Let me just make this admission: I love school. I like reading. I like going to lectures. I love spending time in the library with stacks and stacks and stacks of books. I am a nerd. This goes along with the fact that one of our biggest quests and greatest desires as Westerners is to learn. “If we want to succeed in life and if we want to do good things, it starts with our minds,” we think. They key to becoming extraordinary is education. (This is why I’ve spent most of the last 8 years in graduate school!) This is why we tell our kids to stay in school, this is why education is always a hot topic during an election year, this is why high school kids take all AP classes and force themselves to participate in activities that will look good on their college resumes, this is why my wife and I are already starting to stress out about college tuition for our two boys (who are 4 and almost 2!)
But after reading this story in Acts 4, I’m thinking about quitting school. Peter and John have been confronted by some of the religious leaders from the temple who were upset about what they were teaching about Jesus. So, they arrested them and put them in prison until they could question them the next day. Their conversation went like this:
They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is
‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
(Acts 4:7-13 TNIV)
Unschooled and ordinary. How often is that my excuse for not doing something? “I don’t know how to do that” or “I’m not very good at that.” How often is that my excuse to not give myself in service to the church or to the community? How often is my solution to that to learn more about something or put it off so that I can do some training so I can become “better” at it? Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men who could have just as easily said to Jesus when he asked them to follow him, “We can’t follow you, there’s nothing special about us.” They could have easily said to the man who was crippled in Acts 3, “We’re just some ordinary guys, we don’t have anything special to give you.” Unschooled and ordinary people like Peter and John, and like me, often sit on the sidelines of life focusing on their ordinariness.
But it wasn’t just that they were unschooled and ordinary. It also says that the religious leaders “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” These weren’t just unschooled and ordinary guys. These were unschooled and ordinary guys who had been with Jesus. When you combine the unschooled and ordinary with the power of Jesus, people are astonished! When you combine the unschooled and ordinary with the power of Jesus, people are healed, the hungry are fed, people’s needs are met, the truth is spoken, and people are amazed by what happens.
Anyone who lets being “unschooled” and “ordinary” get in the way of doing something for God clearly hasn’t read this story (or almost any other story in the Bible.) Again and again, God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, the unschooled to teach the wise, and the unlikely to do the incredible.
Feeling unschooled and ordinary? Then maybe you’re more qualified to do the work of God than you thought. Being unschooled and ordinary takes away the false idea that our own education or our own skills or our own qualifications are what God needs to work through us in the world. Being educated is a great thing, but sometimes our quest to have it all figured out gets in our way. Sometimes we assume what God most wants or needs is for us to be really smart and really good at stuff. But maybe what God needs isn’t our education or our extraordinariness, but simply our willingness to allow God to work through us regardless of what we know or what we can or can’t do.
God, thank you that you work through unschooled, ordinary people like me. Above my desires to be educated and extraordinary, may I be willing and open to what you would do through me, especially if I think I can’t do it.