Greetings in Jesus’ precious name!
Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support as we move forward in our Ministry Expansion Project. (You can read more about it and check our progress at renner.org.) We are SO THANKFUL to every person who has become a part of the giving team to help us so we can better minister to the people God has called us to reach. We are making significant progress, but please keep praying with us to reach the goal so we can move into our new building in Tulsa and complete our new television studio in Moscow.
THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER marks our 30-year anniversary in the former USSR, so in October, we are releasing our brand-new autobiography entitled, Unlikely — Our Faith-Filled Journey to the Ends of the Earth. It is being offered right now in our online store at renner.org at a 50% pre-release discount. I’m so excited for you to read it!
In light of our unlikely 30 years of ministry in the lands of the former Soviet Union, I want to share with you today about why God delights in choosing “unlikely” people to do His work.
In First Corinthians 1:26-28, Paul wrote: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen….”
In this verse, Paul described how God especially delights in choosing those who are unlikely to do something significant. If you see yourself as weak, feeble, or unskilled, and if that has been your excuse for why God cannot use you, you’d better start searching for another reason! You’re about to discover that God has delighted in calling feeble and unskilled people from the beginning of time.
No scripture teaches this more clearly than First Corinthians 1:26-28, so today let’s delve a little deeper into these verses to understand exactly how God is in the habit of choosing those who are unlikely in the eyes of the world. In First Corinthians 1:26, Paul said, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh….”
As Paul wrote his list of those whom God does and doesn’t use, he began by stating that God doesn’t use many who are considered “wise” by the world. The word “wise” is from a Greek word that refers to a person who possesses special enlightenment or special insight.
This particular word was often used to portray highly educated people, such as scientists, philosophers, doctors, teachers, and others who were considered to be the super-intelligentsia of the world. These people belong to a class of individuals whom the world would call clever, astute, smart, or intellectually brilliant. The term sophos was reserved only for those considered to be super-impressive or a cut above the rest of society.
But Paul said, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh….” Paul informed us that most of the people God calls don’t fit into this category of the super-intelligentsia. In other words, God doesn’t specialize in calling people who are especially bright, educated, astute, smart, or eminently enlightened.
If you take a close look at the Early Church, you’ll see that it was primarily composed of servants, slaves, and poorer people who heard the Good News of the Gospel and believed. It was an army of common people! Although there were a few elites in the Church, these were the exception rather than the rule. In fact, as we continue in First Corinthians 1:26-28, you will clearly see that God primarily specialized in calling people from a much lower class. And if you take a close look at the Church today, you’ll see that God still specializes in calling common people — and that’s good, because it means God wants to use you and me too!
I’m not debasing education, and I believe people should get as much education as possible. But school-issued pieces of paper are not the criteria that impresses God and gets His attention. There have been many educated people whom God could not use. Even though they were brilliant according to the flesh, they were not worthy of being chosen because their hearts weren’t right. Educational degrees may help you get a good job and positively sway the opinion of men in your favor, but Paul made it very clear that God is not looking for people who are “especially bright according to the standards of the flesh.”
Perhaps you’re one of those people who says, “God can’t use me because I don’t have enough gifts or talents. I haven’t even been to college. I don’t even have a Bible-school degree.” If you’ve uttered similar words, it’s time for you to change the way you’re thinking and talking. It’s time for you to start seeing yourself the way God sees you!
In fact, if you feel inferior to others, remember that God regularly calls unskilled and uneducated people, such as the majority of the apostles Jesus hand-picked to serve at His side and to lay the foundation of the Church. Those apostles were fishermen, tax collectors — common people — not theologians. So if you want to be used by God, it’s time to quit complaining that you’re not as smart or sharp as someone else. Where does the Bible ever say God is looking for brains?
But in First Corinthians 1:26, Paul added, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty….” The word “mighty” is a Greek word that refers to power or ability. But in this verse, it refers to people who have political power or political might. It carries the idea of a person who is high and mighty in the world’s view.
You don’t have to be “high and mighty” to get things done for the Kingdom of God. All you need is the call of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. With that spiritual equipment, you can move Heaven to action and push hell out of the way! So if you perceive yourself to be a plain, common type of person — rejoice! You are exactly the kind of person God wants to use.
Then in First Corinthians 1:26, Paul continued, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble….” The word “noble” is from a Greek word that portrays people who are well-born or who have excellent genes. It was used to refer to individuals whose ancestors had been powerful, wealthy, rich, or famous. These were high-born, blue-blooded, cultured, refined, courtly, pedigreed, aristocratic people who sustained their lofty positions in society based on their birth. It could also refer to people who carry the seed of genius as a result of the excellent genes with which they were born.
But Paul said that God hasn’t specialized in calling this category of people. From the outset of time, God has reached into the hearts of ordinary men and women. So if God isn’t looking for the upper crust of society, He must be looking to the “lower crust” — to the ordinary, usual, regular, routine, run-of-the-mill, standard, typical kind of people. This means if you come from a normal, average background, as Denise and I did, then you are the very type of person God is desiring to use!
Paul continued in First Corinthians 1:27, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise….” The word “foolish” is a translation of a Greek word from which we get the word moron! My thesaurus gives these other synonyms for a “moron”: idiot, imbecile, halfwit, numskull, dimwit, dunce, blockhead, dope, ignoramus, lamebrain, jerk, or twerp.
The truth is no one is an idiot in God’s view. But the world often views people whom God chooses as being nitwits, lamebrains, and idiots. But much of the Early Church was comprised of servants and slaves, so most of the people in the local congregations were very uneducated, uncultured, clumsy, crude, awkward, and unpolished. The Early Christians’ lack of polish made them look stupid in the world’s eyes. In fact, the Roman Empire first looked upon Christianity as the religion of stupid, poor people because it grew so rapidly among the lower, slave classes.
Yet Paul said, “…God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…” (1 Corinthians 1:27). The word “confound” means to put to shame, to embarrass, to confuse, to frustrate, to baffle. Again, the word “wise” refers to those who are naturally brilliant, intellectually sharp, or especially enlightened. Paul was saying that God calls people whom the world considers morons in order to put to shame, embarrass, confuse, frustrate, and baffle those who think they’re so smart.
So if anyone has ever called you an idiot — if you’ve ever been called a stupid imbecile, a jerk, or a twerp — it’s time for you to rejoice! You are exactly the kind of person God wants to use!
First Corinthians 1:27 goes on to say, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” The word “weak” is a Greek word that refers to something that is weak, base, feeble, puny, or powerless. This word describes something that is so substandard, second-rate, low-grade, and inferior, it’s almost laughable.
When Paul wrote First Corinthians, the Church was the laughingstock of the Roman Empire. Christians were viewed by the governmental powers as a weak, puny, powerless religious group. The world didn’t understand the incredible power God had placed both inside the Church and at her disposal. But the Church of Jesus Christ was invested with power and authority from on High. And Christians had marching orders to take the world. Paul declared that “…God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
First Corinthians 1:28 continues to tell us God delights in choosing the “base things of the world.” The word “base” in Greek describes people of low birth or with bad genes — those who are low-class, second-rate, common, average, and run-of-the-mill whom the world will never recognize — ordinary people. But after they receive the nature of God and are washed in the Blood of Jesus, they become so powerful in the Spirit that God will use them to confound the whole world! You see, what you were in the past does not determine who you are today or who you will be in the future!
First Corinthians 1:28 goes on to say, “And base things of the world, and things which are despised….” The word “despised” means to make light of, to despise, to treat with contempt, to disregard, or to neglect. It pictures someone so low and detestable that he is hideous, disgusting, despicable, and nauseating to the viewer. In fact, this outcast is so low, he isn’t even worth recognizing.
From the beginning of time, the lost world has ridiculed, made fun of, sarcastically accused, and debased the people of God. So if the world makes light of you or treats you with contempt — if it disregards, neglects, and overlooks you — take heart. You are exactly the kind of person God wants to use! God has big plans to use you as a demonstration of His almighty power to the unbelieving world!
The RIV of First Corinthians 1:26-28 says:
For you see your calling, brothers, how not many of you were especially bright, educated, or enlightened according to the world’s standards; not many of you were impressive; not many came from high-ranking families or from the upper crust of society. Instead, God selected people who are idiots in the world’s view; in fact, the world sees them as imbeciles, jerks, real twerps. Yet God is using them to utterly confound those who seem smart in the world’s eyes.
God has chosen people whom the world finds laughable, and through them, He is confounding those who think they are so high and mighty. Low-class, second-rate, common, average, run-of-the-mill people — those so low that the world doesn’t even think they’re worth the time of day — these are the ones whom God has chosen….
Rather than complain that you’re too feeble, it’s time for you to throw up your arms and shout for joy! Your lack of skill may be the very thing that makes God want to use you! That way, when people begin to glory over what has been achieved through your life, you can truly say, “Believe me, if anything good has been done, it has all been by the grace of God!”
By choosing regular folks, God has made sure that when a victory is won, everyone will know it is due to His glory and grace. As Paul said, “…According as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
When I think back over the years, it is clear that what has happened in our lives is completely unlikely to have occurred — nonetheless, the unlikely has happened. You see, God delights in taking people from unlikely places and situations and enabling them by His grace to do what they could never do by themselves. And God has a plan He designed for you, and He will enable you to do what you could have never done on your own.
If anyone could claim to be unlikely for such a huge assignment, it was Denise and me and our family. But when God’s Spirit called out to me, He also enabled us to say yes to His divine invitation. And once we did, He threw open the door, rolled out the red carpet, and empowered us to miraculously step forward to fulfill God’s specific will for our lives. Naturally speaking, this was all very unlikely…but God had a plan. And God has a wonderful plan for you too. He is simply waiting for your yes — for you to get into agreement with Him and His purposes for your life!
As I come to the end of my letter, I want to encourage you to let us know how to pray for you. We will really go to the throne of God to lift up that need and believe for God to move mightily in your life according to His promise in Jeremiah 33:3. So please let us know how to pray for you!
And please be sure to go to renner.org to learn more about my new autobiography called, Unlikely. As I wrote it, I sincerely prayed for God to use this new book to encourage others to launch out into their own unlikely adventure of faith that is awaiting them. That means you too!
We love you and thank God for you.
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families