"I just don't think I can do it."
How many times have we thought that?
How many times have we said that?
How many times have we been told that?
Many great things that need to be done to honor God and bless His people go undone. They often go undone because we, and others like us, don't think we can do them.
Sometimes we shouldn't do something. We are already busy with other important Kingdom matters. Like Nehemiah, we should be willing to say to those who would distract us:
I'm doing a great work; I can't come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can...? (Nehemiah 6:3 MSG).
However, I am concerned that often times we refuse to step up to a God-opportunity because we feel unworthy and under-qualified.
Most of us have heard the reassuring slogan, "God doesn't call the qualified, but qualifies the called." Yet our personal experience, previous failures, and our pervasive self-doubt can lead us to turn down important God-opportunities. These God-opportunities can be almost anything — going on a mission trip, getting involved in a local ministry with those in need, being on a search committee for a new minister, teaching children, mentoring a problem student, working in a shelter, serving as a church leader, or being a home church host are just a few possibilities.
When we look at our spiritual family album, the Bible, we find that almost every great leader that God used in powerful ways was also unworthy and under-qualified! Abraham was too old. Moses wasn't gifted in speech. Deborah wasn't a warrior. David was the youngest son and just a shepherd boy. Jeremiah was too young. Esther was too vulnerable. Elizabeth couldn't have babies. Yet each of these played incredibly important roles in the LORD's unfolding story of grace.
God's most important work has always been done by folks with dirty hands — imperfect people willing to do hard work. The Father only has people with clay feet and flawed character to call into His service. Yes, some of the called appear more qualified than others. Yes, some asked to serve seem to be more squeaky clean than others. Yet, God's bottom line is this: He is God and He can equip the less than qualified to do His amazing work. The secret is that they must have a heart yielded to Him and a willingness to answer His call.
This is powerfully demonstrated in the ministry of Nehemiah. Around 445 BC, he served as a cupbearer (wine-taster) for King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 2:1). His job was to make sure the king's wine wasn't poisoned and otherwise remain unnoticed — much like a piece of furniture. When he heard a report on the awful conditions of his fellow Israelites in Jerusalem and Judea, he was heartbroken. For four months he prayed, fasted, and mourned their condition:
Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire (Nehemiah 1:3).
These horrible conditions had existed for a hundred years. Official leaders had come and gone. Some religious and political leaders had managed to get the Temple rebuilt. Yet as long as the city walls lay in ruin, the city of Jerusalem was largely uninhabitable. The services in the Temple could not be kept regularly because the priests and Levites — the sacrifice officiants, singers, and musicians — had no one to support them through tithes and offerings. The Israelite people were weak spiritually, politically, and militarily. They were easy prey for their surrounding enemies. No one had been able to change these dire realities for decades.
So what made Nehemiah think he could do this great task? He didn't have construction training. There is no indication he had ever lived in Jerusalem. He wasn't a priest or a politician. He didn't have influence. There is no indication he even had callouses on his hands and could do manual labor! So how in the world would he lead God's people to do what no one had been able to get them to do? He was unworthy and under-qualified to do God's work and get his hands dirty in such a massive project!
The answer for Nehemiah, and the answer for you and me, is found in Nehemiah 1:1-11. Take a moment to read this first chapter. Now notice what we learn about Nehemiah in the beginning of his story. The sum total is found in the first and last verses of the chapter:
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: ... I was cupbearer to the king (Nehemiah 1:1; Nehemiah 1:11).
In other words, Nehemiah knew the issue wasn't about his qualifications or worthiness. Instead, the issue was his willingness to work, his willingness to be touched by the circumstances, his willingness to identify with the failure of the people, and his willingness to depend upon the "LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love... " (Nehemiah 1:5).
Who is going to do the work of God in our day? Who are we going to find worthy to step into important roles that lead and bless God's people with a new day? Or to make the issue much more personal, let's ask the questions a little differently. Am I going to do the work of God in my day? How am I going to be worthy to step into an important role to lead and bless God's people with a new day?
The answer from Nehemiah is clear. God isn't look for someone super-capable, but someone callable. God isn't looking for someone squeaky clean, but humble, touchable, and willing to get her or his hands dirty in Kingdom work.
There is an old little slogan that has appeared in many forms:
No one did what anyone could have done and everyone knew needed to be done but thought someone else would do because everybody thought somebody was better at doing what anybody could have done but nobody did.While not always accurate about our condition, if we let it, this little statement can be very convicting!
God is not looking for us to be perfectly capable, but for someone willing to be available, touchable, moldable, and soilable. He is looking for someone who is willing to get his or her hands dirty doing God's work while feeling they are unworthy and under-qualified.
Thank God for Nehemiah in his day. Now who among us is willing to step forward and be like Nehemiah in our day?
Next Week from Nehemiah: "The Awesome Power of Tweeting Heaven"