April 20, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NRSV)
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human 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, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
God doesn’t call us to belong to him because of our accomplishments, our strength, our reputation, or our influence. Rather, God calls us because, through our insignificance, he can show the world the astounding significance of his grace. Thus, even as we are called by God to be his special people, we are also humbled because we know this has nothing to do with our own eminence, but everything to do with God’s preeminence.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
If you ever have a book published, your publisher will be most interested in the people you can get to endorse your book. Occasionally it seems like publishers prefer “the more the merrier” approach, filling the opening pages of a book with dozens of enthusiastic blurbs. But most publishers are interested not so much in the quantity of your endorsements as in their quality. If you can get some famous people to give your book a big thumbs up then your publisher will be quite pleased. Don’t get all your friends to write blurbs. Focus instead on getting Oprah, Bono, or LeBron. You’ll sell a lot more books that way.
The “get the best” approach to book endorsements makes sense to me, even though I haven’t been especially successful at it. I guess I don’t know enough famous people. Or, perhaps my famous friends don’t like my books. At any rate, I understand the “get the best you possibly can” approach to endorsements.
God, however, doesn’t seem too impressed with that approach when it comes to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters” (1 Corinthians 1:26). In this case, “call” seems to mean something like, “the situation you were in when God summoned you to believe the good news.” The Corinthians, as it turns out, were not in enviable situations when they were called. They weren’t wise, powerful, noble, or strong. Rather, they were thought of as foolish and weak according to the cultural standards of their day. Paul goes so far as to imply that they were “low and despised in the world” (1:38). Ouch! I’m not sure how I would have reacted to what Paul was saying if I had been one of those Corinthian Christians. It’s hard to be told you’re a relative nobody, even if you know it’s true.
I’m struck by the fact that God did not choose to call the kind of people whom I’d want to endorse my books. God’s calling is not dependent on human accomplishment, fame, wealth, or strength. In fact, according to Paul, God prefers to call people whom the world would ignore or even denigrate so as to show the world just how messed up its values are.
This means if you and I are numbered among the called, the last thing we ought to do is get puffed up with pride. Christians who are full of themselves are people who misunderstand the truth of God’s calling. God chose “what is low and despised in the world,” Paul says, “so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1:28-29). If you’re the least inclined to think you are so awesome because you’re a Christian, you’d better think again. You are a Christian precisely because God is so awesome, so full of grace and mercy, so delighted to choose the lowly in this world as a demonstration of the gospel.
God’s “book endorsers,” if you will, aren’t impressive because of our amazing accomplishments. Rather, we bear witness to the wonder of the gospel precisely because, apart from God’s grace in our lives, we aren’t such a big deal. This gives us the freedom and responsibility to boast to others, not about ourselves and our achievements, but about God and God’s mind-blowing, culture-disrupting achievement of salvation through the humbling death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What do you suppose your life would be like if God had not called you to himself?
When you think back to the time when you first responded in faith to the gospel, how was God at work in your life, drawing you, wooing you, even loving you?
In the next couple of days, take time to affirm and encourage someone who, in the world’s eyes, is not important or influential. Do this, not to gain any moral points, but rather to honor God and love someone who is beloved by God.
Gracious God, I confess that sometimes I can think more of myself than I ought to. I want to be a person of significance and accomplishment. That’s not altogether wrong, I suppose. But I can come dangerously close to thinking that you have called me because of what I have to offer, rather than because of your grace. Help me, Lord, to see myself accurately. Help me to be humble, not in my words and deeds only, but also in my heart. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: God Chooses the Weak
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.