God chooses and uses the weak things, the foolish things, the despised things, “that no flesh should glory in His presence!”—1 Corinthians 1:25–29
The list is almost endless of all the men in the Bible whom God had to humble before He could use them, of all the leaders God had to bring down to the depths before they could stand to be exalted—lest they would have taken credit to themselves and not given God the glory.
Look at Joseph. Of Jacob’s twelve sons, he was his father’s favorite. His elder brothers finally became so jealous of him that they nearly killed him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery. But the Lord used this to humble him. Joseph was made a slave and a prisoner and condemned as a criminal before God was able to exalt him to become the savior of His people.1
And look at Moses. For 40 years he was groomed in the very courts of pharaoh, and rose to become the second most powerful man in the mighty world empire of ancient Egypt. The Bible says he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,”2 but God could not yet use him to lead His people to freedom, for he was full of the ways of the world and not the ways of God. Moses had to be broken first. So God allowed him to become a fugitive from pharaoh, and he had to spend 40 years in the wilderness doing nothing but tending sheep, until finally he was broken and humble enough for God to use him for the great task He had designed him for.3
And consider King David, the greatest king that Israel ever had. He fell in love with Bathsheba, purposely had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle, and then tried to lie and cover up the entire crime. God had to completely expose him, humble him, and severely judge him. And he was soon driven from the throne by his own traitorous son, Absalom.4
But was David’s fall a fall downward or a fall upward? God’s way up is sometimes down—usually, in fact! Just the opposite of what we think. David was humbled and the whole kingdom was humbled, and they were all reminded that it was only the Lord who made them great. And from that squeezing and twisting of David’s life came forth the sweet honey of the Psalms, and the fragrance of his praises to the Lord for His mercy—a lesson that’s been an encouragement to other sinners like me and you ever since.
The great, brave and mighty prophet, Elijah, was able to call down fire from heaven to confound the false prophets of Baal and to prove that he was right.5 But after slaying hundreds of false prophets, he panicked and ran away from one little woman, wicked Queen Jezebel. Hiding out in the wilderness, he became so discouraged that he wished that he might die. But there in his time of desperation, this prophet of fire and thunder became a meek little man who learned to listen to the still, small voice of God. And he became a much better, humbler instrument in the hands of the Lord—a prophet who fearlessly returned to face not only the queen, but the king and all of his soldiers.6
And look at the apostle Peter. He was so proud and self-confident that he swore to Jesus, “Though all others forsake You, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death.”7 But just a few hours later, when Jesus was seized by the temple guards and hauled before the Jews’ religious court, some people outside of the building recognized Peter and pointed him out as one of Jesus’ followers. Peter vehemently denied that he even knew Him, cursing and swearing that he had no idea what they were talking about!8
As he was denying the Lord a third time, Jesus, who was being led by His captors to another part of the building, turned and gazed upon Peter, and Peter suddenly remembered how he had sworn that he would never deny Him. The Bible tells us that Peter then “went out and wept bitterly.”9 Was this the end of Peter’s service for the Lord? No! It was shortly after this humiliating defeat, this great failure, this breaking of his pride that the Lord anointed and raised up Peter to become the leader of the early church.
And consider the great apostle Paul. He had been a prominent Jewish leader, the Rabbi Saul, and had personally taken it upon himself to put an end to the fast-growing sect of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Journeying by horseback to Damascus, where he intended to capture, imprison, and execute as many Christians as he could find, God had to literally knock him off his horse and blind him with the brilliant light of His presence. Trembling, helpless, and blind, the once proud rabbi had to be led by the hand into the city, where he was so astonished that he was unable to eat or drink for three full days. A disciple of the Lord then came to give him God’s message and pray for his eyes, and Saul was converted and became the apostle Paul! But God had to humble him and break him first, and make him a new man before He was able to use him.10
In fact, this is the story of everyone who is of any real use to the Lord’s work. For us to become what He wants us to be usually requires many breakings, humbling’s and melting’s, remolding, reshaping, and remaking into a better vessel, better than we were, better than we thought we were, and much more yielded and useful for His kingdom. Such tests, trials, and tribulations will either soften and melt you, or harden and embitter you. Suffering can either make you bitter or better. So watch out that you don’t get hardened, bitter, and resentful against God when you’re going through it. His Word says, “Look diligently, lest any man fail the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness spring up and trouble you, and through it, many be defiled.”11
If you let trials humble you and melt you, you’ll be a whole lot happier, because you’ll be drawn a whole lot closer to the Lord. If you harden your heart against the Lord, if you resist the Holy Spirit and harden your heart against God’s love and truth, your heart becomes calloused, and soon it no longer even feels it so much anymore, and you risk becoming “past feeling.”12 Be careful, you wouldn’t want to wind up like the man in that horrible poem, “Invictus”: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. My head is bloody, but unbowed.”13 Even though he was bruised, buffeted, and bloodied, he still insisted on being his own boss and would not yield or “bow” to the Lord.
Truth resisted will lose its power over your soul. Every time you resist the truth, you’re hardening your spirit against the Lord. It’s like when you have a little tender spot on your foot where your shoe has been rubbing. At first it’s very, very sensitive, really sore. It hurts. But if it keeps on rubbing, pretty soon you build a big callus; the skin gets thicker and tougher and hardened.—Which is what happens to your heart if you continually refuse to yield to the Lord.
Hardening your heart is not the solution. He says, “Harden not your hearts.”14 But rather, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite (broken, repentant) spirit.”15
Whatever God does, He always does it in love. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.”16
The Lord loves you and is even “touched with the feeling of your infirmities.”17 But He knows that He will never be able to use you as much as He would like to unless you are humbled. When you become a tool and a channel, a little diamond of dust, then He can mightily use you!
He makes us through the breakings we experience. Without experiencing suffering, loss, tragedy, and failure, you won’t know how to love the poor lost world and sympathize with and reach others with His love. But if you’ll allow Him to break and melt your heart, then He’ll woo and win it, warm and melt it, and make it bright and happy and burning with His love—so you can share that love with others.
1 Genesis 37, 39–41, 2 Acts 7:22, 3 Exodus 2–3, 4 2 Samuel 11,12,15, 5 1 Kings 18, 6 1 Kings 19 and 21, 7 John 13:37; Luke 22:33, 8 Mark 14:66–71, 9 Luke 22:62, 10 Acts 9, 11 Hebrews 12:15, 12 Ephesians 4:19 13 William Ernest Henley (1875), 14 Hebrews 3:15, 15 Psalm 55:22, 34:18; Isaiah 55:6, 16 Psalm 103:8–14 17 Hebrews 4:15.