Peter Parker is an unlikely super hero. He’s an awkward high school kid, rejected by girls, living with adopted parents in a low-income home in Queens, New York. But one day he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and begins to develop extrahuman powers. Slowly, he begins to embrace his new persona, Spider-Man, and to use his powers to serve the citizens of New York. But not without difficulty. He continues to struggle daily with the realities of who he is and what he has been called to do.
You may feel like an unlikely person to serve God. Your fears, inadequacies, and struggles may make you feel disqualified to minister to others. You may believe yourself to be too broken to serve. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the Bible, God called and used very unlikely people. He chose an old couple, way beyond childbearing years, to produce an heir so God could establish a covenant people (Genesis 17:15–19). He chose an arrogant teenager who spent much of his adult life in prison to rule Egypt and to provide for the people of Israel (Genesis 45:4–8). In the midst of a highly patriarchal culture, He chose a woman to lead and deliver his people from their enemies (Judges 4). And He chose Moses, a man of many weaknesses, flaws, fears, and inadequacies.
What made Moses such an unlikely servant of God? First, he had been raised not by his own people, but by an Egyptian princess in a pagan, polytheistic culture. He apparently knew that he was a Hebrew, but we can’t say how much he knew of the faith of his people. He also had a criminal past. As a young adult, Moses witnessed an Egyptian beating an Israelite and, in anger, killed the Egyptian. When word of the crime came out, Moses fled Egypt to escape the punishment that Pharaoh sought to inflict upon him (Exodus 2:11–15). Moreover, Moses was a poor orator. He stuttered; he stumbled; he mumbled. And so he was shocked when God came to him and asked him to be the spokesperson for Israel! His response was understandable: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
Perhaps most crippling was his fearful lack of faith. After being directed by God to lead Israel to freedom, Moses begged, “Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). At the first sign of opposition from Pharaoh, Moses was despondent: “Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Exodus 5:22–23). Later, in the midst of their wilderness wandering, Moses directly disobeyed God while providing water for the Israelites. And this was the indictment levied against him: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (Numbers 20:12). Moses’ lack of faith ultimately kept him from entering the promised land.
Despite all these flaws, both in personality and in character, Moses was a chosen instrument of God, a man whom God used mightily. So why was Moses ultimately successful? Because of the Lord. The reality is that our “success” in life comes not from our own inherent strength but from the power and blessing of God. We see this principle so clearly laid out when Moses first encountered God in the burning bush.
In response to Moses’ fear, God challenged him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:11–12). God is the Creator of all things, who is in control of all things, who plans all things. Surely He is able to use us! And, when we obey and follow Him, He gets the glory because of what we see as our flaws. In the process, we learn to trust Him more.