Do you ever hesitate to share your faith or act upon God’s calling because you worry others might not believe you are authentic? I’ve recently wrestled with that question. A doubt wedged deep in my mind between God’s calling and my action in response. While no one is perfect, I have certainly gone through some periods in my life that were anything but glorifying to God. And if God ever called me to share my story beyond my backyard, what would those people who watched that behaviour think? They would never believe my faith was authentic. I might actually be more of a HINDRANCE to God than an asset or a reflection of Him. Since the Bible tells us that God no longer remembers our sin once we have asked for forgiveness (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8), He clearly didn’t contemplate these issues – He’s forgotten! So I’ve been doing the work of reminding Him and explaining why I would be a terrible messenger.
Unfortunately, He set to work reminding ME of how the Bible is full of reluctant messengers. Most searingly, God directed me to Saul. This guy was running around killing all the early-day Christians. Acts discusses this in detail, including his approval of the killing of God’s servant Stephen. But then, en route to imprison and kill more of Christ’s disciples, Jesus appeared to him and he had a pretty radical conversion. Acts 9 says that AT ONCE he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. The Bible doesn’t say anything about his struggle, but you have to imagine he had some periods where he was thinking, these guys are NEVER going to buy this message. I was, in their words, wreaking havoc against the church and now here I am sharing the gospel? Surely Lord, you could use a more conventional messenger – there has to be someone more believable than me.
One of the commentaries on Saul’s conversion to Paul says, “The most important event in human history apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the conversion to Christianity of Saul of Tarsus. If Saul had remained a Jewish rabbi, we would be missing thirteen of twenty-seven books of the New Testament and Christianity’s early major expansion to the Gentiles.” (IVP New Testament Commentaries)
There are many more stories of reluctant messengers. One of the first was Moses. Here’s a guy who had been saved by God to do great things – all the Hebrew baby boys of his time were being killed yet he was saved. Moses ends up committing murder and fleeing the country, and then God appears to him in a burning bush. Instead of Moses rushing to do as he was told after great signs and wonders, he says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And despite God’s assurances, he keeps asking and saying, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me….” So God gives him all of these amazing signs he can use to demonstrate God’s power. But it’s still not enough. The rest of the exchange goes something like this:
Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”
Whatever it is that I am being called to, and whatever it is that you are being called to, stop doubting that people won’t believe you are authentic because of something in your past. God calls reluctant messengers, often reluctant because of their tainted past or their human failings. The reason God calls those kinds of people specifically is because it is through those very real human flaws that He is so perfectly revealed. No one would believe it could be anything BUT God. Broken flawed vessels are God’s favorites. Who expects the perfect sip of wine from a tin can? Who expects the most spectacular rose to grow in a junk yard? Who expects a world class operatic in a homeless shanty? No one. But God doesn’t operate from a place of expectations. He only deals in the unexpected. Your message will be authentic not because you are the vessel, but because God’s inside you. The wine, the rose, the voice.
Isaiah 64 – For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him…Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Romans 8 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…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.
Ephesians 3 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…forever.