May I ask you a few questions about yourself? Are you a Phi Beta Kappa, an All-American, Miss America, listed in Who’s Who, voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” or in the bluebook of society? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, I have good news for you. God can still use you, though He is going to have a little more difficulty doing it.
But if, on the other hand, you have done or achieved none of the things the world prizes so highly, God delights to use you. If you have never won anything but the booby prize, God desires to get glory through you. As a matter of fact, He prefers to use ordinary people.
You’ll understand why I say all of this when you read the following verses, which are crucial to our study of what it means to be a temple of the living God:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
Before we look at why God has chosen to do things this way, we need to deal with a practical matter. Is it humility to say you are not capable of being used of God? No; that is an insult to the mighty God who inhabits your heart! Believers sometimes stand with drooping shoulders and with apologetic voice declare, “I just serve God in my poor, little, weak way.”
Whenever I hear that I want to say, “Well, quit it! God does not want you to serve Him in that way. He wants you to serve Him in His mighty, dynamic way. You are a temple of God. He lives within you. He wants to display His glory in you!” What some people call humility, I call poor posture. My question to people like this is, why should we be so inhibited when we are so inhabited?
You see, God has a wonderful plan. He is in the business of getting glory to Himself, and here is how He does it: He uses what the world calls a foolish message. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
He then chooses what the world considers to be a weak and unworthy messenger and compounds the two in the crucible of His mighty power and wisdom. He does this so that “no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). This way the God who lives in the house gets all the glory, not the house!
Embarrassing Qualifications
To serve God in this mighty army of the ordinary, there are some downright embarrassing qualifications. Let’s see how close we come to being admissible.
First are the “foolish” ones. The word foolish that Paul used comes from the Greek word moros. It is the word from which our word moron comes. It denotes someone who is dull, sluggish, or perhaps even somewhat silly.
So you were not at the top of your class? You hold no Ph.D. degree? Does this mean you cannot be used? To the contrary, God is looking for someone just like you. Relationship is more important than scholarship.
Next are the “weak” ones. This word means physical weakness, even infirmity. Are you feeling weak and sickly? Congratulations! God is willing to do mighty things with and through your frail body. His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
Then comes the “base” ones. This word means of lowly birth, ignoble, without pedigree. Perhaps you are not from the aristocracy. You were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth. You may be like a seminary classmate of mine who said, “I wasn’t born in a log cabin like some of the great men of our country, but I want you to know that just as soon as our family could afford one, we bought it and moved in!”
Praise God, He delights to use those who were born on the wrong side of the tracks. Don’t let what the world may consider your social inferiority keep you from serving Him.
God also delights to use the “despised” ones. This word means those whom the world writes off as of no account. It means those who are treated with contempt and scorn. Do others look down on you and say you will never amount to anything? That is terrific! That means that when God does use you, it will be obvious to all around that He is the One who is doing it and He, therefore, will get the glory.
Last of all, there are the ones who “are not.” This refers to people who are completely overlooked. They do not even get to be despised. They are not considered good enough to be despised. They are not listed in Who’s Who. They’re not even in Who’s Not!
Am I by any chance talking about you? Your name is never listed in the church bulletin. When people talk, your name is not discussed, either for good or evil. Do you consider yourself a nobody? Well, with God everybody is a somebody. He is looking for someone like you. Your name may not be mentioned much down here, but God wants you to make headlines in heaven.
These are the kinds of ordinary people God delights to use. Now let me make three things clear concerning God’s plan to use His people.
God’s Mighty Plan
First, God does not say that no one who is mighty or noble is called. He just says that not many of the world’s elite will submit themselves to Him. I thank God for those wealthy, those gifted, those intellectuals who know and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, Paul himself was one of these. This gifted aristocrat had one of the most scintillating minds of all time. He was sought after, flattered, and praised by his peers. He had achieved the highest positions in the religious world and had an impeccable academic pedigree. Yet, Paul said concerning these achievements, “[I] do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
A British noblewoman once told the great preacher John Wesley that she was saved by an m. Wesley was puzzled and asked what she meant. “God said not many nobles were called. He didn’t say not any,” she explained.
The second thing I want to emphasize about spiritual qualifications is this: Paul is not encouraging half-heartedness, laziness, or mediocrity.
If you are a preacher or teacher with only an average IQ, you must study all the more. A preacher in Pennsylvania was noted as an expert fox hunter. An old Quaker said to him one day, “If I were a fox, I would hide me where thee could not find me.”
“And where is that?” inquired the preacher.
“In thy study!” the Quaker replied.
You may be a singer with less than a great voice, but still it ought to be your ambition to make that voice sing the sweetest note it can sing for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You may not have great strength, but the important thing is that every nerve, fiber, bone, and sinew in your body be given over completely to the Lord Jesus. Let Him have every ounce and every inch. It has well been said, “It doesn’t take much of a man to be a Christian –just all there is of him.”
Third, remember that Paul is not talking about relying upon our own strength anyway. The secret of the whole matter is that God gives to ordinary people extraordinary power. He gave Himself for us in order that He might give Himself to us and therefore live His life through us. The issue is not so much our responsibility as it is our response to His ability.
God’s Mighty Weak Ones
When I think of God using “foolish” things, I think of Billy Sunday. He was the best-known evangelist of his day, in many ways his era’s counterpart to Billy Graham.
Sunday certainly could not be classed as an intellectual. He was a former baseball player who had only a high school education. He used slang and had some laughable ideas. His antics on the platform scandalized some of the more refined church members of that era. One biographer called him “God’s laugh at the preachers.” Sunday used to say that he didn’t know any more about theology than a jackrabbit knows about Ping-Pong.
One of my older seminary professors told me of going to hear Billy Sunday preach when the evangelist was in his heyday. He said that Billy carried on and performed in his usual way, but then God moved on him and he struck fire. He began to preach “hell hot, heaven sweet, judgment sure, and Jesus saves!” He then gave the invitation to “hit the sawdust trail,” and multitudes came to trust Christ.
My professor said that among those who came forward was an old man with a long, white beard. For some reason Billy Sunday became fascinated with that man’s beard. He couldn’t take his eyes from it. Finally temptation overcame him, and the unpredictable evangelist went to the edge of the platform, bent over, grasped the man’s beard, and pulled it several times saying, “Honk, honk!” Can you imagine that?
You and I might raise our eyebrows and say God couldn’t use a man like that. But He did. God did not use Billy Sunday because of these foolish things, and I do not suggest that any would-be preacher go and do likewise.
But here is the point: many a well-trained minister with all of the ecclesiastical accoutrements (Dr. Sounding Brass and Dr. Tinkling Cymbal, for example) who trusts in his worldly knowledge and ability has been passed by. God in His wisdom chooses instead to use a Billy Sunday to bring glory to Himself. And how God used Billy Sunday! Literally hundreds of thousands came to Christ through his ministry.
When I consider God using the “weak” things, I remember an episode that took place in a church I once pastored. We were having what we called a “Week of Champions” to reach the young people in that area for Christ. We invited many great professional and amateur athletes to come and share their testimonies for Christ. The affair took place at the high school gymnasium. Among those who came was the late Paul Anderson, who at that time was reputed to be the strongest man in the world. What a specimen he was. He had biceps like coconuts.
He was asked, “Were you ever a ninety-seven-pound weakling?”
He said, “Yes, when I was four years old!”
Anderson’s testimony was clear and strong. He said, in effect, “If the strongest man in the world needs Jesus, so do you.”
The next Sunday a young man came forward in our church service to confess Christ publicly as Lord and Savior. After visiting with him, I found that he was converted the night Paul Anderson was present.
“What was it Mr. Anderson said that touched your heart?” I asked.
“Oh, it wasn’t what Paul Anderson said. It was what George Wilson said that reached me.”
George Wilson? I couldn’t remember which athlete he was. Then I recalled that George was a paraplegic in a wheelchair who gave his testimony during a time of open sharing afterwards. He was not even a part of the official program. But he spoke of the joy of the Lord with a face shining like the noonday sun. That student said to me, “When I saw the happy expression on the face of George Wilson, I thought that if God could do that for a man in a wheelchair, perhaps He could do something for me.”
I have never forgotten that episode. On a night when the strongest man in the world was present, God used a man in a wheelchair to bring a college student to Christ.
God’s Noble Base Ones
And what about the “base” things? Do you remember the story of Gideon? He was about as ignoble and base as a man could be. He lived in a time of great trouble in Israel. The Midianites had overrun the land with their fierce warriors.
Gideon was threshing wheat one day when the angel of the Lord appeared and said to him, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour … thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites” (Judges 6:12-14).
Gideon must have looked over his shoulder to see whom the angel was talking to. When it dawned on Gideon that he was being called a “mighty man of valour,” he quickly protested, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15).
What Gideon was saying was something like this: “Of all the tribes in Israel, Manasseh is the worst; of all the families in Manasseh, my family is the poorest; and of all the kids in my family, I am the runt of the litter.”
But this is just what God wanted — a man base enough that God could display His glory through him. And if you remember the story, you know that God made Gideon reduce the size of his army to only 300 soldiers. It was then that God took a nobody general and a nothing army, defeated the Midianites, and got the glory. God has again and again chosen the base things of this world for His use.
Here is one more illustration of this exciting principle: when I think of despised things that God has chosen, I think of young David who later became the king over all Israel. The episode I have in mind is David’s historic battle with Goliath of Gath.
The valley of Leah, about fifteen miles due west of Bethlehem, was the scene of the confrontation. The armies of Israel and the forces of the Philistines had been joined in battle for almost six weeks. Goliath, a monstrous giant almost ten feet tall and covered with brass armor, stepped forward and delivered his challenge to fight single-handedly with a Hebrew. He would raise his ham-like fists to heaven, blaspheme the God of Israel, and taunt God’s children. Who would want to take that challenge? Even mighty Saul was quaking in his boots.
David was there that day. He was just a lad, a teenage boy with fuzz on his chin. But there was something in David that was stirred to white-hot indignation when he heard the name of his thrice-holy God being mocked.
In the face of derision and certain scorn, David went forth to meet Goliath. He was armed with but a sling and five smooth stones.
There was a fundamental difference between David and everyone else that day. All the others were mumbling, “Look how much bigger Goliath is than we are.” But David was thinking, “Look how much smaller than God Goliath is.” The others were saying, “He’s too big to hit.” David was thinking, “He’s too big to miss!”
At this point let’s consider the scriptural account. It thrills me every time I read it:
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel (1 Samuel 17:41-46).
Clearly, David was not intimidated by Goliath’s threats. He knew that the battle was the Lord’s.
The key to me is the last part of 1 Samuel 17:46, where David declared that victory would be his and then gave the reason: so God’s glory would be made known in all the earth. Don’t miss that point.
What would it have meant for God’s glory that day if both the Philistines and Israel had put forth a giant, and the Israeli giant had defeated the Philistine giant? Not a thing in the world! It would have been just a good fight, that’s all.
But when a despised, unheralded teenage boy with faith in God wins such a victory, everyone is forced to confess that there is a God in Israel. Do you see why God enjoys using despised things so that He will get the glory?
Because He Lives in Me
In the light of all this, let us as temples of the living God make a threefold application to our lives:
First of all, there is a rebuke to our pride — “that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). God will not share His glory with another. How God hates the sin of spiritual pride! I have observed that God will keep using a person as long as that person keeps giving Him the glory.
Don’t ever be like the woodpecker who while pecking away on a pine tree was stunned by a bolt of lightning that struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. Hardly able to believe his eyes, the woodpecker backed off and looked at the damage for a few moments. Then he flew away and came back leading nine other woodpeckers. With a great deal of swagger he said, “There it is, gentlemen, right over there!” When we start taking credit for what God does, He stops doing it!
Second, there is a reckoning of our power. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Don’t ever insult God by saying He cannot use you. That is not humility — it is blasphemy! Christ is alive and well and lives in you if you have been saved. You are His temple. Therefore, do not say, “Lord, help me to use my love, my strength, my wisdom.” Instead, rely on His! Remember that God gives extraordinary power to ordinary people.
Third, there is a response in our praise. “… that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). How we ought to praise Him! What a wonderful plan it all is. The great God, who is big enough to fill His mighty universe, is small enough to live within my heart. I am the temple of God. He literally dwells in me. Hallelujah!
From The Power of His Presence, by Adrian Rogers, Copyright (c) 1995, pp. 75-86. Used by permission of Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 60187.

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