Jeremiah complained, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." But the Lord said to him, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1:6-9).

You should never say to God, "I can't do that" because you're young and untested. Youth and inexperience are never a problem to God. Most of the biblical men and women he pressed into service were undeveloped: Jeremiah was a mere slip of a boy; the disciples were green; even Jesus, from the standpoint of an old geezer like me, was much too young to save the world.

Youthfulness never disqualified anyone. Only immaturity does and immaturity can be outgrown by the grace of God.

Nor should you ever say "No" to God simply because you are afraid. Whoever first said, "We have nothing to fear but fear," was dead wrong. It's the absence of fear we should fear.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm tell a fairy tale about a young man who was normal in every respect except he could not shudder. All sorts of shocks were prepared for him--ghosts, hanged men, devil-cats and bodies in coffins--but to no avail. He was hampered by his absence of fear.

Fear is the initial human reaction to any difficult or dangerous undertaking and God does not condemn it. He rather utilizes it, employing our panic to move us to get a better grip on him, then by his presence and power to walk through the walls of our fear. "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5,6).

Finally, you should never say "Never" to God's call because you're worried about your impediments and afflictions. None are so severe that God cannot use them. Moses said, on the occasion of his call, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

The language suggests that Moses had a serious speech impediment: perhaps he stuttered. The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say" (4:10-12).

Our impairments, our disabilities, our handicaps are not accidents. They are God-designed. He creates every one of our flaws for his own good. God's way of dealing with them is not to remove them but to endow them with strength and utilize them for good.

Paul said of his handicap: "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore," Paul concluded, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

And so it comes to this: We should never worry about ourselves. God sets aside conventional notions of maturity, adequacy and efficiency and looks for those who know their limitations. "This is the one I esteem" God assures us: "he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).

From weakness we are made strong. The realization that we are weak and powerless is the beginning of God's work. We must, "confess ourselves poor creatures," George MacDonald said, "for that is the beginning of being great. To try to persuade ourselves that we are something when we are nothing is terrible loss; to confess that we are nothing is to lay the foundation of being something."

This is the life: living without apparent power, prosperity or adequacy, wholly dependent on God, available to him to be put to his intended use. We don't have to render the Big Answer; we don't have to perform the Immortal Deed; we don't have to be Sensational or Remarkable. All we need is God.

David Roper
May 20, 1996