Not long after my wife and I got married, we were buying a few things at a small department store, and I made an impulse purchase. I saw a small yellow-and-black multi-purpose screwdriver in one of the displays. It was kind of a long tear-drop shape, and you could unscrew one end of it to reveal five assorted screwdriver blades inside. You chose a blade, inserted it in the other end, tightened it down, and presto-chango, in just a few seconds you had the right size screwdriver for whatever you needed. It wasn’t a great tool, but we didn’t have hardly any tools at all, at that point in our marriage. I remember thinking that it probably wouldn’t last long, but it might be useful until we could get more and better tools.
That was 45 years ago. That little black-and-yellow screwdriver is still in the utility drawer in our kitchen. I can’t begin to count the times one of us has reached for it and used it to tighten a doorknob, take something apart, or put something back together. It has outlasted many of the other tools we’ve purchased over the years. It has more than paid for itself, many times over, and has proven to be more useful than we ever could have imagined. When I die, I hope someone throws it in my casket and says, “Who knows? He might need this.”
The truth is, even though it isn’t a great tool, it has always been available, and it has helped us get the job done over and over again when we didn’t have a better tool. Sometimes we did have better tools, but they just weren’t available to us at that moment. So we used the inexpensive little plastic screwdriver.
I think that humble little screwdriver is a fantastic illustration of what it means to be faithful.
No credit to the screwdriver. It’s just an inanimate object, after all. When we finished a job, we never said, “Look what the screwdriver did!” But we have often said, “Can you believe we’re still using this thing after all these years? It sure has turned out to be a good little tool!” And there are parallels between that screwdriver and the kind of service Jesus calls us to.
Too many Christians say something like, “Oh, I don’t have any talents. I don’t have many gifts. I’m not talented like that Christian, or gifted like that other Christian. I don’t have much to offer. God can’t possibly use me.” Sometimes saying things like that may just be a humble-sounding way of avoiding doing something. But there are a lot of Christians who really do feel that way about themselves. If that describes you, then you’re already ahead of many of the gifted, talented people, when it comes to qualities God is looking for. Because the Bible says repeatedly, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:8; 1 Peter 5:5; cf. Proverbs 3:34)
It isn’t outstanding gifts and talents God is looking for. In fact, if those things make you proud, then they actually get in the way of you serving God. Saul of Tarsus had lots of gifts and talents, a keen intellect, and an advanced education. But before he was converted, he actually inflicted great damage on the churches of the first century. it wasn’t until God humbled Saul, and Saul believed on the Lord Jesus—the very One he had rejected before—that God was able, over time, to begin using him. And many believe that he changed his name to “Paul” purposefully to communicate this truth, because “Paul” means “little.” It wasn’t until he became little in his own sight that God was able to begin using him.
Listen to what Paul told the church at Corinth: “For 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.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
It isn’t gifts and talents God is looking for. He’s looking for genuine humility. And He’s looking for faithfulness.
In the wonderful 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul begins by quoting an ancient hymn or creed about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, in verses 3-7—and even unbelieving scholars will grudgingly admit it can be dated to within months of the crucifixion of Jesus. Then Paul goes into an in-depth explanation of how our faith is grounded on the reality of Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and his literal, physical resurrection from the dead. And after he explains all these wonderful things, what is it then that he wants us to do? The answer is in the last verse in the chapter: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) In other words, Paul wants us, on the basis of these wonderful truths, to be faithful.
Earlier in his letter, Paul was trying to calm down Christians who were foolishly causing division over who their favorite preachers were. He said that, regardless of their gifts or how they spoke, preachers were all just “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1) The word he used for “servant” meant “the lowest servant.” And a “steward” was simply the servant who brought the food and supplies out of his master’s house when they were needed. Then Paul said, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
Lots of people thought Paul wasn’t a very good servant of God. He was short, bow-legged, bald-headed, had a thick eyebrow over both eyes (a “unibrow”), and a hook nose. He wasn’t very good looking, couldn’t see very well, wasn’t the most eloquent public speaker, and often felt so afraid he trembled (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6). But God apparently had a different view of Paul, because He used him to start churches and strengthen believers all over the Roman Empire, preach the Gospel before kings, (including Caesar), and to write about a third of the New Testament. Not bad for a guy called “little,” huh?
You and I don’t have to be the biggest, the best, the most talented, the most gifted, or the most convinced how lucky God is to have us. (Oh, brother…!) In fact, to repeat, those things disqualify us. All God wants from us is to be like that little yellow-and-black plastic screwdriver. Maybe not the best tool in the box, but one that is always available for Him to use, and ready, and willing for Him to use us.
We don’t have to be the best. We just have to be faithful. God wants us to be yielded to His will, whenever He reaches for us to use us for His Kingdom.
Isn’t that encouraging?
Soli Deo Gloria! Pastor David