The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
August 18, 2019
There are no nobodies.
Everybody is somebody, somebody whom the Last Judge of such things values immensely. Everybody is somebody whom God made in His own image, for whom God sent His Son to die, in whom God can think of no nicer place to live, and with whom God aches to spend eternity.
How much we value people determines how well we treat people. Professor John Evans, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, has – after analyzing data from over 3500 American adults –determined that just believing the first of those four things (that everybody is made in God’s image) leads to far more humanitarian attitudes toward them and far more ethical action on their behalf. For example, those who see human beings as people made in God’s image are far more likely than those who see them in merely biological terms to be active in fighting genocide wherever it appears.
How we appraise the value of people determines how we appraise our duty to help them. Likewise, how we appraise our own value determines how we appraise our own significance.
People of faith appreciate their significance by appreciating what God says about them. In the Bible God tells us that we have a crucial role in fulfilling the work that Jesus, the Son of God, began. Just as Jesus was sent by God to seek and to save the lost, so we, He tells us, are sent by God to reach out and help receive the gift of God’s redeeming grace.
As a whole community, we fulfill the calling to share the good news too good to keep to ourselves, the good news of God’s love in Christ. Yet, none of us individually does that big job all by ourselves.
If, however, we take Jesus’ words seriously, we realize that each of us is, in God’s design, to be a little Billy Graham to somebody. Each of us has a unique and vital role in bearing witness to at least one other person and opening their hearts to the reality of God’s love.
Each of us is meant to be a significant partner to God in that large and important concern of the Creator!
Each of us is in the same position that Jeremiah was when he first came to realize how vital he was to God’s big plans. Though he came from a family of priests, young Jeremiah saw himself as a nobody with no special level of giftedness. Jeremiah felt himself inadequate – whether measured by aptitude, training or experience – for carrying out the assignment He was hearing God give him. When he heard God say he had appointed him to be “a prophet to the nations”, he protested, “I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
In the same way, when we hear God ask us to share about Jesus and the good news, we protest that we don’t have what it takes to do the job. We don’t know how to speak in a way that is winsome and clear. We are afraid of coming across as judgmental, intolerant or “holier-than-thou.” We have no idea how to answer objections and expressions of doubt.
God’s makes the same response to us today He made to Jeremiah back then. He tells us that our qualifications are irrelevant. He tells us that, just as He chose Jeremiah for the job before there was a Jeremiah to choose for the job – “Before you were born I consecrated you”, God told Jeremiah – God also chose us by His own sovereign decision without consulting us. God tells us that our capabilities don’t matter much to Him, for He will share His capabilities with us…and thus we don’t have to worry about knowing how to speak for, God says, “[I will] put my words in your mouth”.
What we bring to the task counts for little compared to what will be brought to it by the One who will go with us as we go out in obedience. He will add His mighty grace to our meager potential. Yes, we need to listen before we speak – listen to Him and listen to those to whom He sends us. Yes, we need to talk to Him about people before we talk to people about Him. Yes, we need to ready ourselves in a number of ways. Nevertheless, we do well to trust, first and foremost, not in our preparation, but in His presence – in His faithfulness to His promise to be with us and to compensate for our shortfalls. We don’t have to be all that much; we just have to be all His and all in on doing what is ours to do.
God doesn’t just use all-stars: the supremely talented or well-connected. God uses the supremely committed, even those who may not have much going for them except that they keep well-connected to Him. Dwight Moody, one of America’s most effective evangelists, said, “I know perfectly well that, wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers known and heard than I. All that I can say about it is that the Lord uses me.”
The Lord uses any who are all in on the assignment, who are available and give their best, however modest their best may be.
I think of the middle school boys of Fresno’s Kepler School volleyball team. One ordinary day, they were jogging in downtown Fresno as part of their conditioning when one of them saw a person dangling from the Stanislaus Bridge. The person was a 47-year-old woman who, Fresno police later confirmed, was intending to drop to her death.
When the boys saw her, they ran over to the bridge and launched an impassioned campaign to talk her down and bring her to safety. While someone called 911, the boys pleaded with her to hold on, telling her not to give up and that her life was worth continuing. They saw neither their lack of experience or of training as an impediment to their helping someone precious in the eyes of God. By the time the police and paramedics arrived, they had given her a mustard seed of hope – and a willingness to receive help. She allowed the firefighter to assist her down the ladder and the paramedics to transport her to a mental health facility. Afterward, the city celebrated the boys for saving the life of someone they could have ignored but to whom they gave their best to give her courage to keep living.
Those boys are our model. We have words of hope and promise about Jesus to share with all who are open to hear them; and, though we may not know how to do the job well, God honors our intentions and supplements our humble efforts with His awesome grace. Our only qualification may be that we value people enough to do our best for them and that we value God enough to trust and obey His commandments – and to pass on what He puts into our mouths to say.
God loves and values everybody. Let us follow His lead, making our little contribution and depending on Him to make something marvelous of it. Let us pray!