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Crooked Sticks and Mighty Licks

A preacher was asked during a radio interview why so many of the Bible's heroes had serious flaws. His answer was simple but beyond debate — "Because the only kind of people God has to work with are flawed people." When we look at God's people in the pews on Sunday, we are looking at flawed people —but we are looking at people God uses to accomplish His ongoing work on earth! I can't always agree with what popular religious author Max Lucado writes, but I agree with this: "If God chose only righteous people to change the world, you could count them on one finger — Jesus" (Max On Life, p 33). The good news is that the flawless, sinless Christ is not only willing but actually eager to use flawed people! A thoughtful reading of Matthew 10:2-5 preaches that point. Immediately after recording Jesus' observation that there was a harvest of lost souls just waiting for laborers to come into the field to gather them in (9:36-38), Matthew relates Jesus' calling of the twelve apostles — "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him." Mark's account of this call in Mark 3:13 has slightly different wording — "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him." Did you catch it? With crowds surging around Him, with a host of people before Him — the Lord deliberately selected a company of twelve special messengers. And He didn't have everybody write their name on a slip of paper and have someone draw twelve out of a hat! He called those He wanted!

The gospels make clear the twelve Jesus wanted were a mixed and flawed group of men. Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4 ESV) belonged to a party violently opposing Roman government, while Matthew the tax collector sold his tax-collecting services to that very same government! Philip Yancy notes that no scholars like Nicodemus or wealthy patrons like Joseph of Arimethea made it into the Twelve.

The Twelve sometimes argued with each other about who was greatest; they were bothered by demanding crowds always thronging Jesus for food and favors, and on more than one occasion counseled the Lord to send the crowds away; at one time or another they doubted, feared, displayed a lack of faith, and on the most stressful night of Jesus' life, when the going got rough and the cross loomed large, they wimped out and forsook Him! Peter, the loudest mouth in the group, cursed and repeatedly denied He knew Jesus! Flawed? Oh yeah! Kind of like us. But here's the thing we must see — with all their flaws, what mattered was He wanted them, and they wanted Him! And over the course of time He wrote His message on their hearts, fowled His character in their souls, and, when the proper time came, sent them out to carry the gospel to the whole world through their lives and lips (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16)! Someone  observed, "God can strike a mighty lick with a crooked stick!" God won't use us in the special ways He used the apostles. But the next time you feel bad or useless or too far gone from God to do any good, pause and think about these twelve flawed men Christ was well-pleased to call and use His glory!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ