After a person has died, I often hear lots of tributes to them saying how wonderful their achievements were and how superb their character was. Sometimes it can sound as if they were far and above what I know myself to be. I can end up comparing myself to them and feeling so inferior.
At a recent memorial service for a world-famous author and Bible teacher, his son said it was good to honour his father for extraordinary gifts and dedication and effectiveness in the pulpit, but not good to put him on a pedestal. Outside of his professional role he was a very ordinary person like all of us, filled with doubts and insecurities. He was capable of being hurt by others and was just as capable of causing hurts to others, like all of us.
He knew that his father did not wish to have a memorial service, because he didn’t want anyone to make him sound like a saint. The headstone of his grave was ‘polished only on the front surface, to better carry the message, but the edges were left rough-hewn’.
This message of the reality of our frailty, no matter how much God has used us, was also impressed upon me when I was rereading a book by Elisabeth Elliot. Twenty-five years after her husband was speared to death, attempting to take the Gospel to the Waodani tribe, Elisabeth Elliot added a second epilogue to her book (originally written in 1956).
She wrote, ‘It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God’s and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes … He is a God who can redeem savages, using as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains, for “we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure (the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ), and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us, but is God’s alone” (2 Corinthians 4:7, New English Bible).’
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
How comforting it is that we do not have to be perfect to be mightily used of God! We are not even disqualified if we make a mistake and get things wrong. If only we can shine the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, we can be rough-hewn stones, but still carry the message. I am eternally grateful for the man who came to my door and was a witness to me of a life changed by Jesus.
He was saying one day that he was no good at evangelism. I pointed out how much his simple words had transformed my entire life in a moment. But perhaps it is better that we don’t have too much knowledge of how our actions and words have influenced people for the Kingdom of God. We might become too proud and complacent.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, I thank You that You are reminding me to not think too highly of myself and become deceived about my own self-importance. But please help me to hear Your voice and be determined to obey You in whatever way I can. Help me to appreciate the gifts that others have in serving You but help me not to put them on pedestals and expect them to be perfect. Help me to look to the treasure within them and not the earthen vessel. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
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