Feature

You’re Me . . . I’m You

God chooses and uses everybody

By Anonymous

“You’re a remarkable young man.”

People often say this to me after I’m done speaking. I used to say “Thank you” and enjoy the compliment. But over time, the phrase has become increasingly irksome. You read that right, irksome—bothersome, irritating. Here’s why: when I say, “Thank you, but I’m just like you,” almost to the person, they respond with something like, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing.”

This irks me because, frankly, it’s a lie. Sorry to be so blunt, but at the cost of offending, I think something needs to be said. And honestly, when we quiet the noise and set aside the distractions of our lives long enough, I believe what I’m getting at will ring true.

When someone says, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” they’re giving me credit for something that on good days God is doing and on bad days I’m failing at. Rather than saying that there is something extraordinary about our God, they’re saying there’s something extraordinary about me—something that somehow qualifies me and disqualifies them.

Consider Paul’s words in this context:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are . . . —1 Cor. 1:26–28

Here’s my paraphrase: ordinariness is great for the Kingdom because it leaves no question that God is at work.

But to be fair, I’m not sure most of us actually think God uses only extraordinary people to do Kingdom-sized things. When I was a graduate student one of my professors introduced me to one of my heroes. If I told you his name, chances are you’d recognize it. He’s been on numerous TV shows, authored many books, established ministries. This was my brush with “Kingdom greatness.” I’m not sure if he saw the eagerness in my eyes, but I was ready to sit at this man’s feet and soak in every word that fell from his lips.

Here was his advice to me. Are you ready?

“Keep the faith.”

That was it: “Keep the faith.” And then he struck up a conversation with my professor. Where was my epiphany? Where was the passing of the mantle of “exceptionalness”? Maybe that guy was just like me . . . and you. Maybe it was God, and not him.

I think there’s another issue—another lie lurking behind the first that usually keeps us from being this honest with ourselves. We put the label “extraordinary” on people doing costly things for the Kingdom because the issue isn’t “I couldn’t do what they’re doing,” it’s “I don’t want to do what they’re doing.” We want the radicalness of the Kingdom to be the exception, not the norm. We have so much to give up in the United States these days: opportunities, success, comfort—well-defined limits to what God can do in and through us—that it gets in the way.

Or as C. S. Lewis, my mentor-in-print, puts it:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. —C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

Amen.

Even if you’re not convinced yet, assume with me for a second that I’m on to something. Perhaps you’re asking, “Why does it matter if I’m part of what you’re talking about?” Here’s why: every day 34,000 children die of preventable diseases. Of their peers who survive, nearly a million are being forced into the sex trade each year—a year in which approximately 17 million people will die of starvation and disease.

As I write this, CNN.com reports that more than 60,000 Syrians have died in a bloody civil war. This will be old news by the time you’re reading this. If we just take averages, a really liberal estimate is that of the 155,000 people who die today, two thirds of them don’t know Jesus.

Here’s my point: there are still things wrong with our world—terribly wrong. The remarkable thing is this tears up God’s heart more than it does ours. God doesn’t want it this way. He sent Jesus to His death to usher in a new Kingdom, the first evidence of which is His love, mercy, justice and power drawing out Satan’s destruction on earth like poison from a wound.

And, for some bizarre reason, He’s chosen to do it through us. To begin to make right through us what sin is destroying. Me and you . . . if we’ll let Him. Back down, and we lose the chance to do those Kingdom things He’s prepared for us to do. I don’t know how to parse it all out theologically except to say that there’s too much at stake to say to God, “You can’t use me.”

As uncomfortable or unbelievable as it may seem, God isn’t saying, “I can’t use you.” There are a lot of voices saying that these days (as there have been since the beginning), and none of them deserve an audience.

It’s not as hard as it seems:

Buy what you need (and splurge every once in a while). Use what’s left over to invest in the poor.

Read about what’s going on in your city, your state, the nation, the world and join in where you see Jesus at work.

Use a family vacation (or part of one) to visit a hard-pressed nation, ministry or slum (and let the experience change you and your family).

Pray.

Chances are, you could add a lot of other things to this list (God is persistent with His invitations). Just do one.

Now the question is, when I meet you after the service, are you going to shake my hand and say, “You’re a remarkable young man!” Or are we going to have a conversation about the Kingdom-sized things God is doing in our lives?

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