I asked Jesus to save me when I was a teenager. Problem was, I then got into the wrong church, made some wrong choices and decided that because I hadn’t gotten my life with Christ right from the get-go, that God would be too disappointed in me to want anything to do with me. So on that pathetic path I stayed until my late 20s, when the Holy Spirit broadsided me with the concept of grace – God’s unmerited favor – and my heart and life were never the same.
The nitty-gritty of it was that I had felt disqualified. Even after I came back to the Lord, I would often hear a little voice saying things like, “God can’t use you in worship ministry. You sang in a bar.” Or, “God can’t use you in church leadership. You’re divorced.” Those things cast a long shadow over the light that had been gloriously shed upon my path.
Truth is, many of us seek excuses for why God can’t save us or God can’t use us. God wouldn’t want someone like me. I’ve messed up too much. I’m not smart enough. I’m not accomplished enough. I’m too old.
Do you see the string of resounding “I’s”? When you focus on your shortcomings and your limitations, you’re focusing on yourself and not on God, for whom nothing is impossible. God delights in doing wondrous things through inadequate people. Let’s take a tour of the Bible to meet a few of them.
First, let me introduce you to Abraham. God had promised Abraham that He would give him as many descendants as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. (See Genesis 15:2-4 and Genesis 17: 1-8.) Problem was, Abraham had no son, and he was an old man. “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of 90?” Abraham asked God. The short answer: yes.
Abraham had a grandson named Jacob. Jacob was a liar and a trickster, robbing his older twin of his birthright so he could be the big kahuna. (See Genesis 26:29-34 and Genesis 27.) Jacob got his way, creating no small amount of sibling rivalry, and went on his merry way to become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. (See Genesis 35:23-26.) And that was even after becoming a cripple as the result of losing a wrestling match with the preincarnate Christ. (See Genesis 32:22-32.) Note to self: Don’t wrestle with God.
Then there was Joseph, loathed by his brothers because he was Daddy’s favorite and the family narc, and then sold into slavery to the Egyptians. Nothing good could happen to an Israelite slave sold to the Egyptians – unless God has plans for you. God promoted Joseph from slavery to second-in-command under Pharoah himself and used Joseph to save his family from starvation. (See Genesis 37-50 for a little light but compelling reading.)
Next, check out tongue-tied Moses, who fled Egypt because someone knew his dirty little secret – that he had committed murder. But God used Moses to free His people from bondage so they could journey toward the promised land. The book of Exodus describes their journey.
David is another unlikely candidate for greatness. He started out as a shepherd boy, then jumped to the top of Israel’s Most Wanted list under crazy King Saul, then got the wife of one of his bravest men pregnant, and then killed the guy to hide the evidence. Yet God called David “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14).
Let’s not forget Peter. He was an uneducated fisherman – what we would call a good ol’ boy – whom Jesus used to establish the New Testament church. (See Matthew 16:18 and a sizable chunk of the book of Acts.)
Paul started off as a bloodthirsty persecutor and evolved into an ineffective speaker with some nasty health problems. (See Acts 9-16; 1 Corinthians 12, etc.) Yet Paul became the greatest evangelist of all time and author of a hefty portion of the New Testament.
John, one of the 12 disciples, was an old man living in exile on the island of Patmos. Surely an old guy living in exile is off the hook, right? Try again. God gave that old guy a vision that would produce the book of Revelation, God’s final word.
Last, there was Jesus. He was a lowly carpenter from a lowly family in a lowly town. Even worse, He lived a mere 33 years. “No fair! He was God!” you may say. Yes, He was fully God. But Jesus was also fully man and was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin. (See Hebrews 4:15.) And the tides of eternity haven’t quite gotten over what Jesus was able to do in those mere 33 years.
What about you? What excuses are holding you back from committing your life to the Lord? What excuses are preventing you from living effectively for Him? Are you a liar? a murderer? of lowly rank? uneducated? running from your past? too sick? too weak? too old? too isolated? Get over yourself, and give it over to God – not because God needs you but because you need Him. And though He doesn’t need you, He can use you in ways you can’t even begin to fathom.
The only thing that’s disqualified is your list of excuses.