1 Corinthians 1:26-31: "Or So it Seemed"

by Ed de la Cour on December 9, 2014

1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 31                              




     The Old Testament prophet Micah spoke of God’s future use of the small town of Bethlehem in Micah 5: 2 – 4.  Those who read the prophecy did not fail to see the spiritual significance of the small town, the birthplace of the coming Messiah.  They saw that a mighty king would arise from the home town of King David who would be not only be God’s shepherd for His people Israel, but who would also come in certain majestic power, authority, and even worldwide grandeur.  Since Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried there and King David hailed from Bethlehem as well, the messianic prophecy was more than enough to make Bethlehem feel its importance in the world.


But time passed.  Over the years that followed, Bethlehem withered in the desert sun and under the weight of foreign oppression.  The small town became a just little village, sinking into insignificance.  While scholars studied the words of the prophets and argued about the meaning of the various prophetic utterances, Bethlehem went on to become a clearly unimportant and drowsy little suburb of Jerusalem.  God would never use Bethlehem, or so it seemed.


In fact, nothing at all of importance happened in that little town of Bethlehem until the day Jesus was born.  You’ll recall in Matthew 2, the learned scholars all knew Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of the Messiah.  They quoted from Micah 5 and that was all that King Herod needed to hatch his wicked plot to kill all the male children of Bethlehem.  It was his insane desire to rid himself of any perceived competition or potential rival to the throne.


Yes, Bethlehem is like the poster child for the feeling of insignificance.  It was the perfect place for absolutely nothing at all ever to happen.  It was the perfect place in which someone could sit in unbreakable depression.  When modern municipalities worry if their best days might be in the rear view mirror because they feel inferior to larger or more affluent communities, all they need to do is look to Bethlehem to find reasons their worry is correct.  Cities and towns have feelings of insignificance just as people do.  They feel unappreciated largely because the people who live in those cities and towns know that in their own lives, they also feel unloved, unappreciated, and insignificant.  


Don’t you find that the same is true for churches as well as for Christians?  Like people everywhere, we are all ruled by our feelings.  If you are like most people, you feel insignificant much of the time.  You feel unimportant.  You believe in your heart that if you suddenly evaporated, no one would miss you.  When we say, “You make me feel this way or that way,” we are confessing that we are ruled by our own emotions and by our own feelings of inadequacy.  For many people, their emotions were savaged at an early age through the cruelty of others, and so now they live out their days feeling insignificant, unappreciated, and unloved.  It is a good thing that God does not look at us the way we look at ourselves.  Our God is certainly not ruled by the emotional roller coaster on which we ride every day.


Insignificance is a powerful weapon in the devil’s arsenal.  You need to know that insignificance is uprooted, overwhelmed, and defanged in the hands of God.  God uses small towns.  God uses humble people and He uses even churches of little consequence to make a big impact.  He uses little to accomplish much.  God is willing to use small churches, even churches on Cape Cod, churches that are willing to seek His face in prayer and in fasting.  The size of a church might pose a problem for people, but not for God.  He loves to work His power in impossible situations – why God could even use you!


The economy of the Kingdom of God is not at all similar to anything else we know or anything we regard as business as usual.  As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, God loves to work in ways that are completely opposed to the way this world functions.


In this world, size does matter.  In this world, money matters.  Having influence matters.  Having a good publicist matters.  Power is what life is all about.  This world seeks after, appreciates, approves, endorses, promotes and likes everything that is big, flashy, and impressive.  We Christians want our churches and our preachers to be bigger than life.  However, the fact this world refuses to consider is, the one who dies with the most toys is still dead.  While this world relishes bigness, strength and power, the rest of the planet lives in brokenness and powerlessness.  I praise and thank God that this world and all of its power and influence does not have the last word.  God’s Word declares from cover to cover that worldly power and corrupt domination is not valued by God, nor is that the way God works in history.  


Our God loves the unlovely.  God loves you – and you are broken.  When the world looks at you, it is plain God would never use you – or so it seems!  But God loves the downtrodden.  God loves the orphan.  God loves the widow and the alien. God loves you – and you are beyond repair.  God loves you even though your heart is desperately wicked.  Nevertheless, God loves you. 


Paul admonishes us in verse 26 to remember who we are and what we were like when God found us.  God speaks to the feelings of insignificance within us and He calls us to remember from whence we have come.  When God called us out of lostness, we were not among the world’s richest people nor were we all well adjusted and happy.  We were the broken.  We were the dysfunctional.  We were the rejects and the castoffs no one else wanted.  Even those who were well educated by this world’s standards were not wise, at least not wise in the ways of God.


We know this is true and it’s important for us to reflect on how God did work in history.  God used the insignificant town of Bethlehem to provide the cradle for His only Son.  Bethlehem was significant to God.  The little town of Bethlehem was used by God.  Poor shepherds were given a vision of heaven by God.  Besides the prophecy in Micah that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem is, one reason for His birth there is that in no small measure, Jesus’s life ministry trajectory was aimed at the broken and unloved people who lived without hope.


Not only was God willing to use this little town of Bethlehem, but also Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph in another little town called Nazareth.  Nazareth was also located on the wrong side of the tracks, and was also looked down upon by just about everyone.  This popular view point was reflected by Nathanael in John 1: 46“Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  God would never use Nazareth either, or so it seemed.  Jesus was not only born in an out of the way, backwater village, but also He grew up in a town with even a worse reputation.  We can say, even though it was small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, Bethlehem was important to God.  Therefore, we can also say with confidence, even though you are small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, you are important to God.  You are loved by God.  You are appreciated by God.  You are significant to God.


Now, you may be cynical and you may be thinking that all this sounds like Mr. Rogers, but there was a very good reason why that man was loved by two generations of children.  People love to be told they are special and they need to be told that they are loved.  People don’t hear they are loved very often and untold thousands of children responded to his expressions of love because being loved is a very deep and very real human need.


God is saying something you need to hear and receive today.  Our identity is not wrapped up in our inadequacy anymore.  Today, our worth, our identity, and our hope are in Jesus Christ.  I need to remember that truth.  You need to remember that truth.  When you pray, you may have always felt somehow it was wrong and selfish to pray for your own needs.  There’s a false modesty at work there and it is rooted in your sense of inadequacy and your belief in your own unworthiness.  May I speak some truth into your life?  In Jesus Christ, God has made you worthy, just as Bethlehem was counted worthy to be the birthplace of Jesus.  Bethlehem was not chosen because the town met a list of qualifications; God chose them.  Just as Mary was counted worthy to bear the Son of God, God has chosen you, as unlikely as that may seem to you.


It’s not just poetry when I say you are loved by God, or that you are special in God’s eyes.  One of our favorite psalms is Psalm 139.  Listen to verses 13 – 16. <.v.>


You were created by God.  The psalmist says you were literally knit together in your mother’s womb.  This indicates you were purposefully made, that you were intentionally constructed, and it even means that God sovereignly planned your life.  Your being here today is not the result of some random act or accident.  David said God’s works are wonderful, and he was right!  You are the work of God!  You are significant and your life is important to God.  For that reason, people who trust in Jesus and who seek to follow Him will treat you as a person of significance.


God loves you.  That may sound foolish to your ears and it may even be a stumbling block for you.  But God says He doesn’t care whether you have whole lot of money or drive a big, fine car, or live in a big house.  Human standards do not impress God.  You do not need to impress God because God already loves you.  You are the foolish things God has chosen to shame the self-important and the self-righteous and the self-possessed of this world.


We already know that God’s blessings have not come into our lives because of our own intelligence or our own spiritual strength.  We know that and we have received the blessing of God on our lives today by grace.  The blessings of God are undeserved and unmerited, but they are given because of God’s love.  So, we are enabled and we are even encouraged by Scripture, to boast in the Lord.  Our God has blessed us.  Our God is mighty to save us.  Our God reached into hell and He took hold of us.  Our God rescued us and He saved us.  God transformed the weak and lowly things.  He took that which was weak and broken and beyond repair and He made something beautiful out of it.  He nullified human strength and He amplified the power of God.  Let’s decide today that we will value and treasure what God values as important, and what God values are the lives He is seeking to save.


Be encouraged today, Cape Cod!  God chose you to be His ambassadors.  We aren’t being asked to wear tuxedos or to attend fancy state dinners or go to ballrooms or throne rooms.  God is inviting us to represent the Kingdom of God honestly and forthrightly here on Cape Cod.  We may be small.  In just about everyone’s eyes we may be insignificant.  But in the eyes and in the heart of our God, we are loved.  We are significant and when we pray, when we seek His face, He hears His children. 


Let’s decide today to find God’s value our own lives, and to see in ourselves the handiwork of God.  Let’s seek Him for every great thing He is willing to do through little people and small churches.  As we close, I would ask you to personalize and remember these words.  Say them in your heart and say them in faith with increased confidence:


“I may be one of the foolish things of this world, but I have been chosen by God. 

Jesus has become for me the very wisdom of God.  My hope is in Him and my boast is in the Lord.” 

Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559