We live in a world that produces “stars” and “leaders”. The chosen few have the qualities that we supposedly should admire and seek to emulate – looks, talents, awards, success, wealth, love, power. What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus? What does it take to become a Christian leader? When we look at the bible, God demonstrates over and over again His love of the common folk and His continual challenge to worldly values.
In the Old Testament, God demonstrates His favour to those that the world overlooks, time and time again. His choice of people was certainly different to the cultural norms of the day. In a time when family honour and prestige rested upon the eldest son, God chose some of the younger family members to fulfil His plans. Gideon, when called by the Lord to save Israel, declared “my clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15). Joseph was the second youngest of twelve, betrayed by his older brothers, yet rose to prominence and authority in Egypt. (Genesis 37-50) When Samuel visited the house of Jesse to anoint a new king, all of the sons of Jesse were paraded before him. Samuel had very clear direction from the Lord, however, that His chosen one was David, the youngest, who was tending the sheep in the fields. (1 Samuel 16)
When Samuel chose David, God spoke “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”(1 Sam 16:7) God chooses those for his work whose hearts are firmly fixed on him.
Another aspect of the lives of these ordinary folk is that often they worked in solitary jobs where they had much time to meditate upon the things of God. Sometimes exiled, sometimes imprisoned, they were often involved in what we would call boring, repetitive work before they became biblical heroes. Imagine Jacob, who worked for Laban for seven years to earn his bride, only to be tricked into a deceitful marriage and chose to then work for his father- in- law for another seven years to pay for the daughter he wanted. (Genesis 29). Amos too was a shepherd, and Moses spent time in exile in Midian, tending flocks. Nehemiah was a servant of the king.
That is not to say that God does not use those in positions of prominence. Job was the wealthiest man of his time. It was not Job’s business acumen or hard work that God commended, however, but his love of God and upright character. (Job 1:8)
Jesus, during his earthly ministry, selected twelve disciples to be his closest recipients of the gospel message and his earthly companions. Did he choose the wise and learned religious leaders? No, in fact the religious elite of the day were sometimes those that He most soundly berated. He gathered together as unlikely a group of miscreants as you would ever expect to make a forceful team of world changers. Several fishermen were included, those used to making a living from long hours, hard and tedious work. Two of these, James and John, the “sons of thunder” possibly had bad tempers and ego problems. A tax collector was unlikely to be someone who would win friends and influence people. Simon the zealot, someone passionately dedicated to overthrowing the Roman authorities of the day, was probably not the first choice of one to be swayed by talk of peace and forgiveness and love. Yet, therein lies the sovereign beauty of Jesus’ wisdom. He sees the heart.
What God did two thousand years ago, he is still doing today. There is no reason to believe that an intellectually disabled person would not be a fantastic witness for God. A cleaner who spends long hours alone vacuuming hospital corridors, meditating on the things of God, may just be the leader that God has in mind for His purposes. A woman who describes herself as “just a housewife” may be impacting the world through her life and prayers in ways that only God knows. The elderly and infirm, children, refugees, as well as those who are successful and well –established by this world’s standards – God can use us all.
God knows the hearts of all those who love him. He sees his obedient servants. He understands their potential. He knows what He can achieve through lives that are completely surrendered to Him.