Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry… (Romans 11:13 ESV)
It amazes me how the Lord works. He takes a Jew of Jews—a Pharisee—and commissions him as an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul’s calling was not just an obscure ministry, but one that would take him to many of the major Gentile cities and before the leading Gentile rulers of the day. Any honest review of the apostle Paul’s ministry would give him a very high rating. Go figure!
However, if it would have been left up to me, Paul would not have been my first choice. The amount of prejudice, arrogance and hatred to be overcome by Paul so that he could minister to the Gentiles would have been huge. In my estimation, it would have been counterproductive to send Paul to work among those he once thought of as dogs. Why not keep him in areas with a large Jewish population and instead, send Luke or Titus as “the apostle to the Gentiles?”
Obviously God does not work according to human reasoning or common sense. Often, He does the complete opposite to accomplish His will (remember Moses, Gideon, David and Esther). It appears that the Lord is most glorified when He selects the least likely and weakest candidate to accomplish His purposes. Then through the grace and peace that He provides, the Lord takes a Saul and transforms him into a dependent, yet very effective Paul. To testify to this truth, the apostle to the Gentiles would write:
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he [Jesus] appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:8-10 ESV)
As I think about this I’m reminded of a close friend who grew up in the city and loves urban life, but now has been called by God to minister in a rural community in a small church. Even my own story doesn’t track with the direction I was headed during my college days, but it seems to be God’s delight—to confound our thinking and perform what we would consider impossible. In all of this He displays His greatness and power.
As you think about this upcoming year and ministry opportunities, will you have the chance to be a part of something that many would write off as “counterproductive?” What will your response be? Are you going to protest as Moses did initially—God, You’ve got the wrong guy!—or are you going to be obedient regardless of how crazy the calling is? If God can take “the least of the apostles” and transform and use him, imagine what can He do in and through you?