At church last Sunday, the pastor used Micah 5:2 as a starting-point. The passage states: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (KJV).
The pastor, like a number of Christians, interprets Micah 5:2 to be a prophecy about Jesus. The pastor’s point was that God used what was small, in this case Bethlehem, for a significant work, namely, the birth of the Messiah.
I have heard such a message within Christianity before, and I have struggled with it on this blog. Do I believe this message? Do I reject it as untrue? Do I believe it, sort of? Do I believe it, albeit in a different way than I used to believe it?
I was in a Bible study group years ago, and the group’s leader told us about a stirring preacher he heard at a Promise Keepers rally. The leader says that he bets that preacher used to be a meek and timid fellow, sitting in the back row at church! The leader’s point was that God uses the seemingly insignificant, so that God can get the glory.
I do not doubt that this can happen. I just don’t think it is absolutely true. If a person has natural talent, intelligence, looks, and charisma, and that person becomes a preacher, then he or she will probably get a bigger church than someone lacking in natural talent, intelligence, looks, and charisma. My suspicion is that the way of the church is not too different from the way of the world, in this respect. God uses the weak for his glory? It often seems as if God uses the strong! Or, more accurately, the strong are the ones who appear to be successful in Christianity—-successful in such things as drawing numbers.
Yet, there are other considerations. The pastor was saying that he depends on God in preparing and delivering sermons, so that his sermons will be understandable to the congregation. The pastor is one whom I would characterize as “strong”: he has strong opinions, he is a dynamic speaker, he is witty and funny, he manifests confidence. Yet, he acknowledges that he is weak and needs God to help him craft and deliver sermons.
The pastor was also talking about how we do not need to be in the forefront for God to use us. There are people who work behind the scenes, and their work is necessary. Moreover, the pastor said that the seemingly small things that we do can be used by God to influence profoundly a person’s life. The church is having a toy drive for Christmas, and the pastor said that a child receiving a toy from the church may decide to commit to Christ. I believe that these are important and relevant considerations.
~ I have struggled with this also, because it has seemed like I feel like I have all too often been on rough side of weakness and yet have not seen fruit come of it. It does seem like the race is to the strong more often than not – no? I suspect there is something else also… Its this – more often than not, people do not talk about their weakness or other peoples weakness. We in fact refuse to. We are in denial. A few years ago, I recall doing a search on sermonaudio,com for the topic of failure and coming up with scrap. Why so little? That said…
There are people out there who we regard as strong men and yet when we get to know them better we find that they do have weaknesses. This includes not only modern day preachers in the limelight, but so also historical figures. Take for example Jonathan Edwards. We tend to think of him as a theological and spiritual giant. Yet his weakness seems to be that on a pastoral level he was not very good – I bet you a $100 that the guy hardly knew a person in his congregation on a personal level save his wife. His preaching also rarely touched upon the mundane facts of life or the various hardships that people in his congregation could be going through. I pointed all this out to a friend of mine and he refused to accept it. Like so with many missionaries. They had some painful weaknesses… but these do not get written about in their bios. So all too often we just present the strong man side of things.
Look – I am not saying we drag out all the dirty laundry of people and parade it, but we can also inject at least a little dose of reality. I mean it helps for me to know that this Joe or that Jane also had the same struggles and yet still made something of themselves in life. God did give Jacob a limp and Paul a thorn.
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Well said, RGB Rao.