Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
These verses came to my mind on Sunday morning when a fellow in our class asked, “There were plenty of large, influential cities around during Jesus’ day. Why did God choose such an insignificant place and time for Christ’s ministry and death?” Now go back and read those verses again. The answer to the question is clear: Our God works that way to prove he’s the one doing the work – not us.
When our God called me to work with Wycliffe, it was the least likely path I would have imagined for myself – missionaries were always other people. Like the apostle Paul, my Lord had to bring me pretty low to make me see the error of my ways and the superiority of his ways. The very best things in my life and ministry now come when I die to my self and let the Lord do the work.
One of the weakest aspects of being missionaries is our reliance on other people for our income. Most folks have to persuade just one person or company to hire them, while we need to partner with many people in order to form a viable ministry. By the standards of this world, that’s not a very reliable way to work. But we serve a God who looks at that situation and says, “Sweet! Now I have something I can work with!”
Then there’s the fact that most missionaries’ partnerships come through their relationships with others. When it comes to relationships, I am certainly weak. There are many times when I would rather “die” than “die to my self” to make a new relationship or tend to an existing one – even in marriage!
Yet when I play to my strengths, thinking myself clever, my efforts can fall flat. Here’s a case in point. I recently offered my skills and time to nine local congregations – free computer help! Sounds good, right? Well, I received a dismal response. In the meantime, I have a full classroom on Sunday mornings as I teach what? Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. More relationship stuff! Seriously, God?
Please pause for a moment while God refers me back to the verses up at the top.
OK, I got the point.
This week, we who follow Jesus will remember a long list of weaknesses. He didn’t resist arrest. He didn’t put up a defense at his trial. He didn’t complain about the abuse heaped on him. He didn’t call on his followers to rescue him from being fastened to a wooden cross and hoisted up to die. You don’t get any weaker than in death.
Our God used Jesus’ death – that weak, foolish thing – to set the stage for the most powerful thing ever witnessed. And if we’ll just die, too – die to self – then he can do more powerful things through the new life he gives to us. He can send the most unlikely people as missionaries. He can enable the most unlikely people to send those missionaries during one of the most difficult economies ever. Why, he can even enable me to have a relationship with you who send us! Now that’s amazing!
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