Summary: Like Paul, we cannot plead that we are either too broken or too privileged to engage in service. Brokenness is what God can use for the Kingdom.
No excuses. No excuses. We are accountable for what we do. We are accountable to God. And what God has called us to do, we can do. No excuses.
If God has chosen us, then He has expectations. There are Kingdom tasks to be performed, there is a witness to be made, there is something that each of us is to be doing for God. I hear Him insisting, "No excuses."
The theme of our Lenten series is, "Broken People for a Broken World". Broken people for a broken world. If that’s too long for you to remember, then shorten it to "no excuses". Let me explain.
Many of us speak of being hurting people. We describe ourselves as being in pain; we think of ourselves as wounded; we believe we are impaired in one way or another. A good many of us seem to think of ourselves as broken people.
Not for one moment would I deny anybody’s hurt. Not for an instant would I discount anyone’s difficulties. I have visited enough homes, stood at enough gravesides, sat in enough counseling sessions, and hovered at enough hospital beds to know that pain is real and that personal anguish is immobilizing. I know that all of this is true.
But I also know the Gospel. And I know that in the Gospel, the good news, the bottom line is "no excuses" . "No excuses," because, by the power of Christ, we can rise above our hurts. We can go beyond our pain and our brokenness to accomplish something for the Kingdom. No matter who we are, no matter what we have suffered, we can do something for the Kingdom. No excuses.
In fact, I will say more. Our very brokenness is the stuff out of which Christ can make something beautiful for the Kingdom. Our brokenness is not a liability; it is an asset. Our brokenness is not a hindrance; it is a requirement before we can be effective. No excuses; do not tell me that in your pain and brokenness you can do nothing for the Kingdom. Listen to the Gospel and it will tell you that this brokenness is exactly what God needs in order to use you. So there are no excuses, not any more.
During the next several weeks we are going to examine this great truth. We are going to soak in it until it becomes a part of the fabric of our lives. Two or three instruments will be used to help us see this.
First, of course, are the stories of the Bible. I have selected six New Testament personalities in whose lives this truth worked itself out. Six men and women who were flawed, seriously flawed ... six men and women who could have made every excuse for doing nothing … but who, when Christ got hold of them, he turned their weaknesses into strength, he changed their brokenness into something our broken world needed. We will walk through six Biblical lives together during Lent.
Second, we will hang all this en the framework of a hymn you know well. The hymn "Just As I Am” contains in its six short verses a wealth of insight about living beyond brokenness. We will sing it in one way or another every Sunday and we will let its words capture these six Biblical lives. We will discover, over and over again, that even with a broken life ... or in fact, because of a broken life ... people of faith can do something for the Kingdom in a broken world.
I hope, too, to illustrate this truth with brief video clips and with short dramatic vignettes. I want you to know that we are working with real lives here, not just with unattainable ideals. With real, living, breathing, flesh and blood lives.
The bottom will be, “No excuses.” No excuses.
The first New Testament life to speak to us will be the life of Paul. The great apostle to the nations, the matchless interpreter of the Christian faith, a literary giant, one of history’s most influential minds … Paul started out as a broken person.
There are two ways of looking at Paul’s brokenness.
First, I want you to see that Paul found out that he could not plead his brokenness, he could not make excuses, because he discovered that God used his infirmity as a channel for the power of Christ. Paul found that he could not plead weakness because Christ used his weakness to create strength.
Paul tells us in the second Corinthian letter about something he terms a “thorn in the flesh” II Corinthians 12:7b-11
No one really knows what the thorn in the flesh was. Various theories have been proposed about illnesses of one kind or another, but we don’t know. It might have been more emotional than physical. Who knows, since Paul calls it a "messenger of Satan n 1 but what it was some gadfly personality who showed up every time Paul preached and shot barbed questions at him from the sidelines! That’s possible. Some have even brashly suggested that the thorn in the flesh was a woman who tempted Paul. Sounds a bit sexist, doesn’t it? We don’t know.