I heard a pastor remark recently that, in his view, many of God’s choice servants are not very smart. He did not intend to disparage his fellow ministers, but he was making an observation about the ways of God in light of the purposes of God. Assuredly, God has called many men and women whom He has also mightily gifted. But it is all too often the case that the gift in the man is used in such a way as to obscure the Giver of the gift. Who among us has not heard a sermon and marveled at the ability of the speaker, perhaps even falling prey to envy and wishing that we could express ourselves so powerfully? Our response may or may not have been encouraged by the spirit of the speaker; regardless, it was not a response that pleased the Lord. And to the extent that the speaker deliberately contributed to it, he too was guilty of dishonoring the Lord. On the other hand, we have all been blessed by people, whose talents have seemed relatively meager, but they have been wonderfully used by God because they are both unable and unwilling to make themselves the star of the show. Neither the multitude nor the magnitude of gifts is the measure either of God’s love for us or our usefulness to God. The prophet Amos is a simple example to us in this regard and provides the pattern for blessed service.
“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit” (Amos 7:14). God surely equips people to serve Him by bestowing gifts upon them and preparing them to utilize those gifts. But as is frequently the case, God’s choice may not seem the best natural choice. Events would reveal that Saul’s regal appearance was misleading, as was David’s lowly bearing: Saul was a poor king, David the greatest. Amos explains that, for his part, he did not have the skills to be a prophet nor had he trained in one of the schools of the prophets. He was a “herdman” (“breeder of sheep”) and a farmer, a “gatherer of figs” (a self-deprecating expression emphasizing the manual part of the process of collecting the fruits [gathering, or nipping] rather than the more impressive aspect of cultivating them). It appears that Amos was a prosperous farmer, but that occupation hardly put him at the front of the line for prophetic ministry.
“And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (v. 15). All ministry and service start here. There is no ministry of God that begins with the focus on a person’s talent or gift. The Lord saw a man who was doing faithfully what he had been called to do—breed sheep and harvest sycamore fruit—and He took Him seemingly in one fell swoop and made Amos His holy messenger. As Amos describes it at least, it was no more complicated than that. God chose him.
“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord” (v. 16). How simple. How direct. Assertive? Maybe. Self-exalting? No. Amos is not consumed with himself at all. He does not parade a gift; nor does he bemoan a lack of gift. Neither of those is the proper focus. What God had to say was all that interested Amos. He need not be naturally eloquent; he need not be histrionic. God had spoken to him because He wanted to speak through him. And so Amos simply yielded his life to be the instrument that God wanted him to be. And when he was done; no one glorified Amos because it was clear that He had been just the messenger of the Lord.
The foregoing is not to suggest that we disdain God’s gifts nor that we fail to hone them in any way that pleases God. Rather, it is to remind us that God’s purpose is to glorify Himself, that we are beneficial to Him only insofar as that is our ambition as well, and that in such yielded service we will find our true purpose and greatest blessing.
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