Friday, March 08, 2013

Hearing God: Laying Personal Eminence Aside

Falling snow in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

The apostle Paul was short, bald, and according to Tertullian, had a large nose. He was, by his own admission, a lousy speaker. In spite of this God used Paul to revolutionize Asia Minor, the effects of which spread and still felt today. I find this encouraging. God can capture and wield a willing heart, and external appearance and intrinsic ability have little to do with it.

While it is true that, as Richard Lovelace said, a "Spirit-baptized intellect" is powerful, none of our relatively ignorant intellects are up to the God-sized tasks every Jesus-follower is called to do. (See Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life) An example of this is D.L. Moody. Dallas Willard writes:

"Moody was a constant source of wonder precisely because the effects of his ministry were so totally incommensurable, even incongruent, with his obvious personal qualities. He was a man of very ordinary appearance, unordained by any ecclesiastical group and quite uncultured and uneducated—even uncouth and crude to many.

At the height of Moody’s effectiveness, between 1874 and 1875, Dr. R. W. Dale, one of the leading nonconformist clergymen in England, observed Moody’s work in Birmingham for three or four days. He wanted to discover the secret of Moody’s power. After his observations were completed, he told Moody that the work was most plainly the work of God, for he could see no relation between Moody personally and what he was accomplishing. A smaller person might have been offended at this, but Moody only laughed and replied that he would be very sorry if things were otherwise." (Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, pp. 65-66).

Both Paul and D.L. Moody viewed their personal unimpressiveness as evidence that it must be God working through them. Note the importance of laying one's tiny ego aside for the sake of God.