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God Chooses the Weak
January 29, 1978

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


Some of the other ministers in Manteca are giving me a rough time about this sermon, teasing me because the Manteca Bulletin headlined our church article on Friday with the words,“God Chooses the Weak” sermon at St. Paul's Church. So perhaps this is the weakest sermon in town this morning, but it's the one you're going to get! 

Last week, we looked at greatness, trying to make the point that if greatness is not your goal, what is? Mediocrity? Second rate? No, greatness is our calling. Let's look further at greatness. Greatness is not necessarily famous. You do not need to be famous in order to be great and not all famous people are great. Greatness is not necessarily rewarded or acclaimed or even noticed. Greatness is not when one thinks he or she is great. When one thinks he or she is great, they probably aren't. Greatness is not what the world thinks. Greatness in the Christian faith is not the definition given by the world. Indeed, the world is confused, astounded and considers our definition ridiculous, because according to our definition, God chooses the weak. This is astounding news. 

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in the first chapter of 1Corinthians, that God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. God chose what the world looks down on, despises and thinks is nothing in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. God chooses what the world looks down on, and confounds the world. There's a saying, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” When you look at it, according to the definitions of the world, those little tribes had absolutely nothing to bring to God. They were nomads who found themselves down in Egypt where they were made slaves. They were uneducated. They were illiterate. They had no money, they had no wealth, They had no power. They had no prestige. They had no status in the world. They had nothing to acclaim. They had nothing to present to the world. But God chooses the weak. God chose that little nation. God called leaders. But, through the centuries, they disobeyed and they fell. Through the centuries they were a constant disappointment. But yet today, that little nation is still viable. Whereas, where are the Hittites and Jebusites? Philistines? Where are the Assyrians? Where are the Babylonians who conquered them? They were strong and mighty, but they have long perished. 

God chooses the weak. Look at Jesus, God's supreme revelation. God chose to reveal himself to the world as a person. God chose to be a man, a man like you and me, born like you and me, born in very humble surroundings, in a stable. God didn't choose a philosopher. God didn't choose a statesman. God didn't choose a wealthy businessman. God didn't choose an actor. God didn't choose an artist. God didn't choose what the world would choose. God chose a simple carpenter who lived in an obscure village in an obscure place in an obscure province of the Roman Empire. God didn't even choose a Roman, one of the ruling countries of the world. God chose a man from an insignificant little nation, dirty, hot. Rome ignored them most of the time and sent its weakest administrators like Pontius Pilate. But, that revelation of God in the person of Jesus has had more influence on our civilization than the mightiest armies that ever marched. God chooses the weak. Perhaps weak is not a popular word with us. Another term we could use is the “poor in spirit”, which Jesus used in the Beatitudes. “Blessed, happy are those who are poor in spirit”. Those who are poor in spirit are those who recognize their own emptiness, their own helplessness and powerlessness in the face of God. The poor in spirit, the weak are those who realize they're weak and realize that they have nothing in their hands to bring to God. In the light of God's radiance, in the light of God's glory, perfection and love, we have nothing to offer to him. The weak, the poor in spirit are those who realize they're helpless in the face of God, who realize they are helpless and weak in the face of evil, destruction, chaos. They realize they are helpless, but allow God to work in their lives. The weak, the poor in spirit are those who realize they're helpless to handle their own lives. 

For those who think they can manage their own lives, who attempt to handle their own lives according to their own wishes, their own purposes, usually make a mess of it. Lillian Ross, in her book, I'll Cry Tomorrow, wrote that she was unable to rescue her life from alcoholism until she said the three most difficult words that anyone ever has to utter, “I need help.” She was on the road to recovery when she could say, “I need help.” God was then able to work in her life. The world says that confession is weakness. The Bible says it is the beginning of life.

The weak, the poor in spirit are those who realize their helplessness, and are willing to turn it over to God. Last week in Sunday school class, we got off the track, but in that class getting off the track is on the track! We got off the track on nuclear destruction and had a very depressing discussion on what's going on in our world today, and that there is no defense against nuclear weapons. There is nothing anyone can do once that battle starts. It is now possible that one submarine can destroy all the major cities of our country. And the fearful part is that other nations have these weapons. It is depressing to look ahead and to ask, “What can one person do?” But that's the beginning of salvation. 

When one realizes one's helplessness and powerlessness and says, “Oh God, here am I,” what one person can do is astounding. What can one person do? Recognize that your faults, and at the same time recognize that your strengths—talents and abilities—are given from God for his service. Your gifts were not given to you for boasting, because we boast in the Lord for our salvation which is wrought in Jesus Christ. We boast in the Lord for the power which he gives us to live and persist day by day. We boast in the Lord for the grace that he gives us to sustain us day by day, and we offer our strengths and our gifts to him for serving the world, not for boasting. And my, what God can do with weakness, what God can do with just one “little old me” person, what God can do when we realize we're weak and allow God to use us! Mahatma Gandhi was just one man who never raised an army but toppled the British Empire's rule in India with little bloodshed. His weapons were non-violence, prayer and fasting. 

One of my favorite people in history is Rosa Parks. She was one woman, one weak woman who because her feet hurt refused to give up her seat on that bus. She was a black working woman, a humble person. She was ordered to move to the back of the bus and stand up because a white person wanted to sit down. But because her feet hurt, she said, “Enough of this nonsense.” The strong, the mighty, the powerful came and dragged her to jail, but that incident started the civil rights movement. One weak woman toppled the mighty and the powerful, and revolution swept across our country. 

I think of Steven Biko in the Union of South Africa. He was a black man who edited a newspaper to find peaceful solutions for the tremendous problems facing that land. The strong, the mighty, the powerful, dragged him to jail and put him to death two or three months ago. He was crucified. Hopefully truth will persist. 

I think of two women in Northern Ireland— one a Protestant and one a Catholic, Betty Williams and Maired Corrigan—who saw a terrorist car kill three children. They said, “This nonsense must stop.” Two women, a Protestant and a Catholic, started a peace movement in Northern Ireland by marching through the streets. Over 100 groups are now organized to bring a solution to the turmoils of that country. These women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When they were awarded the prize, one of them said, “I accept the prize on behalf of everyone throughout the world who works and longs for peace, and the many people who have suffered and have been jailed in the interest of promoting peace.”

God chooses the weak. God calls us to greatness and he chooses the weak—those who are willing to recognize their faults, their limitations, their helplessness, and let God work through their lives. What can you do as one person? Every day there are countless opportunities for you to speak the word of love. There are countless opportunities for you to respect the person who's not respected, to give dignity to the person who is teased or ridiculed or looked down upon. Every day there are countless opportunities for you to combat oppression and hatred. Every day there are countless opportunities to speak about the love of Jesus. There are countless opportunities to witness to the saving grace of Jesus. That's what you can do. And one person can do mighty works because God chooses the weak

© 1978 Douglas I. Norris