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Let’s Quit Whining about How Unqualified and Ungifted We Are

Let’s Quit Whining about How Unqualified and Ungifted We Are

APRIL 3, 2024

/ Articles / Let’s Quit Whining about How Unqualified and Ungifted We Are

Did you hear about the woodpecker pecking on a tree when lightning struck it?

He survived and called all his friends to see the result of his pecking prowess. That’s woodpecker arrogance on steroids. Many Christians face the opposite—humility on steroids. They don’t even peck.

Pastors and religious leaders often quote that 20 percent of Christians do 100 percent of the work. I don’t know where that statistic comes from, but it’s probably close to the truth. The reasons for the 80 percent lack of involvement are probably multitudinous, but at the heart of this is a belief that to be an effective Christian, one must meet certain requirements . . . which so many Christians think they don’t meet. So many of us believe we aren’t good enough, don’t know enough, and aren’t skilled enough to do what is needed.

That has unfortunate consequences for the work of the church, but the consequences for our lives may be even greater. We think, “Leave the heavy lifting to the experts . . . we’re just unqualified.”

The Scripture, by the way, was not written for experts or academic theologians. A good deal of Scripture was written from prison cells instead of churches and cloistered academic offices. Maybe our words would be more powerful if we spoke from prison more than church buildings. Be that as it may, Scripture was written by and for “dirt under the fingernails” believers. Institutional Christianity (as with any institution) requires organization and planning. So, the wandering tribe of tent dwellers in the Old Testament and, by and large, the uneducated fishing buddies and nobodies in the New Testament have, maybe by necessity, morphed into religious institutions that include formal recognition (ordination and PhDs), religious graduate schools (seminaries), and powerful structures of influence. I’m a part of that and understand it, but forgetting our heritage is dangerous.

In a wonderful article in First Things magazine, “The Mystery of Israel,” Sohrab Ahmari quotes a Jewish friend, “I love Catholics. But you guys are trying to impose your lofty-rational-Hellenistic God on our desert God, our hilltop God, our angry-bush God. It doesn’t work for me.” Ahmari later references the late rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “The God of the Hebrew Bible was never the God of the academy. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is neither the unmoved mover nor the ground of being but a historical God, who has put himself in dialogue and relationship with one people, the Jews.” In other words, the God of the Bible is a God who reveals himself to normal people in normal ways, more (or at least as much) than he reveals himself to the experts, the super-spiritual, the academics, or the ordained and trained leaders.

Of course, we’re called to manifest humility. When it’s real humility, that’s a good thing. We have a great deal about which to be humble. We’re all sinners desperately in need of God’s

mercy and forgiveness. He gives us that mercy and forgiveness when it’s quite clear that we didn’t, and never will, earn it for ourselves. However, when that humility morphs into making us “Harry (or Harriet) with a Humble Habit,” there is a great danger our lives will be determined by that humble habit rather than the ultimate truth that we are valued and treasured King’s kids.

Peter wrote that Christians were nobodies, but now, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). When Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12), “Let no one despise you for your youth,” he wasn’t promoting a youth culture; he reminded Timothy that he served the King of Kings, the source of great authority. When Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world making disciples (Matthew 28), he wasn’t sending whining nobodies, but followers who knew they were chosen, qualified, and commissioned.

So, if you’re a Christian, you’re qualified. Jesus qualified you on the cross. It has nothing to do with what you know or how gifted or good you are. It’s just the opposite. Paul wrote that God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I’ve often told seminary students that they should go into the pulpit with the attitude of, “Get out of my way. The King of Kings has commissioned me. What I will tell you is desperately important, and by God, you will listen!” When the students wince, I add that they can, if they must, repent, but only after preaching the sermon.

What follows is geared toward serving Christ in the world, but the same principles apply to our everyday lives, also a way of serving Christ. If we could remember these, we’d be dangerous—no longer silent, no longer running away from life, and no longer feeling helpless.

First, don’t minimize your experience of Christ. It is more powerful than a seminary degree. When I was a young pastor in the Boston area, we had a lady in the church who found Christ and later became my assistant. She told a friend about her new faith, and the friend responded, “I’d become a Christian if someone would explain original sin to me.” My assistant said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea what that is. I’ll ask my boss. But let me tell you I’m forgiven, and that has changed my life.” Shortly after that, her friend became a Christian.

There is a similar story in John 9 but with a different outcome. Jesus heals a man who had been born blind, and the fact that he could now see irritated the religious establishment. They called a formal meeting. The hostile religious establishment questioned what Jesus did to heal the blind man. They called Jesus a “heretic,” implying that everyone knew that God doesn’t use heretics and sinners. Suspecting that the incident was a con, they called in the man’s parents to testify.

Having established that the formerly blind man was healed, they called him in, trying to get him to repent of his experience. One can repent of one’s opinions, actions, or mistakes, but it is almost impossible to repent of an experience. The untrained and unqualified man stuck by his simple witness: “Whether he [Jesus] is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

Second, remember that your qualification is as great and powerful as that of the late Billy Graham. There is a story about a time during the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln visited a church. The young pastor removed his hat and bowed his head toward Lincoln, clearly intimidated by his presence. Lincoln said, “Reverend, put your hat back on. We have both done the same, what we’re supposed to do.”

Then, let me suggest a prayer and an action.

The prayer is a simple one from my friend, Tony Campolo. While Tony and I don’t agree on much, we agree on Jesus, and that’s enough for us to love each other. Tony opens each day with a prayer: “Lord, what kind of neat things have you planned for me today? I’m available.” Because of Tony, I’ve started my days praying a similar prayer. The positive effect that kind of prayer has on my insecurities is amazing.

The action is from another friend, the Apostle Paul, and it’s important to remember: Don’t just sit there. In the first part of Philippians 3, Paul talks about resurrection power and being like Christ. Then he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). When you move, Jesus moves with you. When you’re afraid to speak out, speak out anyway. When something scares you, confront it anyway. When you’re insecure around people, be with people anyway. When you think you’ve failed, keep trying anyway.

Years ago, I had dinner with my friend Addison Leitch, who was then the academic dean at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. A former student approached Dr. Leitch with a question about some passages of Scripture related to Christ’s future return. Dr. Leitch said, “I’m not sure, and nobody else is. But I believe that as we approach the second coming of Christ, someone will understand it and explain those texts to the rest of us. We’ll say, ‘That’s right. He’s got it!’” Then he added, “And that person won’t be a preacher, a scholar, or a professor. It will be a normal and ordinary Christian to whom God revealed the truth.”

So, let’s quit whining about how little we know and how sinful and ungifted we are. In fact, if we don’t struggle a bit with arrogance, we don’t get it at all.

He asked me to remind you.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve is the Founder of Key Life Network, Inc. and Bible teacher on the national radio program Key Life.

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