God Graciously Uses Unlikely People
Neal Cushman: I’m with Dr. Greg Mazak today; he’s the head of our Biblical Counseling program at the seminary. You preached on Jonah. This semester we’re doing a lot of Old Testament characters, and then next semester we’re doing New Testament characters. But out of the the whole list, you chose Jonah. I just wonder if you could explain why you chose Jonah.
Greg Mazak: Sure, you know, I really had very little hesitation in selecting Jonah because of one word, and that word is “grace.” I look at the life of Jonah, at the ministry of Jonah, and it’s very sad. But it’s not surprising because we should expect God to graciously use unlikely people like Jonah. And I think, for a lot of us, we sometimes think that the “cream rises to the top”— people in ministry are somehow closer to Christ, or they’re just spiritually better off than “lay-people.” But I would question that. I see in Jonah somebody who struggles in ways that are sad but not surprising. And if ministry all goes back to God’s grace, then we shouldn’t be surprised that God would graciously use an unlikely person like Jonah.
Cushman: Yeah, this story really doesn’t end in a way that we expect it to end, does it?
Mazak: No, if I were reading it for the first time, I would expect everything would go well, and Jonah would be installed as the chief prophet or a “head pastor,” as we would say today, and everybody would say, “It’s awesome.” And he’s still struggling. But if we really can bring in the Ninevites— here’s a group of people that most of us would not be excited to share Christ with, in New Testament terms. But if we can remind ourselves that God graciously saves unlikely people like the Ninevites, then maybe it’s not so surprising that God would graciously use unlikely servants like Jonah. And if I really believe I’m not worthy of salvation— that I’m a Ninevite— then I would also realize I’m not worthy of being used by God in ministry.
But the message I hope that comes forth in that chapel presentation is that people can realize that “I can struggle. I’m not who I should be, my life isn’t as close to Christ as it should be, and yet God can use an unlikely person like me.” Because the gospel is all about saving unlikely people like the Ninevites.
Cushman: So, today we tend to put people on a pedestal. I mean, not just Christians, but in our society— you know, pro athletes and public figures. So maybe touch on that related to how should we look at our pastors and our missionaries and Christian school teachers and all those people that serve in the Lord’s work.
Mazak: I’ll start with the way we shouldn’t look at them. I would not want to embrace what we sometimes called the clergy-laity distinction— that if you really love Jesus, you’re a pastor, you’re a missionary, you’re “clergy.” And you’re something special and you’ve earned that, you deserve it. If we really have a handle on God’s grace, I would look at people in ministry as having a different calling, having a different equipping. But I’ve said this many times in our church— I’m not necessarily the most spiritual person in this assembly. My calling to be a pastor is not necessarily superior to the next person’s calling. It’s just different because it’s all rooted in God’s grace.
Cushman: Well that makes the work that all of us do special. Thank you so much for that very helpful synopsis of your message. And thank you for joining us for our seminary chapel series.