited and rested and wrote psalms of praise while God worked to restore the crown for David. We know this wasn’t always an easy choice and we can hear some of the frustrations David voiced in his writing, yet again and again David claimed God as his Rock, his Fortress, and his Stronghold where he would rest and take refuge.
THEY OPENED THEIR HEARTS…
When trials and struggles hit it can be so hard to keep our hearts open. We tend to take everything wrong that happens to us as if God were deliberately and personally hurting us. On the other side of the spectrum we can immediately start pointing our finger at the devil and become victims in our own eyes to what we call spiritual warfare or attacks from Satan. I believe both extremes close our hearts to God. On the former, when we take what happens to us personally as if God himself were harming us we will obviously look at our Father in heaven as untrustworthy and believe that He isn’t really big enough to work in our lives to rescue us. On the other hand when we look at every unfortunate incident as if it were a spiritual attack from Satan then we close our hearts to God by believing the lie that Satan has a great extent of power over us and that God is untrustworthy, unable, or not big enough to prevent Satan from harming his people.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
We do not want to close our hearts to God when things get tough, but rather look for God’s opportunities, according to Fern at Discovering MErcy. Since we left the Garden of Eden we live in the chaos of the world outside of the garden that God did not intend us to live in. This doesn’t mean that we are cursed by God but instead it means that we live in the world and all its chaos and calamity as designed in creation yet even in this state God promises that He will redeem all things for our good. When we are resting and not worrying about how things will work out God will be working things together for our good. Where we see obstacles God sees strategies.
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45
Job stood fast through the trials and the catastrophes that took place all around him. Yet in and through the process he did not curse God or close his heart to God. Job sought after God and was honest and cried out from the very depths of his soul for answers but you will note that he did not close his heart to God. In the end, as promised, God worked it out for the benefit of Job as all was redeemed seven times over.
THEY ACTIVATED THEIR FAITH…
Once we have emptied ourselves as an offering to the Lord, asked Him to use us, and open our hearts to rest in His goodness and grace we are lined up perfectly for a walk of faith. We can truly look around and see where God is at work so that we can join in where we are called. Faith doesn’t have requirements and that is one of the things I love the most about it. Abraham didn’t have the ten commandments or the laws of sacrifice, he didn’t have a bible to reference to or the holy spirit living within him. All he had was an encounter with The Word when He appeared to him and based on that encounter Abraham stepped out in faith and believed! Abraham recognized that faith wasn’t about what he could do but through grace was about the one he worshipped, Yahweh.
I believe we get so bogged down in wondering where we are called to work for the Lord or where we can or cannot fit or what our spiritual gifting is and which ministry we are compatible to work in that we often forget that these things (bible, giftings, and gatherings) are simply tools given to us to help activate our faith. Faith is only about choosing to be led by God, wherever that leads. I think back to Gideon and how in Judges 6 God revealed His plan to Gideon and Gideon asked for sign after sign to know “it is really you talking to me” (Judges 6:17). God honored test after test for Gideon but when it came down to it Gideon still had to step out in faith with his army of only three hundred men to overtake the whole army of Midianites. Activating faith is something we cannot help doing when our hearts are open and we see God moving before us.
Asking God to use you, setting aside striving, opening your heart, and then activating your faith are patterns seen throughout the bible from the Old Testament into the New. When God calls someone he looks for the weak and the empty. He looks for the ones that will not be able to boast in their own deeds but rather give all praise and glory from the depths of their heart to the one true God. Am I qualified from my wheelchair and anxiety and anger right now to share and encourage those around me to love Jesus? NOPE! But that’s a good thing because the very thing that disqualifies me to those around me qualifies me in the eyes of my heavenly Father! Now that is good news!
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-30
Maybe you have a history that you feel disqualifies you from sharing the gospel with those you used to hang around with. Perhaps you are struggling with a particular sin right now and feel that you are the last person that should speak out. It is possible you have broken relationships in your life and do not want to help another mediate their relationship to God. Whatever our reasons may be the fact remains that God is our object of worship and Jesus is our savior, which means we are not only qualified in His eyes but absolutely chosen. Where are you “weak” and empty? When you open your heart and look hard at those weak areas you will see through to the other side where God’s promise and victory lay. This vision of victory through Jesus will encourage your activated faith to carry you through to all His promises and goodness as you rest in restoration.
For more information on Joseph Prince visit http://www.josephprince.org
For more information and resources from Dr. Michael S. Heiser visit http://www.drmsh.com