In the past I used to do a lot of recording music. I would get friends who sang, wrote songs, and played instruments to come over to my house and record their songs. I am blessed to know some very talented people and had a few awesome musicians in that time. But, there was this one guy in particular that would always come to me to be recorded that was absolutely terrible. He could not play the guitar, he could not sing, he could not do anything. But, I still wanted his money, so I recorded anyway.
So, what I would do is I would play the guitar for him. Then, he would screech a vocal track for me. And once he left, after my brother and I laughed at it a few times, I would take this magical invention called “Auto-Tune”. Then, I would put it on his voice. I would literally have to go through his track and change every single note that he sang. I think it was easier for them to auto-tune Antoine Dodson in the Bedroom Intruder video than it was for me to auto-tune this guy.
Yet, in the end, it would end up sounding marvelous. I would throw auto-tuned harmonies in there, add some extra instrument tracks in there, mix it all together, and then give him back his track. He would put it up on Myspace and it would get thousands and thousands of plays. He may have given me almost nothing to work with, but by the time I got through with it, it ended up sounding like a masterpiece.
Now, this is kind of a reoccurring theme in the Bible. It’s the idea of mankind bringing almost nothing to the table and God turning it into something beautiful, huge, and powerful. One of the first stories I think of is Jesus feeding the 5,000 men with the little boy’s two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus took seemingly nothing and turned it into something plentiful. I also think of Moses’ staff. God used that tiny, unimportant staff that Moses used to use in his shepherding to do most of His miracles within the Exodus narrative, like transforming into a snake, turning the water into blood, and even parting the entire Red Sea. God took something insignificant and used to accomplish His significant work.
We also see this play out in our salvation. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” God purposely chooses the least of us to work through so that He can show His power in the situation. He does not want any room for us to look at our salvation and say that we did any of that. Because we do not bring anything to the table! Jonathan Edwards once said that “The only thing that you contribute to your salvation is the sin that made it necessary.” We come to God with nothing, but it turns it into everything.
One of the most incredible pictures that the Bible paints of this idea is found in Jonah. A lot of us knows the story. God calls Jonah to Ninevah to preach, however, Jonah runs away from God. After God sends a storm and a fish to put Jonah back on the path He had originally called him to, Jonah finally reaches Ninevah. The Bible says Jonah gets a third of the way into the city, puts down his stuff, and begins to deliver his sermon. The only recorded words we have from Jonah is this, as the ESV reads, “Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown!” Now, I have heard some bad sermons in my life. Honestly, I have heard some terrible ones. But, I contend that this has to be the worst sermon in the history of sermons. He does not even tell them a thing! He does not mention God’s grace, His mercy, His love, or anything of the sort.
Yet, look what happens, “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” So, follow me here. Jonah’s sermon to the Ninevites in the original Hebrew is actually only four words. It is not even as kind as the 8 worded ESV gives it. So, basically it translates as “Forty days, Ninevah screwed”, or “Forty days, Ninevah decimated”. That is basically his whole sermon!
But, people are saved. And not just some people, the city as a whole! Jonah only went a third of the way in the city, probably just preached to a select number of people, and that in turn led to all of Ninevah being saved. The word ended up reaching the king and he called for all of Ninevah to repent and put on sackcloth and ashes (which signified repentance) and fast. Even the cows! And they did and God did not bring about His wrath upon them. The mission was accomplished.
Four words. Four words. That is all Jonah brought to table. But, like God always does, He takes our almost nothing and uses it in ways that we could never imagine. “Ninevah, forty days, destruction”. The worst sermon of all time. Yet, God used it to bring about salvation to a whole city.
In the same way, we do not bring much to the table. If you think you are awesome, then you probably are not. If you think that you are brilliant, then you probably are not. If you think that you are humble, then you need a dictionary. We cannot give God much. But, the amazing thing is that we do not have to. God is greater than all of shortcomings, all of our failures, all of our insufficiencies. There is grace for us. And if we just give God something? Man, He can turn it into something that we could never comprehend. That is the majesty of God. That is the grandeur of our Lord. That is the beauty of our Savior.
This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.