One of the most dramatically unqualified biblical heroes I can think of is Jacob. Awhile back I was studying the life of this man in preparation for a sermon series. Out of nowhere a thought rattled me.
God can’t bless who you pretend to be.
Prior to that thought I was wondering why in the world I had chosen to preach about this paradoxical patriarch for the next five weeks. He was turning out to be the most complicated biblical antihero I’d ever studied. Most of the stories involving Jacob are like episodes of The Sopranos—you don’t know whom to root for because everyone is messed up. Like the time Jacob’s uncle tricked him into getting drunk and accidentally sleeping with the wrong woman on his wedding night.
Jacob was a liar, a con, a trickster, a fraud. He spent much of his life haunted by bad decisions and exiled to the chaos of self-inflicted consequences. If anyone deserved to be called unqualified, it was this guy. He was not exactly the character that neat sermon outlines and Sunday school lessons are made of.
And yet God called him. Chose him. Even blessed him. And Jacob ended up playing a major role in God’s plan to redeem the world. He emerges as simultaneously one of the most important figures in Scripture and one of the most screwed up.
That Thursday afternoon with my Bible open and my notes out, I was blindsided by the realization that I am just like Jacob in so many ways. Not nearly as important in the scheme of human history, of course. But every bit as unqualified from a human perspective. And every bit as valuable and loved in God’s eyes.
Just like Jacob I often find myself pretending to be someone I’m not because I’m embarrassed about who I am. I think my weaknesses are the problem and faking it till I make it is the solution.
But God can’t bless someone I’m not. He longs to bless me. The real me, with all my ups and downs and pros and cons.
The more I analyzed the story of Jacob, the more I saw God as the Qualifier. Jacob was a poster child for the confusion and complications that weaknesses produce. But he was also a dramatic example of someone who was, at least by the end of his life, able to embrace his insufficiencies, look past them, and trust in God.
And when he did, God took over. He overruled Jacob’s limitations and trumped his disqualifications.
Jacob was acutely, painfully, spectacularly human. That’s probably why his life speaks so clearly to me. I can relate to his failures faster than his feats, and I bet you can too.
What I learned through studying Jacob radically shifted my thinking. His story gives us a fascinating case study in God’s power at work in our weaknesses.
Ultimately God redeemed, redefined, and realigned Jacob not in spite of but through his weaknesses. And that’s what he will do for you and me.
Excerpted from (Un)Qualified by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2016 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Related Preaching Articles
By Karl Vaters on May 5, 2017
Following a long-term, successful pastorate is one of the hardest callings in ministry. Every pastor should do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for the next pastor and the church to do great ministry after we leave.
By Lance Witt on May 18, 2017
Pound for pound, nothing is as powerful as your tongue. As pastors, we count on God to use our tongues as His instrument. In last week’s article, we talked about using our words to bless and speak life into others. This week I want to add 2 additional strategies for the wise use of words.
By Charles Stone on Apr 28, 2017
At times we must lead as transactional leaders. However, we should seek to grow our leadership so that we lead more often as transformational leaders.
By Brandon Cox on Apr 27, 2017
You and I have exactly the same amount of time. Rich or poor, young or old, we each get 168 hours in a week’s time.
By Karl Vaters on Apr 21, 2017
Principles that make sense in a big church don't always work in a smaller one.
By Josh Reich on Apr 13, 2017
Now, we all know that God is the one who grows a church, but often that church is healthy and growing because of the character, quality and capacity of the lead pastor and leaders.