|King David in Prayer by
Pieter de Grebber – 1635-1640
I have been brought back to Acts several times over the last few years as God has been bringing me, and our family, through this journey to go in to full time ministry in the mission field, and I don’t think that is by accident. I have read through these stories of the early church and about the missionaries that were used by God to grow His church many times in the past. What started out as something much more distant from me, has become more revealed thanks to the life experiences God has been bringing us through, and because of how He has been allowing me to understand more about Him and His character. You see, when I used to read these New Testament letters (and honestly, it still happens today), I would hear these stories of these men whom I imagine being some sort of “super-Christians”. I never really saw most of the people of the Bible as being anything near normal people, like you and I. I often assume that they were much like fable characters, or slightly more real than that. They were almost like the “Michael Jordans” of faith, if you will (to appreciate this analogy, it helps to understand that when I was younger I all but deified Michael Jordan and he became more than human to me, so this might help you understand the perspective I am talking about). Basically, I always thought something like this: “Wow, those Apostles and people of the Bible are something I can always look up to but never, ever, think of being anything like that – it’s just not possible for us “normal” people.”
Then, God started opening my eyes to reality. I began to recognize, thanks to some studies He has brought me through, that the people in the Bible were chosen for the very opposite reason that I was crediting them. They came from almost every walk of life you can think of. God intentionally chose people that were normal every-day fisherman, hated tax-collectors, wealthy kings who started out as poor shepherds, and the list goes on and on. Basically, each of these people from the Bible were just men and women like you and me. I know that sounds almost blasphemous in some people’s minds, but look at what James, Jesus’ half-brother, says himself, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” – James 5:17. James is telling us that Elijah, one of the greatest Prophets of the Old Testament, was “a man just like us”. Wow! But you may think that surely we can’t assume that Jesus would agree with a statement like that, right? That’s not what I read. In the Gospel of John Jesus states, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” – John 14:12-13.
So why don’t more of us look like characters such as these from the Bible that we read about? Well, I have begun to realize that it is not because they were a special breed of man or that they found a magic potion, but instead they show us all throughout the Bible that they were truly interested in and submitted to God’s will for their lives. Of course, this doesn’t mean that non of them failed in this area, just look at King David, we can see many times where he turned back to his own selfish desires. But we also see that he is fairly quick to repent. This repentant heart is a big part of most of these “heroes” of the Bible. It is that kind of attitude that allows them to be used as humble servants of the Most High. There is a constant attitude of dying to self, of letting go of the fleshly, selfish desires that each and every one of us have. When they lay down their own lives (and I don’t mean just physically dying, but letting go of everything a person selfishly could want or desire), and pick up their cross and follow Jesus (which means to actually do what he says and not just intellectually memorize what he said or just agree with what he said but to actually take action), this is when we typically see amazing things happening in and through the lives of these Bible characters.
So, when I have been tempted to say, “I’m just a man, I can’t be used by God or do the same things that these superhuman characters did in the Bible,” God has been reminding me that they are not any more superhuman than I am when I die to myself (give up my selfish desires), and submit my life to His will (do what He asks me to). When more of us begin to live this way, which I believe is the way God has called us to live, then I believe we will see some amazing things happening like Jesus promised. That we “will do even greater things than these [things that Jesus did]… And [Jesus] will do whatever you ask in [Jesus’] name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”