The Bible, history, and our world today are full of examples of unlikely people used by God for His purposes. It’s so easy to look at the incredible stories of those who have drastically changed lives and feel insignificant – to feel as though you’ve got the unqualifications of a servant. It’s equally easy to find yourself in a position to help or lead others and suddenly feel inadequate or out of place. I hope you will join me as I start a series exploring the stories of a few of the many unqualified servants of God who have impacted others in both big and small ways.
My mom is an amazing pianist. There isn’t a piece that’s too difficult for her and she even arranges and composes her own music. What’s even more impressive is how she finds time and opportunities to use her abilities to serve others. As I grew up, I watched her accompany others for talent shows, competitions, and church worship, play for weddings, funerals, and school functions, and teach a variety of students all at different skill levels.
But this story isn’t about my mom.
When I was in third grade, my elementary music teacher put together a student choir with the intention of performing Handel’s Messiah in December. I refused to join. My music classes had shown me I was a terrible singer, one of the worst in my grade. And after undressing in the hallway earlier in the semester (a story I’d rather not get into right now), I decided I had filled my quota of embarrassment for the year.
My mom was asked to accompany the choir—no surprise there. I also wasn’t surprised when she asked me to turn pages for her—something I had done regularly in the past. I refused. I don’t remember if I was secretly jealous of my fellow students’ angelic voices or just being your typical difficult eight year-old, but I wanted no part in that choir.
Usually my mom had been pretty cool about letting me make my own decisions, but not this time. She pushed and pushed until I finally relented. After all, I would only be turning pages.
The first day of practice was absolute chaos. I sat beside my mom on the piano bench and watched the music teacher struggle to organize twenty energetic students. Most of the kids were too busy talking or running around to bother taking their seats, and one student, the teacher called her Michelle, wouldn’t even leave the wall. She stood in the back of the room pouting, refusing to pick a chair. I didn’t recognize her and assumed she was new to the school.
It wasn’t until after I was sitting beside Michelle, among the other altos, that I realized what I had done. On the car ride home my mom commended me for befriending the shy girl and asking her if she wanted to sit by me, but lamented the fact that she needed a new page turner.
“Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.””–2 Kings 5:2–3 (NIV)
2 Kings 5 describes the story of a highly regarded army commander in the Aram army named Naaman. He was plagued with leprosy and sought out Elisha who instructed Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. When the commander emerged from the water, he found himself completely cleansed. This passage is often remembered as the story of how God healed a man through the prophet Elisha and “seven dips in a dirty river,” but recall how Naaman knew to seek out the prophet in the first place.
Verse two of 2 Kings 5 tells us about the young Israelite girl who was serving Naaman’s wife. She was the one who implored Naaman to speak with Elisha. Very little of this passage is dedicated to the girl, but we can still glean information from it. We know that the girl had been captured in a raid and taken from her home in Israel and she was young. She found herself in a foreign land forced to serve the people who had enslaved her.
“…for your servant [Naaman] will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.” –2 Kings 5:17b (NIV)
What is so great about this young girl is, as far as we know, she did not have any prior experience with this sort of situation. There is no verse that says she was ready to witness to her captors and felt prepared. Chances are this unnamed girl did not want to be in Aram serving her enemies and she was very uncomfortable. However, something else we know about her is that she believed and trusted in God. When this moment, specifically planned by God arrived, she spoke with confidence, knowing God was with her.
We all find ourselves in uncomfortable positions, questioning if that is where we belong. Whether we are a church or small group leader, a one-on-one mentor, a Sunday school or catechism teacher, or someone simply striving to be a Christ-like example, we all feel the pressure to be perfect—say the perfect words, quote the perfect Bible verse, prove we are qualified. Helping others in their walk with Christ can be challenging and it’s easy to feel intimidated. The good news is we are not qualified and we do not have to be.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”” –1 Corinthians 1:27–31 (NIV)
Even when we feel inadequate, unqualified, or outside of our comfort zone, God can still use us powerfully, just as He used the young servant girl.
I’m not saying I led Michelle to God or even cured her of her extreme shyness, but I’d like to think I took away some of her discomfort and later I learned that God doesn’t need His people to be perfectly prepared. I know Michelle and I enjoyed the remaining rehearsals, although I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long for her to regret sitting next to someone with the voice of a toad.