It’s an encouraging line we hear often to push us into action, but it got me thinking – is that really true?
Here are a few notable persons who challenge our assumptions.
David – western art has given David a skinny, baby-faced look, complete with peach fuzz. He’s the little guy that stood up to a really tall dude and won the day. Except this isn’t at all how the Bible describes him. In fact, he’s the Leonardo DiCaprio of his generation. Twice in the matter of a couple chapters he’s described as “ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance.” When challenged about his desire to fight Goliath, David responds with his resume – he’s a vicious hand-to-hand fighter, and a skilled marksman who can kill at a distance. He’s an athlete, “running quickly” to the battle line to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:48). Goliath is the real underdog; slow, immobile, and only able to fight in close quarters. Later chapters show David as an incredible leader of men and a devastating warrior.
Moses – it’s too bad we only see a stuttering old man before Pharoah who needs his brother to translate his message. The historian Josephus outlines Moses’s life as a warrior-general and conqueror of Ethiopia, and a prince of one of the greatest empires in history. He would have been highly trained in politics, arts, and culture, intense grooming for leading a nation of millions out of Egypt. History is unclear, but some have also tied him to a well-known figure in Egyptian history who was a master architect and designer.
Daniel – Daniel may have been a captive, but he was no underdog. He made it alive to Babylon because he checked some pretty important boxes: he was a “youth in whom was no defect, who [was] good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court.” In Babylon he was taught “the literature and language of the Chaldeans,” making him multilingual, multicultural, and on the path to a relevance that put him in high command of Babylon and later in the administration of Darius the Mede (Daniel 1).
Paul – we tend to focus on his misguided zealousness, and ignore his Ivy-league upbringing and pedigree. In Acts Chapter 21 and 22 Paul is in full display. In Acts 21 he gives himself an opportunity to defend himself to his accusers by speaking Greek to a commander. He is a “Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city.” As he turns to defend himself, he switches to a Hebrew dialect. He was born in an important trade and cultural hub, trained under a highly acclaimed scholar Gamaliel where he studied law and theology. Later in the chapter, despite his defense, he is prepared to be beaten, until he reveals that he is a Roman citizen (Acts 22). When Paul says that he is all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), he’s not kidding. He’s multicultural, multinational, and multilingual.
There are many more examples. Abraham, a wealthy magnate and astronomer in Ur. Barak in Judges, of the warrior tribe of Naphtali, tapped by God to free Israel from the Canaanites. Young Samuel, who was chosen by God while ministering to the Lord with his father Eli. The 12 Disciples were businessmen, civil servants, and political activists.
So what are we to make of this? Here are a few thoughts.
History shows us that God fine tunes, carefully equips, and precisely selects people for a specific moment or two when they are perfectly prepared to execute His best desire for the world around them. Saying that God doesn’t call the equipped is a shot at His creative purposes. He did the equipping! Just because we don't see the full picture doesn’t mean we bumble into situations and suddenly become equipped on the fly. God has never been, and never will be, random.
What do all the names above have in common? Each and every individual there was highly trained and competent in their area of influence. David and Barak were crack warriors with pedigrees of combat. Paul, Daniel and Moses were educated at the highest levels. Even young Samuel heard God under the 24/7 tutelage of a parent-mentor who operated at the highest levels of religious practice. Our entire lives are a tapestry of events, training, and learning that may seem disconnected at the time, but all lead up to our moments and seasons of impact. Expecting God to just download skill and training and resources into our lives at a moment’s notice departs from the many examples we have.
Often our faith communities discourage learning and competencies, and those who are learned and competent. What we don’t realize is that being incubated and launched isn't a privilege for the few, but the necessity of the many. Our faith communities need to be committed to supporting, encouraging, and accelerating this movement, and planting the seeds for the next Pauls, Davids, Baraks, and Moseses.
If it seems unexpected that you are being drawn and purposed in a certain direction, it may be only in your perspective. Step back and take a look back on your life and you will see a pattern emerge that clarifies the present and future. And, wherever you are in life, continue to invest in your learning, understanding, and skills. Your moment could be right around the corner.
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