Imagine Me -God Loves Unlikely Candidates

Whose the person you would want on your team if you were going to change the world?

Imagine_Me_rev.400Last month, we went through the series ‘Press Play’ where we got to learn  what it means to  be a fearlessly influencer. WHY we engage – we demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by solving societal issues.  WHAT we engage – fearless influence begins right where you are.  WHO we engage – and the importance of finding the right people around you to engage with.  HOW we engage – and that a critical step towards becoming a fearless influencer is to create a definite plan.

In a sense, the series this month is a follow up to last month’s. The series is titled, ‘Imagine Me’ or ‘why ordinary people like you and I can change the world’. We will look at some incidences from the life of one the most influential leaders of all time. Acts 9:1-19. 

Have you ever heard of Barabbas and Matthias? Let’s talk about them. It had been an extremely intense time for Jesus’ disciples. After an exciting three years with Jesus, he had been betrayed by one of them, arrested and executed as a criminal. But then to their shock, he had appeared to them again and reassured them that he had come back to life. After commissioning them to go out and change the world by raising other Jesus followers just like he had taught them, then he visibly teleported upwards and vanished out of sight! Now, this part is not new to most people.

The disciples were excited as they waited to see what would happen next. In the process, one of the first things they did together was have an election. If they were going to change the world, then they needed to have the right people on the bus! Judas the betrayer was gone, they needed to replace him; with the right person. So, in a little known story, they nominated two men, guess who? You’re right! Barsabbas and Matthias. Both had been with them from the beginning when they met Jesus. Both were good men, who were liked by the congregation. Both had high credibility. So now that they had the right people, the disciples cast lots and officially declared Matthias to be the twelfth apostle. The white smoke went up. They had the right person on the bus. They were ready to change the world! But God had other plans.

Saul was what we’d call today a fanatic. He hated Christians with a passion. He believed they were a superstitious, misguided, dangerous cult, and he made it his mission to stamp out Christianity. He caused havoc in the church, going from door to door to the homes of all identified Christians and dragging them off to jail. He didn’t care if they were men or women or if they left children behind. Many fled the city and the church was scattered – internally displaced. After terrorizing them in Jerusalem, he got authority to travel over 200km to Damascus and arrest some more of them. The bible tells us he was ‘breathing out murderous threats’.

And that’s when God reached out to Saul. In our story, somewhere along that Damascus highway, as Paul and his sidekicks were marching along on their mission, God interrupted. Suddenly, a bright light appeared from heaven, which is why today we say that a person has ‘seen the light’. Saul fell to the ground and to his shock, Jesus appeared to him. He didn’t know it then, but from this point on, he would become one of Jesus’ most passionate and effective representatives. It would not be Matthias, but Saul who would end up writing over half of the New Testament. It would not be Matthias, but Saul who would share the good news about Jesus before kings, government leaders, intellectuals and others across the known world.

Saul was the least likely person that the disciples could have imagined God would use; at least two reasons why. Firstly, he was unqualified. He had not met Jesus personally, he had no credibility, he was not someone other Christians would have picked; in fact they feared him. It was as ridiculous as God calling the head of Al Shabaab to start preaching about Jesus in Somalia! You and I would have picked Matthias; but God picked Saul. God loves unlikely Candidates

A second reason Saul was an unlikely candidate was that he was hostile. Saul was not interested or open minded about understanding Jesus or about church or salvation. He was closed and utterly convinced that Christianity was untrue. He would never have applied to be a follower of Jesus. He didn’t even like Christians, in fact he detested them. So bad was his reputation that at first no one believed the change was real. Even when God directly told him, Ananias said, ‘God in case you didn’t notice, let me help you understand who you are talking about here’. You and I would have picked Matthias; but God picked Saul God loves unlikely candidates.

God has a track record of picking the most unlikely people to fulfill His great purpose. Whether it was picking Abraham a coward who disowned his wife when he thought someone might kill him for her beauty, to be the father of faith, or Rahab a prostitute in Jericho to be an ancestor of Jesus. Or David a young shepherd so unremarkable that he was easily ignored to be king: Or picking a bunch of uneducated peasants, a crooked tax collector and a violent militia member to be Jesus’ disciples.God loves unlikely candidates!

Why does God delight in picking unlikely candidates? Well, in 1 Timothy 1:15-17, Saul said many years later, When God uses such unlikely people, nobody is confused who is at work. Nobody is tempted to take credit for what God is doing. Paul says, ‘I’m the least qualified to be doing this’ Knowing where you came from keeps you humble. God gets all the credit. But in the process, a second thing happens. You become an example. People are able to look and say, ‘If God can use a person like that, maybe there is hope for me after all!’ God loves unlikely candidates!

That’s why 10 years ago as we began, we prayed that we would NOT just be a church where saintly people just came to get a spiritual fix. We wanted to be a church where people who were indifferent or hostile to Christianity would come and encounter Jesus. And once they did, we would help them discover their purpose and launch them out as fearless people who would change our city and ultimately the world. God loves unlikely candidates!

I believe the story of Saul has at least two things to remind each of us:

 You’re In the Right Place

It’s easy to focus on the dramatic transformation stories. These are the kinds of stories we’ve heard over the years. But we have also heard from many others who had a completely different experience.

Which is the bigger miracle? Is it when God takes a person who obviously needs God and dramatically changes their life? Or when God takes a person who thinks they’re already good and helps them realize how desperately they need God? In other words, is it the transformation of the person who obviously needs God, or is it the transformation of the person who thinks they’ve already got their act together? I actually think it’s the latter! But that’s just me!

It’s no coincidence that you are reading this sermon blog.

You Are the Right Person

Saul had no idea how much God was going to use him. The amazing thing is that we were built to have the same kind of impact that he had. God did not create us to be born, go to school, make money, get married, have children and then die. None of us wants that. Each of us wants to make a difference. Each of us longs to life a life of eternal significance. And we long for that life, because God created us for it.

The reality however, is that many of us feel just as unqualified as Saul. ‘I’m so inadequate… I’m such a sinner… I’m so spiritually weak … I’m so untrained… I’m so young… I’m still busy hustling just to make it… I still have ‘ma-issues’!’ Surely, God can’t mean me!

That God could use Saul is a great encouragement. God’s mercy and power are not limited to people who have been set up for Christianity by a good family or a church association or a clean moral track record. The chief of sinners became the fearless influencer. And that means that everyone has a key role in what God is doing. None of us is a supporting actor.

By the time He’s done with you, your family will not be the same. Your workplace will not be the same. Your industry will not be the same. And the city around you will be changed because of you.  God will use you to bring many people to know Him. This is God’s intention for you. God loves unlikely candidates!  

God had you in view when he chose Paul and saved him by sovereign grace. God has a purpose for your life, and it is not primarily for you to succeed in the Kenyan dream. His main purpose has to do with eternal realities. He wants to use you in His great cause of sharing Jesus’ love to the nations. He may let you fulfill His purpose by staying in Kenya. But, He may call you to go to a country where Christ is not nearly so well known.

Once you encounter Jesus, you are no longer your own. You begin to discover what it is that you are truly created for. That’s some of what we’re talking about this month. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be following the story of this unlikely person who changed the world. And we’ll be learning from him how to do the same. We tend to think of him as an ‘extraordinary Christian’. Yet his story was never meant to be extraordinary but rather a template of what the ordinary Christian life should be. Unimpressive, fearful, ordinary people who encounter Jesus and become world changers! God is still in the business of raising unlikely people.

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One Response to “Imagine Me -God Loves Unlikely Candidates”

  1. Hellen Kendi Says:

    I have truly enjoyed this read

    Like

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