“Can God ever use someone like me?” I’m sure if you’ve been in church for a long enough time, you’ve either heard or wrestled with that question. It’s almost inevitable when thinking about the majesty of God, the weightiness of his kingdom-work and then considering our own weakness and frailty that we’ll doubt that we can ever play a part in it.
The quick answer to that question though, is, yes. Why? “Jesus?” Well, close–the Holy Spirit.
See, all throughout the Scriptures we see this thing happen when God wants to use someone, he sends the Holy Spirit on them. Whether it be prophet (Num. 11), king (1 Sam. 10:6), judge (Judg 3:10), or temple craftsmen (Exod 31:3), if God was going to use you in a spectacular way, he empowered you to do so through his divine breath of life, his ruach, his Spirit. It didn’t matter who you were before the Spirit got a hold of you, if God’s Spirit was with you, his purposes were accomplished through you. Samson, “an arsonist, an informer, and a brawler” was used powerfully by the Spirit of God to liberate God’s people time and again. (Judg 15)
In order to understand and act in light of this, we need to know two things about the Holy Spirit.
Spirit of Life The first thing we need to know is that He is the Spirit of life. See, some of us doubt we can be used because of the handicaps we face. In our view, we’re simply limited. It might be a physical handicap connected to illness or one that we’ve struggled with from birth that hobbles and defeats us. Possibly we struggle financially in ways that make doing something beyond earning a paycheck seem like a nice fairy-tale. Others of us wonder if we’re smart enough, loud enough, or skilled enough. So often it seems to those of us raised in American Christianity that only those fit to be on stage leading the show are the ones doing things for the Lord and we’re just not that kind of person.
We forget that the Spirit of God is the one who was hovering over the waters at creation (Gen 1:2), bringing life and form out of the chaos. He is the Spirit that puts flesh on dry bones and makes them live again. (Ezek 37) He is the Spirit who holds even our fragile life together as we speak. (Job 34:14-15) This Spirit is the one who empowered the earliest Christians, simple fishermen and uneducated tradesmen to testify and work miracles in the name of the Lord. This is why Gideon, the cowardly member of the smallest family of the smallest tribe in Israel was able to overcome the Midianites, when “the Spirit of God clothed him.” (Judg 6:34) Whatever your weakness, whatever your handicap, when you confess Christ you can be assured that you have the Spirit and therefore have been clothed with his strength to accomplish whatever good work God calls you to. (1 Cor 12)
Spirit of Holiness The other thing we often-times forget is that this is the Spirit of holiness we’re dealing with. See, for some of us the road-block is past failures. Maybe we came to Christ later in life, or we racked up some heavy mileage getting there in a short of amount of time and we struggle with shame, wondering if we can ever really be clean enough. Others of us wonder if our current weaknesses would disqualify us. We look at our current spiritual struggles, the anger, insecurity, apathy, shame or lust that fills our hearts and wonder, “Me? Really? Do you know what’s in me?”
When we think of the ‘holy’ in Holy Spirit we usually often focus on the fact that this Spirit is holy and therefore pure; we think of it as a description of the Spirit’s own holiness. That’s mostly a good thing. The problem comes when we forget that it’s also a job description. The Spirit’s job is not only to be holy but to make holy. He is the one who sets us apart and sanctifies us. He is the one who takes what is common and unclean and makes it holy to the Lord, purifying us for use in the Temple of the Lord. (1 Cor 3, 6) He is the one that leads us in the life of righteousness. (Rom 8) The long and the short of it is that yes, despite your past, despite your present, God can use you. If he can take Paul, an ex-murdering, racist and turn him into the greatest missionary and theologian who ever lived, then the Spirit can take you, set you apart, and use you for his kingdom-work as well.
This is a pitifully tiny glimpse into the work of the Holy Spirit, but hopefully it’s enough of an encouragement to know that, yes, you can be used by God. Your weakness, your frailty, your sin are not obstacles too strong for the Spirit of Life to empower you or the Spirit of Holiness to set you apart for God’s good works.
Soli Deo Gloria
I’ve often wondered about using the concept of ruach in the Greek-influenced Christian context. As I understand it, for the ancient Hebrews, one’s ruach was not a distinct thing, like the Greek dualism of soul and body. Your body *was* your ruach. There was no separation, no ghost, no immaterial form.
When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, when translated into Latin it was called the Advocate, which is someone who speaks for you/on your behalf.
Why would a Christian need an intermediary between himself and God? And why, for the Roman Catholic tradition, add the complication of a priest for confession?
Just some thoughts.
Hey thanks for the comment!
On the points, the issue of dualism in the “Hebrew” mind v. the Greek one shouldn’t be pressed too hard. As far as I’ve read, yes, there was far more of a unified conception of body and spirit, but at the same time, spirit and body could be distinguished. Certainly, when we’re dealing with the Holy Spirit, there needs to be some distinction as well.
As for the Spirit as “advocate”, yes, I actually think the Latin got it right. A.T. Lincoln has a brilliant work on the trial motif at work in John’s Gospel. Terms like witness, truth, etc, the covenant trial motif of Isaiah 40-55 that keeps being alluded to, frames the whole discussion and point us to the most probable translation of the word “paraclete” as advocate in the legal sense in the Gospel. As for the idea that Jesus and the Spirit are advocates in general, it makes sense if you’re thinking about need for reconciliation, legal pardon, etc. I mean, the Scriptures do speak of Jesus as the Mediator between God and man, implying that there needs to be one. In the Gospel of John, we can see that the world is wrong in terms of the trial it is conducting against God and his Messiah, the Son, rejecting the truth. For this they stand condemned. The Spirit is there, both to convict the world about sin, as well as about the truth of the Son, as well as be a mediating presence, applying the work of the Son to believers.
As for Roman Catholics, well, I’m Reformedish, so I can’t really speak for them.
Thanks again for dropping by!