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If you were God and you wanted to reach the world, how exactly would you go about it? Being God, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted. You could roll back the heavens, poke your face through the clouds, and say, “Hello, humanity! I am God … and you are not. I want you to believe in me right now.” Or, you could raise up an army of angels who would gladly do your bidding to get the word out to everyone. Instead, God has primarily chosen to reach people through people.
Jesus called 12 men to be his representatives and proclaim his good news to the world. The amazing thing is these guys didn’t have modern technology to help them reach their culture of the day. James never e-mailed anyone. Thomas never tweeted. And Paul was not on Facebook. Yet in a relatively short period of time, they reached their ancient world, and they did it primarily by word of mouth, one to one, person to person.
When we look at these great men of God, it is hard for us to think of them as human beings. We call them saints, seeing them forever in stained glass as one-dimensional characters that are hard to relate to. But that is not the way the Bible presents them. When we read their stories in Scripture, they are very candid, very honest accounts of their lives. We read about their foibles, their shortcomings, their missteps and even their sins. I think the reason for that is so we can see that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people. That is not to say they were not saints, for indeed they were. But what is a saint? According to the Scripture, a saint is a true believer. Often we see the Epistles were written to “the saints.”
These men that God used were quite ordinary, hopelessly human and remarkably unremarkable. They weren’t superheroes. Peter didn’t wear a cape. James didn’t wear a mask. And none of them wore spandex, for sure. They were very human, just like you and me. In fact, one of the reasons I know the Bible is an inspired book is because it gives us our heroes, warts and all. The only one who is portrayed in the pages of Scripture as being perfect is God himself. So these men were not called because they were great; their greatness came as a result of the call of God.
God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called. He goes out of his way to find ordinary people to work through so that he can get the glory. The apostle Paul wrote, “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful” (1 Corinthians 1:27 NLT).
These men that God used, these 12 men who shook the world, were approachable. They were flesh and blood. Their faults and shortcomings as well as their triumphs and victories were faithfully recorded in Scripture for us to learn from. They were outsiders to the religious establishment of the day. They spanned the political spectrum. One was a former zealot, a man who was dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Roman government. The other was a tax collector, someone who was working with the Roman government. Under normal circumstances, these guys would have been at each other’s throats. Instead, they were called to work together and love one another to change the world. At least four of these men were fishermen. These men were salt-of-the-earth types, common people that God used. And as we get to know them a little bit more in the pages of Scripture, we might even find ourselves in one of them.
Apart from Jesus himself no name is mentioned in the New Testament more than Simon Peter. He was a central figure of Jesus’ three years of ministry and the first three years of the early church. And while others may have thought certain things, Peter would speak about them. Never one to be coy or quiet, he would blurt things out. Of course, we know that Peter denied Jesus. But we also know that Jesus recommissioned Peter, and he preached the first sermon of the early church on the Day of Pentecost, resulting in 3,000 people becoming followers of Christ. Peter was a hero of the faith who shook his world like few others.
Peter had a lesser-known brother named Andrew. Andrew was the first of the disciples Jesus called to follow him. And the first thing Andrew did was to find Simon Peter and bring him to Jesus. In fact, that is always what Andrew was doing: bringing people to Jesus. When a crowd of people gathered after hearing Jesus preach, they were hungry. It was Andrew who found a boy with loaves and fishes and brought him Jesus. When some men from Greece wanted to talk to Jesus, they went to Philip, who took them to Andrew. And Andrew brought them to Jesus. We often celebrate the Simon Peters of the world and forget the Andrews. But there would be no Simon Peters if there were no Andrews – people who faithfully work behind the scenes, doing God’s work.
Then there were James and John. These guys were colorful characters, known as “the sons of thunder.” You don’t get a nickname like that without reason. They would not back away from a confrontation. In fact, they may have even looked forward to one. They just said what they thought. And they were just like us: hopelessly human. But God transformed them and made them into different men than they were before.
There is no end to what can be accomplished if we are willing to just get the job done and not worry about the accolades but simply do it for the glory of God. Andrew is the model for all those who labor quietly where God has called them. We don’t know their names as well as we may know the names of others, but they are known by and greatly loved by God.
Maybe you are impulsive and impetuous by nature, like Peter, or quiet and soft-spoken, like Andrew. Maybe you are quick to draw conclusions, like James and John. But none of that matters, because God is still looking for men and women to shake His world. Did you know that God can use you? God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people. All you need to do is make yourself available to him.