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….
— 1 Corinthians 1:26-28
If you see yourself as weak, feeble, or unskilled, don’t let that bother you too much. God has been calling feeble and unskilled people from the beginning of time. Few of those whom God has called have been the “cream of the crop” according to the flesh. Again and again, God has chosen people who were ill-esteemed in the eyes of the world when He needed a candidate or a group of people to do a job.
God has always used common people to build His Kingdom. He doesn’t primarily choose famous movie stars or the royalty and nobility of the world to fulfill His plans and purposes on this earth. God’s criteria are different from the criteria of the world. As Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”
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When God chose Samuel to lead the nation, Samuel was just a young boy. When God looked for someone to kill a giant, He chose a young shepherd boy named David. When the fullness of time came and it was time to send His Son to this earth, God chose a young girl named Mary to give birth to the Savior of the world.
When it was time for Jesus to choose disciples, He didn’t go to the theological institutes or seminaries of the day. Rather, Jesus chose disciples who knew more about fishing and tax-collecting than about the Scriptures. And when God searched for someone He could use to write the majority of the New Testament, He chose the apostle Paul, who was once one of the meanest Christian killers of all time!
God has always shown up in places where He wasn’t expected. Just consider the location where Jesus was born — in a lowly shepherd’s stall. This was certainly not the place anyone would have expected the King of kings to be born. Wouldn’t it have been better for the King of kings to be born in a gold-gilded hall with trumpets blasting to announce His birth?
So if you have ever thought you weren’t good enough for God to use, it’s time for you to renew your thinking! God is looking for people no one else wants or deems valuable. When great victories are won through ordinary folks, there’s no question as to who should receive the glory! As First Corinthians 1:29 says, “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
The Old and New Testaments are filled with illustrations of people whom God wanted, but whom the world rejected. God’s choice is not based on beauty or ugliness, talent or lack of talent, education or lack of education, a diploma or lack of a diploma. If a person has a right heart toward God, he is qualified to be used by God.
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….”
As Paul writes his list of those whom God does and doesn’t call, he begins by stating that God doesn’t call many who are considered “wise” by the world. The word “wise” is from the Greek word sophos. It refers to a person who possesses special enlightenment or special insight.
The word sophos was usually 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 belong to a class of individuals whom the world would call clever, astute, smart, or intellectually brilliant. This term was reserved only for those considered to be super-impressive or a cut above the rest of society.
But Paul says, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh….” Paul informs us that most of the folks 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.
I would be foolish to overlook the fact that over the years, many intelligent men and women who loved God have made a great impact on the world. Paul himself was a part of this elite group before he came to Christ. Apollos, Paul’s friend who later pastored the church of Corinth, also came from this intellectual “upper echelon” of society. But Paul and Apollos were not typical of the first-century Church.
It was the sophos who scorned and ridiculed Paul when he preached in Athens. The philosophers of Athens, the Epicureans, and the Stoics derided him and made him a laughingstock. Paul said that “not many” are called who fit into this sophos category. Of course, God’s call is to all men; nevertheless, “not many” from this category respond to God’s call.
Take a close look at the Early Church, and 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 elite in the Church, these were the exception rather than the rule. In fact, as you study Church history, you will see that God specializes 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.
Now, I’m not debasing education. 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 makes it very clear that God is not bent on using people who are especially bright according to the standards of the flesh.
In fact, the Bible shows that when God does call people who are intellectually impressive, such as Moses or the apostle Paul, He usually has to empty them of themselves before He can use them! When they lean on their own understanding, they are unable to accomplish what God wants. But when they lean wholly upon Him, He is able to perform miracles through their lives.
Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Certainly natural knowledge and understanding are needful in the world we live in today. But if our natural understanding rather than our trust in God becomes the basis for our confidence, we put ourselves at a disadvantage. We have to learn to use what we know while leaning only on the Lord and His might.
David wrote, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). The best technology of David’s time was used to develop chariots. Man’s greatest intellectual powers were employed to make chariots faster, stronger, and safer. In addition, horses represented natural power, strength, and might. Therefore, David was saying, “Some trust in man’s mind and his great achievements; others rely on their own natural power and might; but we will rely upon the name of the Lord.”
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 are, 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 does!
In fact, if you feel inferior to others, remember that God regularly calls unskilled and uneducated people. Just think of the majority of the apostles whom 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.
God is looking to build a strong, powerful army. The soldiers of an army are rarely composed of the intellectually astute. Flavius Vegetius Renatus, who lived around 380 AD, was the author of the most influential military book ever written for the Roman Empire. Look at the type of person he says makes the best soldier: “Peasants are the most fit to carry arms.… They are simple, content with little, inured to fatigue, and prepared in some measure for military life by their continual employment in farm work, in handling the spade, digging trenches and carrying burdens.”
The truth is, God is looking for people who know how and are willing to pay a price — to undergo any hardship needed, to confront the power of hell, and to “dig trenches and carry burdens” until their assignment is completed just as God ordered it. God doesn’t necessarily need the super-intelligentsia of the world to get these jobs done. In fact, common people are often God’s first choice because they are already equipped to a certain degree to face the challenges and difficulties of life.
So if you want to be used by God and serve in His army, quit complaining that you’re not as smart or sharp as someone else. Where does the Bible ever say God is looking for brains? He’s looking for hearts that are willing to follow Him. If you have that kind of heart, you are exactly the kind of person God wants to use!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so glad You don’t choose only the intellectually brilliant. You are looking for anyone who has a heart to be used by You. Well, that’s me, Lord. I want You to use me. I offer You everything I have — my good points, my weak points, my gifts, my talents, and everything else that I am. I want You to use me for Your glory! I’ve told You before, but today I’m telling You again that I want You to take my life and do something wonderful with me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am exactly the kind of person God can use! God is looking to carry out great victories through my life! His choice is not based on beauty or a lack of beauty, talent or lack of talent, education or lack of education, a diploma or lack of a diploma. No, God has chosen me because I have a heart that is right before Him!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you recall concrete examples of people in the Bible whom the world thought to be worth nothing — yet God called them, changed them, and then used them to change world history? Try to name five people who fit into this category.
2. Can you think of specific people outside the Bible whom the world thought to be worth nothing, yet God used them to change society? Try to name five people who fit into this category as well.
3. If God specializes in calling people who come from common backgrounds, what does this mean for you?