God’s Qualification for Transforming the World

By Keith Miller | August 31, 2009

Keith, I was a basket case when I became a Christian divorcee (lost joy, divorced and terribly lonely) but my life is changing a lot—for the better. I’ve become a Christian, but I don’t seem to have any of the gifts the leaders in our church do. I can’t preach, teach, and I don’t know enough about the Bible or theology to answer peoples questions about the faith to help people decide about Christ. It seems like people like me with no religious gifts or qualifications are just supposed to write checks, pass the plate and shake hands at the door. I hate to say this, but the truth is if that’s all there is, it won’t be long before I am bored out of my skull! How can I get some qualifications to help people find God?

Very real question! I don’t know what you were told being a Christian means, nor what kind of Christian Formation classes are available in your group but by the time I was 23 I’d helped bury all the members of my family except my mother. I’d broken my neck in a car wreck and only a great doctor and a lot of painful therapy allowed me to recover and start learning that I was pretty well powerless over a lot of things in my life. Then when I was 27, my mother discovered she had cancer and only had a few months to live—she was 64.

I am telling you this because about that time I came to what I felt was the end of my rope and made an attempt to surrender my life to God. I had been drinking quite a bit and did not think I had much to offer God.

But during the next few years I worked hard trying to be a good Christian and taught a kids Sunday School classes.

About that time I met a man who was very real and honest with me. When I told him I didn’t feel I had the correct qualifications to talk to other people about surrendering their lives to God, he laughed and said, “you want me to help you?” I nodded.

He asked me to tell him my life story. So I told him about the pain and loneliness of losing my family and about my failures as a man, a husband and a parent.

I don’t remember exactly how he worded his response to my story, but what I heard was, “what are your other qualifications for leading people to God?”

Other qualifications??

“Yea, the pain you experienced in helping all the members of your family die and learning how to clear up their things after they were gone qualifies you to understand, listen to and help people who are going through that pain and fear (of dying for instance) in ways a Bible teacher or professional theologian never could unless they’d been there. Same with you breaking your neck and facing possible paralysis and your divorce after you became a Christian.”

“These are credentials for helping people find God??”

“Well, did God help you through these crisis and the pain you walked through?”

“Absolutely!”

“Then the story of each of these events that were so painful to you at the time, can be a drawbridge you can let down and walk across into other peoples lives who are suffering as you have. You can go to people and ask them to tell you about what happened to them. Then you can tell them that you experienced these tragedies and share your story with them—they will know you understand and will not be as lonely and scared because you obviously made it through the experiences. And as you offer to be with them and help them in practical ways, you may have a chance to point over your shoulder and tell them what it meant to you to have the sense that God was with you—perhaps through other Christians, or prayer—and when you got to the end of yourself you surrendered your life and will to God.”

“How will telling my story, my experiences help them find God? Seems to me they want help not stories.”

“When his followers asked Jesus why he always told stories to people He said that “if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.” (Matthew 13:12, The Message)

“You mean I’m going to preach to them at a family funeral?”

“Of course not, but you asked about credentials and I’m just telling you that pain, failure, and loneliness have been my greatest credentials—the fact that I am a Christian and I love people when they have problems that I’ve had, has given me more credibility with some people than Billy Graham or Henry Nouwen—if these people (Billy Graham or Henry Nouwen) have not been through the same experiences and survived with God’s help. And what I learned is that if I go to love the people in trouble and not try to evangelize them, they will wonder why I came. Especially people I’m not related to and from whom I don’t want anything.”

“But, what if they don’t ask about God?”

“My job, as a Christian, is just to love them (Matthew 25)—to visit them and open my life to them and “to live generously”. Doesn’t sound very effective. But my job is not to be effective but to love people, and besides until I get to know someone and walk alongside them a little, I don’t know how they are already coping and what they may need.”

“You mean, as a Christian, you just go through your days and weeks finding ways you might be able to love people you are with?”

“That’s about it—and after just hanging out with people, you would be amazed at the incredible things that happen to some of them when they feel loved by someone who’s not trying to change them out somehow.”

“But the point is that it’s not my knowledge or academic credentials that are my real credentials for loving people from God’s sake, but stories of the pain and failure that God helped me get through. These stories are stored in my memory and become my human resources.

“He said, “Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.” Matthew 13: 52, The Message

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. . . . I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14, The Message

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on God’s Qualification for Transforming the World
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