God can use you if you’re weak enough.
JANUARY 17, 2023
God can use you if you’re weak or enough. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
If you’ve suffered too long under a do more, try harder religion. Key Life is here to proclaim that Jesus sets the captives free. Steve invited Justin Holcomb to teach us this week. Justin is a priest, a seminary professor, and the author of God With Us: 365 Devotions on the Person and Work of Christ.
Thank you Matthew. Hi Justin.
Justin Holcomb: Hello Steve.
Hey, if you’re just joining us, Dr. Justin Holcomb, seminary professor, Canon in the Episcopal Church at the Cathedral, former student. And I’ve known him when he had hair down to his belt, and I figured there was no hope. And now God has blossomed this young man into an incredible instrument for his glory, and he really has. Well anyway.
Justin Holcomb: No, keep, keep going, keep going.
Yeah, you like that. You can call me occasionally and say, you remember what you said on that broadcast. If you’d say it again, I would appreciate it. But it’s all true. And I want you to know that. But anyway, if you’re just joining us, I’ve invited Justin to come in and let’s spend a week, an overview of the Book of Acts. Justin taught a Sunday school class on Acts, and that developed into a book, a Bible study on the Book of Acts. And he probably knows more about this book than anybody that I know. So, I said, come in and talk to us and we’ll get an overview of this book, and that’s what we’re doing. So, God is sovereign, huh?
Justin Holcomb: So he says.
Don’t do that to me, Justin. Well, maybe, maybe not. I don’t, no, God is sovereign.
Justin Holcomb: He’s sovereign and he’s sovereign over every molecule in the universe. So, but most people stop with his sovereignty, his sovereignty is also matched with his creativity. That’s the thing, is that it’s not just that he’s sovereign, but he’s really creative with how he works out his sovereignty. Sometimes he’s doing miracles, sometimes he’s doing providence. You can’t really even tell the difference between the both of them sometimes. But what we learn in Acts is that he likes to show and accomplish his victory through weakness, is similar to like David and Goliath. Like he, you know, out of his whole, his whole people, he ends up selecting this little shepherd boy who should get stomped on. But no, he, he, he picks David and, and powers him. And you, we see the same thing all throughout Acts, that principle, that God reflects his glory and his victory through our weakness and through barriers. And so, what we see in Acts is the gospel is spread despite geography, ethnicity, culture, gender and wealth. And all of those barriers were in place and they were so strong that when the gospel was proclaimed and preached to a new segment of society, what happened throughout Acts, riots, there were riots all over the place because these boundaries, these barriers were so inviolable. And so, Luke, the author of Acts, is making clear that no one is beyond the scope of God’s mercy. All of these barriers to saving power is not, these people are not exempt from God coming to get them and proclaim as good news. And so, it’s expanding through, not through human strength, but through our weakness, through opposition and through persecution. And so, that’s the key, the gospel expands not through human strength, but through weakness, opposition, and persecution.
You know, we have a, people in the church, and I hear this all the time, say, God can’t use me, I don’t know enough. Or God can’t use me, I’m not good enough, or God can’t use me, I’ve, I’m just not strong enough in my faith. And the Book of Acts shatters that, doesn’t it?
Justin Holcomb: Well, this is straight from the apostle Paul. Like not so we have anything to boast about. We’re glorying in him. But look through the barriers. I mean here, and you’ve been teaching through this for months and months and months.
Justin Holcomb: So, the barriers, demonic forces, worldly powers and authorities, governmental opposition, there’s linguistic barriers, cultural barriers, intense suffering, bloody persecutions, unjust imprisonment, unbelief, internal disunity, shipwrecks, and snakes, and all of those. That’s a list. Give me one of those and I’m curling up for the day in bed, but all these threats are threatening to slow down the gospel’s advance, but what ends up happening is it doesn’t slow it down, opposition doesn’t thwart the spread of Jesus’ message. It seems to empower it. There’s something that happens through God’s people in suffering where God leverages them, uses them in really like amazing ways to the point that this is the other major theme through Acts. You have persecution and barriers and the possible thwarting of the spread of the gospel. And there’s another theme which we see in Acts 2:47 is the first place we see it, it says.
The Lord added to their number day by day, those who are being saved.
The Holy Spirit is producing an inward response of spiritual growth, and then that turns into a numerical people expansion and growth of the church. So, it’s a gospel fueled spirit and powered growth, but things like this, every time you see a barrier in Acts, soon after you see that barrier, you’re going to read something like more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, Acts 5:14. And then there’s Acts 16:5.
The churches were strengthened in the faith and they increased in numbers.
And again, just to show how frequent this is, Acts 6:7, Acts 9:31, Acts 12:24, Acts 13:49, Acts 19:20. I’m reading all of those because every time there’s a barrier, the Lord uses it for the people’s good in his glory. And that’s the principle we need to know, is that when we face barriers, what do we, most people think, I’m facing a barrier, god’s finally getting me back.
Yeah, that’s true, that’s true.
Justin Holcomb: They have something in their head that they’re thinking,
yeah, they do
Justin Holcomb: it’s because of fill in the blank, from as small or as large, whatever, wherever the shame and voice of condemnation is, most people think that God is getting them back. Maybe he’s not getting you back. Maybe he’s actually preparing you for blessing or preparing you to be used mightily for something you would never be able to do in your own strength. That’s the beauty of what we see happening here all throughout Acts.
Oh man. And it’s something we can expect to be happening in the church right now. You know, we forget that God has an interest in adding numbers because he’s busy putting together a people, a covenant people that will literally change the world. And we expect that it’ll be Billy Graham or the Pope or Mother Teresa.
Justin Holcomb: ordinary people
It won’t be, it’ll be people, the guys that blow their noses the way we do. The guys, I remember one time, Dr. Addison Leach was the Dean at Gordon Conwell Seminary. And somebody, we were having dinner one night and one of his students came up and said, Dr. Leach, are you pre-millennial or post-millennial? He said, I don’t know, but he said, I’ll tell you what I think, I think that at some point somebody, and it won’t be a scholar, and it won’t be a seminary professor, and it won’t be a pastor or priest. It’s going be some layman somewhere who’s going to say, Hey, I think I understand this. And then when he says it, everybody’s going to say, but of course, why didn’t we see it before? And then Add Leach would laugh and say, but remember, it’s going to be a guy in the pew, not a big deal. Well, Acts affirms that.
Justin Holcomb: Yeah, God likes to use ordinary people. Of course he has his apostles, of course, all these, and everyone looks at the outpourings of the Holy Spirit and kind of like, okay, that’s, that’s what we’re shooting for is the extraordinary. Those, the outpourings of the Holy Spirit were actually there to show the unity of the church and to empower people. But most of this is just God being faithful in ordinary circumstances. Going back to his creativity and sovereignty. Let me give you just two points in Acts to see that. The first one that jumps out is Acts 2:23, where Peter is referring to Jesus Christ and he says, you, the plans. Let me just read it actually, that would probably work better, huh? Acts 2:23.
Justin Holcomb: This man was handed, let’s go back a little bit.
Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know, this man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.
And you, with help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
So you, like, how does God win through a cross? It was his sovereign plan. He was handed over to you by a sovereign plan, but you killed him. So, you actually have, God worked out a plan for his death, sacrificial death in salvation. Jesus laid down his life, but at the same time, he was using the unjust killing of an innocent man for his plan.
Justin Holcomb: And then you look at Acts 9, the conversion of Paul. I mean, how, who’s God going to use? Well, not just the apostles who are faithful, not just the ordinary, regular, like covenantal people, the people of God. No, he’s gonna pick his enemy, the guy who’s killing Christians to change him and have him be, not have him be a mouthpiece for Jesus Christ. Like that’s what God’s doing. He’s taking not just ordinary, but sometimes his enemies in reconciling them, and then they become mouthpieces. So, if people think they’re too far, you’re probably setting yourself up to be used by God for the very grace that you need just to sustain yourself.
You know, I see that. I see that all the time. We have a lot of people who communicate to this ministry and I’ve seen God just pick out nobodies, anoint them and then use them in amazing ways. And when you read the book of Acts it should give you hope. I have a friend who has a church and I heard, I was speaking there for a conference, and he opened the morning worship service by saying, if you’re marginalized, if you’ve really sinned bad and you think God’s through with you, if you’re lonely, and if you’re afraid, if you think that God has ignored you because of your sin, In the name of Jesus Christ, I welcome you. You’ve come to the right place. God uses people. He uses Justin Holcomb, and sometimes he even uses me. You think about that. Amen.
And thank you Steve and Justin. That was Steve Brown and our friend Justin Holcomb, discussing the major themes we find here in Acts, today exploring how God does his work in the face of weakness, opposition, and persecution. If you’re facing those things, maybe God is preparing you for a blessing and that is quite an idea. So, it’s still January, it’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution. Right? Right. Okay. So, this year I resolve to be smart. Like, really smart, smart like Dr. Hugh Ross. Well, we recently had Dr. Ross on Steve Brown Etc. And in that conversation he told us about some exciting new scientific evidence that strongly points to the idea of a finely tuned universe, a universe created by a loving God. It’s deep. You know, don’t get me wrong, but Dr. Ross has this gift for making it all approachable to the layperson. We would love for you to hear this episode, so we put it on a CD that we would love to ship to you for free. Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Hugh Ross. And finally, a question. Have you ever considered partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You could charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or just text Key Life to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.