Have you ever wondered why God the Father, who is perfect in every way, would use imperfect people to accomplish His purposes in this world? I have (perhaps because of the many glaring imperfections I see in myself), and the answer God gave me was pretty simple: that’s all He has available to Him. We read this truth throughout the pages of sacred Scripture after Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. The apostle Paul puts a sharp point on this truth in these words: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“Wait a minute,” some of you might object. “What about the great heroes of the faith in the Bible—giants like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Peter and Paul? How do they fit into this flawed picture?” Let’s unpack briefly the glaring imperfections of Abraham, the man known as the “friend of God” (James 2), and the “father of the faithful” (Galatians 3).
Abraham offered his wife to two different men in order to secure safe passage and save his skin. The first time was when he was in Egypt seeking refuge from a famine (Genesis 12). Abraham asks his wife to say she was his sister, so the Egyptians would not kill him and Pharaoh would take her as a wife because of her beauty.
The second time Abraham is emigrating to Gerar (Genesis 20), and he tells king Abimelech that Sarah is his sister so he will not kill him and take her as a wife. Now in both instances, God intervened before a hand was laid upon Sarah, and she was restored to Abraham. To be sure, Abraham’s imperfections are striking in offering his wife to another in order to save himself from potential danger. But he is not alone in his imperfection.
Here are just a few others.
- Sarah offered her female servant to Abraham to conceive a son.
- Moses was a murderer.
- David was an adulterer and murderer.
- Peter was willing to deny Jesus to save his own skin.
- Paul was contentious and frankly admitted that he kept on doing “the evil I do not want to do” (Romans 7:19).
These are just a few of the numerous examples in sacred Scripture in which the word “imperfect” seems like an understatement of gargantuan proportions. Yet God choose to use these very imperfect people in the advancement of His kingdom in this world. Why? Because that’s all He has available to Him. There is only one hero in the Bible: His name is Jesus Christ. Everyone else we read about in Scripture is just like all those we don’t read about—great sinners in need of an even greater Savior. In other words, they were imperfect in every way!
A comforting perspective
This should give you great comfort for two reasons: first, you can take anyone you have placed on a pedestal and set them right back on the ground where they belong. (Remember, the ground is always level at the foot of the cross.) And second, you are just as qualified as anyone else to be used by God because you are no more “messed up” than these great saints were. God has been using imperfect individuals since the fall, in spite of their many failures, and His eternal purposes are being accomplished.
In addition to the fact that the only people available to God are imperfect, flawed people, there is another reason that He uses people like you and me: God delights in working through the kind of people whom the world could never imagine that God would pick to be on His team. Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth to . . .
“Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
I don’t know about you, but I am reassured when I pick up my Bible and read about people who struggled with self-protection, selfish ambition and other kinds of sin — just like I do — and yet were still used by God. If Scripture only offered stories of those who walked on water and spoke from Sinai, it would be pretty discouraging. Far from being inspired to excellence and driven to serve God, I would be driven into the dust of despair.
Thank God that He uses the imperfect . . . and the flawed . . . of whom I am the chief!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that… Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.