The political parties in Singapore are looking for people to stand for the coming general election in the country. They would look for someone who has the character and professional competence. Some candidates might be worthy but not competent; others competent, but not worthy. The voters would insist on both. But God insists on neither. Instead He likes to call into His service people who are neither worthy nor adequate. He makes them worthy in Christ alone, never in themselves. Then He makes them adequate through the mighty working of His Spirit within them.
Listen how Paul expressed his utter unworthiness to be a servant of Jesus Christ. He said God had put him into the ministry even though he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious” [a violent man] (1 Tim. 1:13). But in his wretched, helpless state he obtained grace and mercy from God. In other words Paul was saying that he was in the Christian ministry, not because he deserved to be in it but because of God’s grace and mercy.
Paul never ceased to be amazed that God chose him even though he was foremost persecutor of the church, to be the apostle of the Gentiles and to proclaim to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. In 1 Cor. 15:9 he said, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
We are called to the ministry not because of our hard work or ability. None of us deserve to be in God’s service, whether it’s teaching in the Sunday school or serving in the mission field. When Paul looked at himself, he was not competent enough to do the job which God had called him.
Paul did not have some of the natural qualities we associate with a great preacher. He was gifted with a great mind, but he often said that he had less speaking skills than others of his day. His physical appearance was not as wholesome as others. He was often sick. In spite of his inadequacy, difficulties, opposition and strain, Paul was able to do so much lasting work for God. Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength.” When God called Paul to service, he invested him with sufficient strength to fulfill his calling.
When Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am”, he was saying, “I am an apostle as a result of God’s unmerited favour shown to me and as a result of God’s enabling power at work in me”. Paul was enabled in the Lord’s service because of God’s mighty power that works within him. In 2 Cor. 3:5 “ Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God”(NIV). We are not competent but God makes us competent and He is the one who blesses the work.
Paul recognized this truth when he said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Paul and Apollos could both work extremely hard to preach the gospel. Only God can cause His word to take root and grow in the hearts of those who listen to them. Only God can open people’s hearts to respond to the gospel. Only He can cause that person you are seeking to disciple to respond to your challenge and instruction. We must depend on His Spirit to work in us and through us. We may be tempted to use our limitation to give an excuse for not doing the things God has enabled us to do. Just because we do not like to sing in a choir, doesn’t mean there is no hope in the service of the Lord. There is a song of hope born in the midst of pain and setbacks.
We can be useful despite of our limitation when we depend upon God. Let us face it. There are some things you cannot change. You cannot change the weather. You cannot change the tick of the clock. You cannot change the past. You cannot change what is right and what is wrong. You cannot change that your human body is aging and eventually lead you to death. You cannot change the fact that a loved one has died. But I can change my attitude towards the circumstances, people and environment.
With God’s help, He teaches us how to accept what we cannot change. We are overcome them by our change of attitude. Whatever we do, be faithful to His calling. Paul said that Christ “considered (him) faithful”. The word used is sometimes translated “trustworthy”. Paul could be relied on to carry out his responsibilities faithfully to the best of his abilities.
Someone commented “Not skill or knowledge but faithfulness is the first qualification for a minister of Jesus Christ. Paul said elsewhere, Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful”(1 Cor. 4:2). William Carey, after being praised for his great achievements, was reported to have responded, “I’m just a plodder’. He was willing to stick to the work of God until it is completed. This lies the heart of faithfulness in the ministry.
If all our service to God is made possible by His grace and made effective by the power of the Holy Spirit, does God then reward to His faithful servants? God does promise rewards. But these rewards are rewards of grace, not of merit. We never by our hard work or sacrificial service obligated God to reward us, for as Paul said in Romans 11:35, “Who hath first given to God, that God should repay him?”(NIV.)
By God’s grace He has called each one of us to perform our own unique function within the Body of Christ. As we serve Him, He makes that service acceptable to Himself by grace and then rewards us a hundredfold by grace. Should we not thank God for His goodness and grace towards us all?
Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee expressed concern about empire building in the church today. He advised Christian leaders, “Don’t try to build a little empire of your church. I started out with that viewpoint, and I had never been more unhappy”. He encouraged them to “build into the lives of people” and leave the results to God.
When a church devotes undue energy to statistics, buildings, and programs, pride can enter in and the needs of God’s people can be forgotten. Jesus never forgot the importance of individuals. He invested His time in 12 men (Mark 3:14). Paul discipled Timothy who in turn discipled others (2 Tim. 2:2). God’s kingdom grows when we invest in people. Poor is the church that values programs above people.