Serving God with Dirty Hands #1: Unworthy and Under-qualified

by Phil Ware – 

How are we ever going to find anyone who is willing, able, and qualified to lead us to face the important challenges ahead of us?

“I just don’t think I can do it. I’m not really qualified. I’m not sure I’m worthy of stepping into the role. I believe there are people here who could do this better than I could do it.”

How many times have we thought that?

How many times have we said that?

How many times have we been told that?

Many great things that need to be done to honor God and bless His people go undone. They often go undone because we, and others like us, don’t think we can do them. We are pretty sure we don’t have what it takes to get the job done.

How often have we refused to step up to a God-opportunity because we feel unworthy and unqualified? During times of transition in a congregation, especially those times of transition after a preacher has left, our service is needed in all sorts of ways. We may feel unworthy and unqualified, but we are desperately needed! In fact, all the members of our congregation, each using his or her spiritual gifts and God-given talents are needed. If everyone in the congregation waits to feel worthy and fully qualified, then very little good will occur. The congregation can quickly go into a slide toward disaster and demoralization.

Many have heard the slogan, “God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” Yet our personal experience, our previous failures, and our pervasive self-doubt can lead us to turn down important God-opportunities. These God-opportunities can be almost anything — going on a mission trip, getting involved in a ministry serving those in need, being on a search committee for a new minister, teaching children, mentoring a problem student, working in a shelter, serving as a church leader, serving on a prayer team, or being a home church host. However, if we are not careful, our busy schedules and our doubt can lead us to turn down a vital role in our congregation’s turn around.

When we look at our spiritual family album, the Bible, we find that almost every great leader that God used in powerful ways was also unworthy and under-qualified!

Abraham was too old.
Moses wasn’t gifted in speech.
Deborah wasn’t a warrior.
Gideon was the least from the least of the least.
David was the youngest son and just a shepherd boy.
Jeremiah was too young.
Esther was too vulnerable.
Elizabeth couldn’t have babies.

Yet each of these played incredibly important roles in the LORD’s unfolding story of grace. Despite feeling unworthy and unqualified, they made themselves available to God and his people.

God’s most important work has always been done by folks with dirty hands — imperfect people willing to do hard work to honor God. The Father only has people with clay feet and flawed character to call into His service. Yes, some of the called appear more qualified than others. Yes, some asked to serve seem to be more “squeaky clean” than others. God can equip the unworthy and unqualified to do His amazing work if they yield their hearts to Him, willingly answer His call, and go to work to honor Him!

This principle is powerfully demonstrated in the ministry of Nehemiah. Around 445 BC, he served as a cupbearer (wine-taster) for King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11Nehemiah 2:1). His job was to make sure the king’s wine wasn’t poisoned while otherwise remaining unnoticed and behind the scenes. When Nehemiah heard a report on the awful conditions of his fellow Israelites in Jerusalem and Judea, he was heartbroken. For four months he prayed, fasted, and mourned their condition:

Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire (Nehemiah 1:3).

These horrible conditions had existed for a hundred years. Official leaders had come and gone. Some religious and political leaders had managed to get the Temple rebuilt. Yet as long as the city walls lay in ruin, the city of Jerusalem was largely uninhabitable and completely vulnerable to attack. The services in the Temple could not be kept regularly because the priests and Levites — the sacrifice officiants, singers, and musicians — had no one to support them through tithes and offerings. The Israelite people were weak spiritually, politically, and militarily. They were easy prey for their surrounding enemies. No one had been able to change these dire realities for decades… until Nehemiah.

What made Nehemiah think he could do this great task?

He didn’t have construction training. There is no indication he had ever lived in Jerusalem. He wasn’t a priest or a politician. He didn’t have influence. There is no indication he even had callouses on his hands and could do manual labor! So, what made him think that he could lead God’s people? What made him think he accomplish what no one had been able to do? He was unworthy and unqualified! Why leave his secure position and get his hands dirty in such a massive project that was destined to fail?

The answer for Nehemiah, and the answer for you and me, is found in Nehemiah 1:1-11. Take a moment to read this first chapter. Now notice what we learn about Nehemiah in the beginning of his story. The sum total is found in the first and last verses of the chapter:

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: … I was cupbearer to the king (Nehemiah 1:1;Nehemiah 1:11).

Nehemiah knew the issue wasn’t about his qualifications, pedigree, or worthiness. Instead, the issue was his willingness to work, his willingness to be touched by the circumstances, his willingness to identify with the failure of the people, and his willingness to depend upon Israel’s awesome God! And, notice how he speaks about this awesome God, the “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love… “ (Nehemiah 1:5).

Who is going to do the work of God in our day?

Who are we going to find worthy to step into important roles that lead and bless God’s people with a new day?

Or to make the issue much more personal, let’s ask the questions a little differently.

Am I going to do the work of God in my day?

Will I step into an important role to lead and bless God’s people even when I feel unworthy and unqualified?

Will I offer myself to the great and awesome LORD serving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Will I choose to be available to be used by the God of heaven who keeps faithful love?

Nehemiah reminds us that God isn’t look for someone super-capable, but someone of faith who is available. God isn’t looking for someone squeaky clean, but humble, touchable, and willing to get her or his hands dirty in Kingdom work.

There is an old little slogan that has appeared in many forms:
No one did what anyone could have done and everyone knew needed to be done but thought someone else would do because everybody thought somebody was better at doing what anybody could have done but nobody did.

We are a “somebody” and an “anybody”! During transitions, God wants to use everybody. So, let’s be useful, not another “nobody”! Let’s offer ourselves to God and go to work where we are needed and when we are called.

God is not looking for us to be perfectly capable, but for us to be available, touchable, moldable, and willing to get our hands dirty doing God’s work while feeling we might be unworthy and unqualified.

Thank God for Nehemiah in his day! Thank God for all the people and families who joined Nehemiah in God’s good work! Now who among us is willing to step forward and be a part of God’s good work in our day?


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