Just recently I was involved in running a module on the history of the church, and in doing so I was struck by the dynamic history of the church and it’s far reaching impact upon the world – yes there are the bad bits, the bits that the atheist will be quick to point to like the Crusades etc.. bits that we need to recognize, acknowledge and learn from, but overall it is an amazing story of God’s staggering grace made known to and revealed through countless thousands, indeed millions of individuals, and communities down through the centuries.
Stories of messed up lives radically transformed through encountering God in Jesus Christ. Stories of marriages, and families, and communities transformed by the grace of God. Stories of a wide variety of personalities, from all kinds of backgrounds, educated and uneducated, cultured and uncultured, shaped and empowered by God to go beyond themselves and do great things for God, some with huge impact, others not half so well known, or hardly known at all.
It’s easy to think of John Wesley who traveled up and down the UK on horseback preaching the gospel wherever he had opportunity. Of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon who preached to thousands in London in the late 1800’s and who’s sermons were printed and sent all round the world. Of Billy Graham who has preached to multiplied thousands all over the world, but, what of the individuals who played a part in their lives, in their coming to Christ and growing in the faith, without whom the world would not have heard of them, a mother, a country preacher etc., people who under God were all part of his amazing plan.
The drama of redemption and restoration is not bound by education, culture, class, personality or style. It’s about a God who likes to reveal himself through a variety of lives wholly yielded to him.
The problem is we have an enemy, one who likes to discourage, depress, distress and disengage the saints. How he loves to come along and say, who are you? what can you do? You are useless.
The answer is, under God you are someone, made in the image of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, for big things, therefore you too can make a difference. You are unique, and being shaped and honed by God for greater things. It’s the devil who wants to keep us in smallness. God shapes us for bigger things!
This is where church history is so encouraging.
A few years ago I was in Kenya for some preaching teaching ministry. The week I went had been very busy, I got there drained and felt so small and inadequate. Arriving in Nairobi the plane to Kisumu had been cancelled and we had to wait in Nairobi some hours for the next flight. A pastor kindly allowed us to stay in his office where there were a number of books which he said we were welcome to peruse. I remember picking one up that contained a whole lot of mini-biographies (I wish I could remember the title!), there were people I had heard of, others I hadn’t. As I read I was amazed by the variety of personality, temperament and gifting of the many lives covered and in the process I felt God speak to me and say, Richard, it’s not about you, it’s about me, and what you’ll allow me to do through you. Suddenly I felt encouraged and empowered to go on – I was ready for what God wanted to do through me. It was the word I needed, but it began with a cancelled flight and a biography!
Are you down on yourself, then go get, and read a Christian biography and be inspired and challenged to greater things. Read something of the exploits of God’s people great and small!