You Don’t Have To Be A Star
There was a popular song a few years ago which contained the line: “You don’t have to be a star to be in my show.” Well, I’m thinking that the writer of that song has touched on a Biblical truth we tend to forget—namely, that we don’t have to be stars to be in God’s show. We don’t have to achieve a certain level of goodness, we don’t have to master all the Books of the Bible, we don’t have to be gifted public speakers in order to be part of God’s work in the world. Yet the tragedy is that many people, because of a sense of inadequacy, a sense of not being good enough or capable enough, have chosen to remain on the sidelines of faith, watching but not participating—and that’s not good. The Bible tells us that Jesus simply says: “Follow me”—and there are no pre-conditions. We don’t have to come bedecked with block letters or star-studded crowns. We do not need a glittering resume listing past victories as proof that our lives are approaching perfection. We only need to come believing that our Christ wants us to be involved in His mission to the world and that He will enable us to do what needs to be done. God says to us, through the pages of Scripture, “You don’t have to be a star to be in my show. I want you in my service and I will take you just as you are.” Now I believe that God says that because He knows that three things are true…
He knows, first of all, that we don’t have time to wait Until we are good enough to be in His service.
The plain fact is that we are sinners and always will be. It’s comforting to remember that the great Apostle Paul wrote words like these: “Nothing good is in me…For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Paul, you see, was constantly conscious of his own sins. In five of his epistles he begs for the prayers of his readers lest he himself be a castaway. And even at the end of his life, with all of his glorious ministry behind him, he was still describing himself to his young friend, Timothy, as “the chief of sinners.” Now, I believe that Paul was an honest man and that when he wrote those words he meant them. He was acutely aware of his own sins and shortcomings, yet, in spite of that, he threw himself without reserve into the service of Jesus Christ. And, I for one, thank God that Paul did not wait until he had put all his sins and weaknesses behind to start serving the Lord in his life. Had he done that then his ministry would never have begun. He would never have gotten out of the starting blocks—and what a tragic loss to the faith that would have been. But, thank God, Paul had “the courage of his imperfections.”
I like that phrase—”the courage of his imperfections.” The phrase comes to us from the field of psychology, but I think it’s a phrase which can be applied to all the great saints of the church. For they are people who accept the reality of their own inadequacy, spiritual or otherwise, but they proceed to do the best they can in spite of that. They do not waste their time in an endless flea hunt for their own sins. They know those sins, they acknowledge them before God, they seek His forgiveness in Jesus Christ—and then they proceed to live triumphant, creative, God-honoring lives in spite of their weaknesses. They know their sins, yes, but they also know their Saviour—and they plunge themselves into His service.
We need to remember that. We need to remember that we can’t wait to attain perfection in our own lives before beginning to serve Christ in the world. If we wait it will never happen. Like Paul, we need the courage of our imperfections. We can second the motion made by Robert Browning when he wrote: “Man’s reach must exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?” God knows that we don’t have time to wait.
And God knows, secondly, that other people don’t have time to wait until we are good enough to serve.
Feed that into that superior computer which you call your brain: our weaknesses don’t cripple our witness; they strengthen it. You know how it is. If you approach other people with an air of superiority, with an air of having all the questions answered—that will put them off. But to share with them the pains and the problems of our common humanity—well that builds a bridge of the Spirit right into the midst of their lives. You see, we are not called to be high-powered executives of things spiritual whose purpose is to lead the ranks of lowly bunglers to glory. Not at all. We are called to be servants who are willing to acknowledge our own fears and our own hurts and our own needs and who then declare to others that we have found a way to overcome those fears and hurts and needs—and that way is working and that way is called Jesus—Jesus.
I read for you earlier a portion of the great Old Testament story of the call of Moses. If you’re looking for some good reading later on today, let me encourage you to read the whole story. It’s in Exodus 3 and 4. One word of warning, please. Don’t read it if you’re not prepared to be gripped by the Spirit.
In the story, God calls Moses to service and Moses is astonished that God should want him. “Who am I?” Moses says. Of course, Moses knows only too well who he is. He is a murderer on the lam from Egypt. He knows his own sin, and he is trying to use that sin as an excuse for evading the task. And God says, “Moses, I hear my people crying in Egypt. They are dying there. They need deliverance and I am calling you to the task.” Now I ask you to think about that the next time you are asked to visit someone who is shut-in and you refuse on the basis of some sin which is yours.
Moses then tries another excuse. “Lord, I really don’t know you very well. I need more time to develop a good strong relationship with you.” And God answers: “Moses, I hear my people crying over there in Egypt and I have chosen you to serve them.” I ask you to think about that the next time you are asked to teach a class on Christ-hungry kids and you refuse on the basis that you’re not smart enough or you’re not spiritually sophisticated enough.
Moses still wasn’t convinced. “Lord,” he said, “I’m not much of a public speaker. I mean, I stutter and stammer and use bad grammar. You need someone who can stand and deliver a great speech for you.” And God answers—Scripture notes that God is angry now and so I suppose His voice is louder—”Moses, I hear my people crying. They need deliverance now. I have chosen you to serve them.” I ask you to think about that the next time you withhold a word of witness because you don’t know quite what to say or how to say it.
Well, Moses is pleading now. “Lord, isn’t there someone else you can line up for the job?” And God thunders back His reply: “How can you debate my call? Don’t you understand? My people are crying and dying and I have chosen you!” I ask you to think about that the next time you say: “Surely the church can find someone better to do the job.”
Moses, humbled now, gets up and goes. In spite of his sense of inadequacy, in spite of his sin, in spite of his weaknesses—and glaring weaknesses they were—in spite of all that, he goes. And because he did, God was able to use him to lead the people to freedom and he wound up becoming the greatest figure in the Old Testament.
My friends, some of our brothers and sisters are crying. Some of them are dying. They don’t have time to wait for us to feel that we are good enough to serve Christ. I think here of George Pilkington. He lives in a little town in Arkansas. I came to know him through our television ministry, “The Certain Sound.” He wrote to tell me that he had a burning passion to share his faith in Jesus Christ. But that passion had not always been there. You see, there was a young lady who came to work in George Pilkington’s store. After a while, he noticed that she seemed to be somewhat troubled and unhappy. He felt that he should say something to her about his faith, but he was hesitant to do so. He felt inadequate. He was afraid that his witness would be rejected. He didn’t think he could find the right words. Then one morning, she didn’t make it to work. He was devastated to learn later that she had committed suicide. George Pilkington still wonders if his word of witness, poor though it might have been, could have made a difference in that young woman’s life—but he is determined now never to have to wonder that about anyone else. It’s true. It’s truer than we think. Some people don’t have the time to wait until we’ve got all the answers. They need the deliverance of God in Jesus Christ, and they need it now. And God knows that.
But God knows, thirdly, that He doesn’t have the time to wait either.
If the Scriptures do not teach us anything else, they teach us that there is an urgency in God’s heart for the whole world and we dare not frustrate it. We can do that, you know.
Oh, I’ll admit that I have always found it difficult to realize that we—you and I—are important in the plan of God. He is so big and we are so small. But I remember being helped by a preacher some years ago as he spoke of a terrible train wreck where many people were killed and many more were injured. A distinguished surgeon, who had been aboard the train but who had escaped injury, was seen walking up and down the wreckage weeping. Someone who knew who he was asked why he didn’t set about helping the injured. He replied, through his tears “I can’t help because I do not have my instruments.” This preacher went on to say that we are the instruments of God, and when we make ourselves unavailable for His use, then His plans are temporarily frustrated. Understand me, please, God cannot be stopped. If I don’t do the work that needs to be done, then God will keep at it until He finds someone who will do it. No one can stop God. But the fact is that we can delay Him. We can temporarily frustrate His plans.
You see, He has chosen us to carry out His ministry in the world. That’s right. He has chosen you and me. And I want to tell you something. It is a soul-stirring thing indeed to realize that we are so loved by God that He wants to use us in His plan—and that He says to us: “Do you love me enough to do the work I’m calling you to do? Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?” You remember that that was the question Jesus put to Peter by the lakeside. Now He puts it to us. And we reply: “Yes, Lord, we love you.” And He says, “If you love me, feed my sheep. There are people in the world who need what I have to offer. Do you love me enough to do the job for me?” We begin to hedge. “Well, Lord, there are some things in our lives we are not too proud of; surely you could find someone better.” And calm as all eternity He says again,”Do you love me?” Then we plead: “Lord, can’t you wait until we are better prepared? We’ll be much more help later on.” And He answers with a question, and that question is all the answer we ever need: “Do you love me?”
Once a young man sought entrance to the Court of King Arthur. At the ancient gateway to the Court stood one of the King’s knights. He looked sharply at the young man and said: “Dare you enter here? For once you pass this gate the King will lay upon you a burden so glorious that it is a tragedy that anyone would miss it, but a burden so heavy that no one can carry it. Dare you try?” The young man drew himself up to his full height, fixed his eyes hard upon the knight, and said, “Mi’lord, write my name down.”
The cause of Jesus Christ in our world is a burden both glorious and heavy. Dare we try to take it up? Well, I can’t help wondering what would happen if we, with all our sins and all our shortcomings and all our weaknesses—I can’t help wondering what would happen if we were to answer today: “My Lord, write my name down…”