How could God use someone like me? Have you ever asked that question? What would cause us to ask it? Shame. We see “other people” God is using and cannot fathom that he would use us. We reason that God can use them but not us because:
- They haven’t done the things I’ve done.
- They don’t have the issues I have.
- They don’t have the baggage I have.
- They have it all together.
- They don’t come from a broken home.
- They have a lot of money.
- They have an impressive social status.
- They have the perfect little family.
- She’s prettier than me.
- She’s skinnier than me.
- Everybody likes him.
- He has an amazing voice.
- She’s such a talented musician.
- He’s an incredible teacher.
- She’s so talented and all I’m good at is…
…and the list could go on.
Let me draw an analogy. In John 6 we find the story of Jesus’ feeding the thousands. The disciples are confronted with a problem -there are 5,000 men (plus woman and children) who are very hungry and need food to eat. Jesus tests them by asking how they were going to feed all these people. Immediately, they look at the problem in light of their resources and come up short. They definitively conclude that they are ill-equipped to fix the problem.
Then the story takes an interesting turn. Andrew brings a young man to Jesus and tells him the lad has 5 miniature pancakes and 2 sardines, but he adds that this is obviously insufficient for so many people. Yet, Jesus is able to feed all those people and have more leftover than the original amount.
Here is what has always gone through my mind -Why did Andrew bring that young man to Jesus if he was skeptical? Honestly, I believe it was because the young man was persistent. In my mind I see the untold portion going down this way:
The young man sees Andrew and says, “I have food I can take to Jesus. I heard him asking where to find food, and I can give him my lunch.”
“Why, thank you son, that’s a very kind gesture, but there are thousands of people here, and I don’t think that’s going to be enough. But that was very sweet of you to offer,” Andrew replies.
“But sir, if I could just give it to Jesus he might be able to do something with it.”
Andrew, beginning to get slightly annoyed replies, “Now son, that’s a nice thought, but I have to figure out how to feed all these people, and your wanting to go to Jesus and offer your scraps is just going to take up more of my time. You go ahead and eat your little lunch and let me figure out what to do.”
“But sir, will you please take me to Jesus so that I can give him my lunch. I know it isn’t much, but I’d like to give it to him,” insists the young man.
“Alright, I’d hate to see you embarrass yourself, but if you insist.”
Coming to Jesus Andrew says, “There’s a young man here who has 5 little pancakes and 2 sardines, but I can’t see what good that’s going to do for so many people.”
While the disciples looked at the problem in light of their resources, the young man saw the problem in light of Christ’s ability. He knew he had little to offer, but he knew if he put it in Jesus’s hands, it could be used greatly. He wasn’t going to let shame, scoffers, or skeptics keep him from offering what he had.
We also see a problem -the world needs to hear about Jesus, and believers need to be edified, equipped, and discipled. Unfortunately, we look at the problem in light of our resources and assume we have nothing to offer. Sometimes we think we might have something to offer, but we let shame keep us from offering our gifts and testimonies to the Lord. My gift isn’t as impressive as that person’s. Well, if people knew that about me, they’d never look at me the same.I wanted to share my testimony, but I was told I couldn’t, so I guess God just hasn’t opened that door.
When is the last time you went to Jesus and said, “Lord, this is my testimony. This is my story. This is how you have gifted me. I want to use it to advance your kingdom. I don’t know how you can use it, or why you even would, but I’m asking you to take what I have and use it to reach the people you can.”
Perhaps your testimony, like mine, has left you seeing yourself as nothing more than “damaged goods.” Like me, maybe you have wrestled with feeling unworthy to serve with the stigma attached to your name. You see yourself as being a once useful vessel that has found its place on God’s wall of shame.
Ephesians 2:4-7 reads, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
Your testimony might be one of great tragedy and brokenness. You might feel ashamed of what you’ve done or from where you’ve come, but God is proud to put you on display as a testimony to the ages to come of the “immeasurable riches of his grace.” God specializes in restoration. He specializes in using the unusable. When he restores us from our brokenness, when he uses our meager gifts and talents, he shows the world how merciful, gracious, and powerful he is. And all boasting on our part is silenced.
If you’ve ever seen the work of people who do restorations, there are 2 things you’ll always see: a before picture, and an after picture. The after picture would not be nearly as impressive without the before picture. Your testimony of God’s rich mercy is the before and after picture he wants to display in his trophy case. He hasn’t put you on his wall of shame; he wants to put you in his trophy case so the world can see that he is able to restore their brokenness.
What makes the story in John 6 so amazing to me is not that Jesus found a way to feed the thousands of people but that he was able to take so little and use it to touch so many. Honestly, would that story be nearly as inspiring if we never knew about the young man who offered his small gift?
Last time we said, “Everyone has a testimony, and it doesn’t end at conversion. Your testimony is what God has done and is doing in your life.” Allow me to add this -an untold story is not a testimony; it’s a hidden treasure. It’s time to expel shame, clean out the closet, and let God use the hidden treasure buried beneath our shame. Ask God how he can use you to advance his kingdom.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite poems:
By: Myra Welch
‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”
“Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three…” But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
And going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of the Master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game — and he travels on.
He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.[i]