I love listening to sermons on my Smart phone while I am working out or cooking. I really couldn’t tell you how I spent so much time alone in my own head before. The prospect is a bit daunting; after all, my mind could take me anywhere! One of my favorite preachers and I are kindred spirits in this way. He says that he always has something on in the background when he is prepping his sermons because he doesn’t like to be alone with his own thoughts. I think he is half kidding but the other half, the not kidding part, demonstrates how we are used to the distraction of multiple media vehicles. In fact, research tells us that thirty percent of all our media time is spent exposed to more than one medium at a time. I am listening to Chris Tomlin on-line as I type this and am also simultaneously sending and checking my text messages. But I digress (surprising, I know). A few years back while preparing for a sermon, my on-line preacher friend was surprised to hear his name pop up on the show he was listening to. He raced back into the room to catch more of the interview. A well-known minister whose books he had read was being asked what he thought of Steven Furtick. Pastor Steven was elated; this well-known speaker knew who he was!! Clearly, Steven Furtick had arrived and he waited eagerly to hear what this man would say. As he tells it, the minister sighed deeply and visibly slumped in his chair as if just considering Steven Furtick was burdensome. And then he said it: “unqualified”.
Can you feel the air being knocked out of your lungs? Unqualified. And this wasn’t just some side conversation that Pastor Steven accidentally overheard in a bathroom stall. This statement was broadcast into the social stratosphere where people connected to other media devices were able to share, tweet, blog, re-post and comment all inside a few minutes, effectively perpetuating the original insult into a ripple of unending electronic slaps in the face.
How about this: exposed.
Of course, Pastor Steven Furtick wouldn’t still be around preaching today if he hadn’t already understood that God calls those who are unqualified. In fact, that is classic God. He loves to use those who are unqualified. Case in point, the twelve disciples: uneducated, low on the social ladder, lacking in any qualities that would recommend them. In fact, God loves to use those who are unqualified so much that if you are qualified and want to be used by God, it would almost be better if you messed it up somehow (ok, not really, but you get the point). So Pastor Steven took his unqualified self and authored a book by that very name: (Un)Qualified.
Take that devil.
God can take the enemy’s worst assault and mock him with it by turning it into the springboard for your success and victory. And that my friends, is pretty awesome. It’s classic God and its classic Hollywood: the underdog emerges victorious to the cheers of the adoring crowd. It whispers to the heart and hope of every repentant sinner: God can use you.
But, what about when you dis-qualify yourself; what do you do with that?
I can get excited about God using me unqualified. I tend to get easily puffed up with false pride so the thought that God’s glory shines brighter through my brokenness is pretty awesome. In that sense I am glad that I was not born wealthier, smarter, or with greater innate talents or abilities because I am always aware of my need of the Father and the more clearly I see that, the greater His majesty is magnified. It’s win-win.
But what about when you do it to yourself; when it’s all on you and there is no fall guy; when you disqualify yourself?
When I mess up again for the gabillionth-trillionth time – even though I know better, even though I know how to avoid the trap but don’t – it’s like running into a brick wall at full speed. It’s not that I expect to be perfect or float through the day on a cloud of unattainable righteousness. I get that we won’t truly be like Him until we are face to Face. I’m ok with what I think of as the “smaller” stuff. To be honest, I kinda feel like just struggling with the smaller stuff is a badge of honor in itself, like some twisted indication that I have arrived at a more mature spiritual level. How’s that for some crazy.
When I first recommitted my life to Jesus I struggled with all the worldly stuff I dragged like a heavy chain into my new life. I remember talking with this one guy that was in the same small group Bible study as me. He was earnestly relating his struggle with not resenting his roommate for using some of his laundry detergent. Seriously. This is what this guy was struggling with. I was torn between letting out a loud snorting guffaw and praying to be like him. I mean really, there I was struggling not to jump into bed with every other guy in our church and this guy was cut up over laundry soap. Let’s just say the irony of that moment was not lost on me even then.
Fast forward a decade and a half and I have matured in the Lord to the place where I feel ready to have my own laundry soap prayer requests. I feel the call to ministry, whatever shape that may take God alone knows but I have had a few opportunities to preach and my heart soars with a loud resounding “yes God, use me!” And then, I disqualify myself. Fall from grace hard and fast. Ain’t no covering it up. I know I will be preaching the next day but there I am red faced, breath curling out my nostrils like a medieval dragon and my child looks at me with eyes like deep pools and says, “if you love me mummy, why are you talking to me like that?” All of a sudden the dragon is a limp, defeated girl, crumpled on the side of the bed. “You’re right baby; mommy isn’t talking to you very nicely.”
That night I toss and turn, sleep evading me. I’m not sure if it’s entirely related to my epic mommy-fail earlier (it was worse than I made it sound; I cleaned it up for publication purposes!) or partly indigestion but either way it feels like some sort of spiritual torment. I know I should get out of bed and just start calling on the Lord, start worshipping Him because I know that is the quickest way to give the devil a boot in the butt. But I don’t. I know better but I just lie there, tormented, defeated …
How could I get up and preach the next morning, a failure in my own personal life. Because there is no getting around it. I am who I am, imperfectly in process of becoming. I like that about the Bible actually. Nothing is sugar coated. All the imperfections and ugliness of the human heart are paraded through its pages as the Lord trumpets His victory in the middle of our mess. We see that the Apostle Peter wasn’t just an unqualified fisherman; he also disqualified himself when he denied the Lord three times. King David wasn’t just an unqualified shepherd boy; he was also a disqualified adulterer. Moses wasn’t just an unqualified orator; his temper disqualified him when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.
Unqualified. Disqualified. Me. You.
Arguably, the subtle difference between these words is negligible. The result is the same. These are apt descriptors for children of God but only when we see their meaning through the eyes of the One who qualifies those whom He calls. “And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)”
So how did I get up and preach the next morning? How will I stand the next time I disqualify myself? How can you keep going when you disqualify yourself? We have a Savior whose sacrifice qualifies Him to qualify us. After all we are not placing our hope in our own righteousness but in the steadfast promises of God. We are not pointing to us but to our Savior and that means He is the only One we need to weigh in the balance. Is He enough? Did He do what He said He did? Can He do what He has promised?
Ask yourself this: Does Christ Qualify?
When we see that Christ qualifies we can say with the Apostle Paul:“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“But when (Christ) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Then He adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:12-25, NIV (emphasis mine)