Those eight words comprise an entire chapter of Gordon MacKenzie’s classic book on creativity, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. I’m not going to talk about creativity just now, although that is something I love to discuss. And this is not going to be one of those “If you can dream it you can do it” motivational pieces. What I am constantly amazed at is how God selects people for tasks without seemingly inquiring about their qualifications.
The Wright Brothers had no qualifications as pilots. They had never been in a flight simulator. They hadn’t passed any tests. They were not given permission by the FAA or the Kitty Hawk beach patrol to fly a plane on that North Carolina beach. They were just two brothers from Dayton, Ohio who were curious to see if they could get a powered heavier-than-air machine to fly. They had tried and failed for two winters before their successful flight on December 17, 1903. And after that, they failed a lot more times.
No, if you Â were going to select someone to pioneer flight, it would have been Octave Chanute. Talk about qualifications. He was a renowned railroad engineer who had been studying the problem of manned flight since 1875. He wrote Progress In Flying Machine in 1894. A year earlier he led a conference on aerial navigation at the World Expo in Chicago. Yes, Chanute had the qualifications to be the first person to fly an airplane. Wilbur and Orville were just two guys, you know? But in December of 1903, it was Orville Wright taking that historic first flight. Just doesn’t seem right, does it?
God doesn’t seem to know what he is doing much of the time when it comes to choosing men and women for things he wants done. Look at Moses. Just what were his qualifications for leading an entire race of people out of the country they had been in for more than 400 years, working as slaves under increasingly horrid conditions? Let’s see: He was a murderer. A coward. A shepherd. He was curious—I guess that’s something. He saw a bush burning that wouldn’t just burn up. That’s about it. Oh, and he was a horrible public speaker. Yet God looked at him and said, I’ll choose Moses to lead my people to the promised land. Moses did his best to try and talk God out of the assignment, but God was having none of it. Moses was his man.
Moses messed up over and over again, yet God stuck with his choice. You’d think after an experience like that—I mean, Moses and his generation were stuck going round and round in the wilderness for 40 years, in sight of the promised land but never able to enter—the Lord would be a bit more selective in the future. But he wasn’t. For the first king of Israel he let the people make the choice. They chose Saul. Now there was a king for you. Tall, handsome, very king-like in appearance. One look made you want to hand him a crown and pay him tribute. The trouble was Saul had no clue what he was doing. No, worse than that, he actually thought he did know what he was doing and thus didn’t need to seek the Lord for wisdom in his affairs.
“I’m really sorry I let Saul become king,” the Lord said, and sent Samuel out to anoint a new person as king. This time God did the choosing. And once again, he passed over the most qualified candidates to select a boy whose own father didn’t even consider good enough to introduce to Samuel. He was the runt of the litter, a shepherd (which was a job on the level of trash collector today). Yet God thought he would make a good king and instructed Samuel to anoint him with oil and proclaim he would be king one day over all Israel. And God’s man did a good job for the most part. Oh, there was that incident with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up that involved knocking off her husband. And there was the census thing that resulted in a plague that wiped out 70,000 people. Hey, everyone has their bad days, right? Yet God still considered David a man after his own heart. But from our viewpoint, David’s heart seems as far away from God’s heart as it can be. What is it that God sees that we don’t?
God’s track record for picking kings, prophets and leaders is not all that impressive. Who is the last person you would choose to go and preach repentance to a nation? How about someone who hates that nation with all of his heart? Yet there was the Lord, telling Jonah he had been hired for the job. How about a prophet whose wife leaves him to go back to the world’s oldest profession? Another one who, before he delivered a word from the Lord for the nation of Israel, was a fruit farmer. After he gave his prophecy, he didn’t make frequent TV appearances, sign a three-book deal with a New York house, or even start a church with his name on the marque. No, he just went back to being a plain ol’ fruit farmer again.
One of my favorite hires that God made is Saul/Paul. Can you imagine the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit having a discussion as to whom they should get to help establish the church throughout the known world.
“Hey,” says the Father. “You know that pest Saul of Tarsus? The one who is dragging Christians from their homes and throwing them in jail? I think I’ll select him.”
Some qualification. Taking the man who was zealously stamping out all traces of followers of Jesus and having him organize communities of Jesus followers all over the world. Hilarious!
So just what does God look for when selecting a man or woman? I wish I knew. We are given a hint when Samuel is sent to anoint a new king from the house of Jesse. He thinks Jesse’s oldest son—tall and handsome, like a king should be—must be it. But God rejects him and tells Samuel to keep looking. Samuel begins to protest, but God tells him, “The LordÂ doesnâ€™t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LordÂ looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7 NLT). That’s a good start. But just what does God look for in the hearts of men and women? There doesn’t seem to be any common trait I can see among the chosen. There are cowards and bullies and loudmouths and introverts and warriors and scholars and political zealots and housewives and children. There’s even a jackass pressed into duty to deliver a message to a disobedient prophet.
Perhaps the reason God calls unqualified people to do his bidding has very little to do with the job that is to be done and much more to do with the relationship between God and the person who is called. Those with the qualifications would be able to do the job fairly well on their own, but those without any experience or knowledge of what to do must rely totally on the Lord. And thus perhaps we have found a key after all. Could it be that God is looking for those who know they have nothing, absolutely zero, to offer? Those who know they are poverty-stricken in the qualification arena? Perhaps those who have natural or learned abilities are the first ones the Lord eliminates, waiting instead to find one who will admit she or he knows nothing, has no experience to draw on, no skills or wisdom with which to do the job. In other words, maybe God is looking for someone without a pilot’s license, someone who doesn’t even know there is such a thing as a pilot’s license, to get the plane off the ground.
Oswald Chambers offeres this observation on those called by the Lord:
Oh, the bravery of God in trusting us! Do you say, â€œBut He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing good in me and I have no valueâ€? That is exactly why He chose you. As long as you think that you are of value to Him He cannot choose you, because you have purposes of your own to serve. But if you will allow Him to take you to the end of your own self-sufficiency, then He can choose you to go with Him â€œto Jerusalemâ€. And that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you.
We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experienceâ€” all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends. Godâ€™s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God.
So don’t look to be useful to God. Consider yourself poor when it comes to qualifications for doing good works. And take heart when God taps you on the shoulder and points you toward a task. Of course you can’t do it. That’s why God chose you in the first place.