HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL NOBODY
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Years ago a very famous organist was giving a recital on a new organ. The wind was pumped by a small boy behind a screen. The boy pumped his heart out at this recital, and he was glad for the intermission half way through the program. Out in the vestry of the church the boy looked up at the great organist and said, "Aren't we wonderful?" Chilled with pride the iceberg responded, "Who's we?" Saddened, the lad returned to his pump for the climax of the recital. The organist pressed the keys for the opening cord, but only silence came from the majestic pipes. The signal must have failed the organist thought, and so he repeated it and then pressed again for the thunder to come. No thunder came. There was only a small voice from behind the screen saying, "Now who's we?"
We make a great blunder in life if we fail to recognize the importance of obscure, behind the scenes people. Ida Tarbell, in the biography of many famous persons, was asked on her 80th birthday to name the greatest people she had ever met, and she replied, "Those nobody knows anything about." Some of the greatest and famous people in the history book of God are obscure nobodies in the history books of men. Sometimes it happens that obscurity is a blessing because it leaves a person free to give their life in service rather than in display. The poet put it-
I'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us-don't tell! They'd banish us you know.
How dreary to be somebody! How public like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day to an admiring bog.
This can be a false sense of humility, and an excuse for not doing your best. If we are going to be famous before God, even though obscure and unknown before men, we have to learn some basic truths about what our responsibility is, and what God can do through us. We can learn these truths very simply by looking at the obscure little lad whose 5 loaves and 2 fish were the resource used for one of the greatest of all miracles. We know very little about him, but that little can make a big difference in our lives. All we know is that he had some loaves and fish, but two important truths stand out, which become principles for life. First-
I. WHAT HE HAD WAS MADE AVAILABLE-HE GAVE IT.
The question is not, how much do you have, but is what you have available? You don't have to have great wealth and ability to be famous with God, and useful to man. The widow had only a mite, but in giving it she made all she had available for God's use, and this made her great in the eyes of Christ. We know very little about one of the most famous persons in the Bible-the Good Samaritan. We don't even know his name. We don't know what he had in the way of material possessions. All we know is that what he had was available. He had time, compassion, and some degree of wealth, and God used him. Others pass by who may have had more, but having is not the secret of blessedness, but giving is.
A lad with 5 loaves and 2 fish is not endowed with great resources. "What are these among so many?" We often feel that our talents and abilities are so few that it is futile to offer them in God's service. The problems and needs are so vast that the magnitude of them overwhelms us. We look at our gifts and say, "What are these among so many?" We forget this basic truth that it is not just our ability that counts, but our availability. God does not ask for what you do not have. He only asks that you give what you have. Jesus did not expect the lad to feed the five thousand. All He needed was for the boy to give what he had. It is up to us to do our best, and up to Christ to do the rest.
Be unselfish with whatever you do have, and you will be a famous giver in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of those who benefit from your making what you have available. Marion Simms in Your Life told the story of a girl who wanted to give her older sister a birthday gift, but she had no money in her bank. But that did not stump her, for the really unselfish person always has something to give. When her sister opened her package she found an envelope tied with a ribbon. Inside were three colored slips of paper with a gift printed on each. Good for two dish washings. Good for two bed makings. Good for two kitchen scrubbings. These were among her most welcome birthday surprises. Like the little lad, this little lass didn't have much, but what she had she made available, and she gave it. People are not equal in what they have, but they can be equal in making what they have available, and this is the key to being great in the eyes of God. Next we want to see that-
II. WHAT HE HAD WAS MADE ADEQUATE-CHRIST USED IT.
If we make what we have available, Christ will make it adequate. God has built the process of magnifying the small and insignificant into the adequate right into His creation. Give a seed to God's earth that could not even feed a bird, and it will be multiplied and made adequate for feeding a flock of birds. A grain of wheat given to the earth, and its fruit in turn given to the earth, and constantly reinvested could eventually produce bread to feed 5 thousand, and even 5 million. God can take our small investment, and our weak and inadequate gifts and use them to be a blessing to many.
Longfellow said, "Give what you have to someone. It may be better than you dare to think." Certainly this lad had no idea what Jesus could do with his little lunch, and we have no idea what He may do with what little we have if we make it available to Him. Whatever you are, and whatever you have, Christ can make it adequate for blessing the world. We need to believe this, and not cling to our gifts and abilities and selfishness. We need to make them available for the glory of God and the good of man, as did this obscure little lad who became famous in God's history book.
A pilot of an American airline DC-6 was flying 21,000 feet over the Colorado Rockies when his plane threw a propeller which crashed through the fuselage and ripped the engine from the wing. With half the controls gone he brought it into Denver for an emergency landing. A reporter at the scene asked him what He did. He said, "In a situation like that you just move over a little bit and let God take over." None of us have enough to journey through this life and be a success for God. All of us have at least one engine missing if not more. We need to learn this lesson to move over a bit and let God take over. The lad made what he had available, and Jesus made it adequate. We need to do the same if we want to have the only fame that really matters.
Jesus adds His infinite resources to our inadequate resources to make the adequate, but He demands that we yield, and make our little available. He does not ask of anyone what is impossible. He asks only for what you can give if you will. There were a lot of famous people in the world of that day when Jesus fed the multitude. Possibly some of them were even in the crowd. They may have been household names in their community, but it was this obscure and unknown lad who had the resource that Jesus needed. Everyone of us has some resource that Christ needs to accomplish certain goals, and only as we make them available can the task be done.
Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God's heritage
Can do it so well as you.
I wonder how many of us ever realize that Jesus needs what we have. Billy Graham will not reach those that God wants you to reach. All the books, radio, and TV in the world will not do what God wants to do through you.
Jonah was a poor specimen of a prophet. He was narrow, prejudice, and rebellious, but God needed him, and he used him, and made him adequate for the task He wanted to get done. God does not use all rebels in spite of themselves, however. He usually demands their cooperation, and demands that they make themselves available. The poet said, "And Gideon was nothing, Was nothing in the fray, But just a suit of working clothes The Spirit wore that day." He was a successful nobody because he made himself available to the God who can make anybody adequate to fulfill His purpose.
All of us feel inadequate, and rightly so, for the fact is, we are inadequate. Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing. Without Christ we are nobodies accomplishing nothing. But with Christ we can all be somebody's who are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Just as 5 loaves and 2 fish can be enough for 5000 lunches if they are yielded to Christ, so our inadequate lives can be enough to accomplish God's will if they are yielded to Him. The constant challenge of the Christian is to surrender his inadequate little so that Christ can make it an adequate much.
Walter Wilson was converted in 1896 and became a lover of Scripture, and a diligent distributor of tracts. Much effort, however, produced little result. There was no apparent success following his zealous labors. He was troubled by it, but others told him not to look for results, but just sow the seed. No farmer could be persuaded that he is being successful if he just sowed seed and never saw a crop. Wilson remained troubled by his ineffectiveness.
In 1914 he went to hear Dr. James A. Gray, who later became president of Moody Bible Institute. He preached on Rom. 12:1, and he challenged Christians to present their bodies a living sacrifice as a place for the Holy Spirit to dwell on earth. Wilson yielded what he had to God, and this is what he wrote: "There, in the quiet of that late hour, I said to the Holy Spirit, My Lord, I have mistreated you all my Christian life. I have treated you like a servant. When I wanted you I called for you; when I was about to engage in some work I beckoned you to come and help me perform my task. I have kept you in the place of a servant. I have sought to use you only as a willing servant to help me in my self-appointed and chosen work. I shall do so no more. Just now I give you this body of mine; from my head to my feet, I give it to you. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain; all that I am within and without I hand over to you for you to live in it the life that you please."
Walter Wilson became a great example of one who made himself available. Jesus took His inadequate and ineffective life and began to feed the multitude. One day two young ladies came to his office to sell advertising, and before they left he had led them a commitment to Christ. From then on soul-winning was a common everyday part of his life. He walked into a book store, and as he purchased a book he shared his love for Christ with the dealer. He asked if he would like to know Christ as Savior? The man said he had searched for years to know God, and he was anxious to know how to find Him. Wilson led him to receive Christ. He went on to be used of God as a beloved physician, preacher, and author in Kansas City. He was made adequate because he made himself available to be used by Christ.
We are the bread Jesus wants to multiply to feed the hungry world. If we are yielded like a loaf in His hands, He can expand us and make us adequate to meet the needs of those who are starving for the bread of life. The work of the kingdom is being done by many thousands who will never be known outside of a very small circle. Nevertheless, they are successful nobody's because they have made what they have available, and Christ has made it adequate for touching those lives in their circle.
The key to being a successful nobody is to recognize that you are really somebody. It is one of life's greatest tragedies when people think they are worthless. It is a false view of man's worth in general that leads even Christians to put themselves down. The disciples of Jesus needed to learn this lesson. They had their value system of who was important, and who was not. The only problem is that it did not fit the value system of Jesus, and so they had to junk it. They said that kids were a pain and a nuisance, and they hindered the more important things of life getting done. Jesus rebuked them, and He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus was saying that they are not only the future of Israel, but they are the future of forever, and they are of eternal and infinite value. They were a bunch of little nobody's, but Jesus said you would be better off never to have been born than to cause one of these little nobody's to stumble and miss the kingdom.
Jesus had to teach them that the Samaritans were not worthless scum, and that the Gentiles were not dogs of no value. One of the greatest battles of all time is that of trying to get into the heads of God's people that there are no nobody's. Everybody is somebody to God and because of it C.S. Lewis wrote-It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship." Everyone you think of as a mere nobody can be one of everlasting splendor in Christ.
The biblical record is loaded with nobody's who are only known in this world because they made their little available to God. In I Kings 17 we read that Elijah came to a widow who had a hand full of meal and a little oil, and she was about to make her last meal for her and her son, and then die. She shared her little with Elijah, and God blessed her, and the grain and oil never ran out, but kept multiplying to meet her needs. She made what she had available, and God made it adequate. The New Testament owner of the colt that Jesus used for Palm Sunday is another example. It was not much of a sacrifice to let someone use your colt for a few hours, but because he did make it available Jesus used his colt for fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. It was a small favor that Jesus used for a major fulfillment of prophecy.
Jesus wants to do major things with our puny powers, tiny tools, and trivial treasures. That way He gets the glory for doing what only God can do, but we get the joy of being partners by doing what we can do. Without God we can't do it, but without us He won't do it. There must be a willing partner who will make his little available before God will make it adequate.
God can even use the negatives in your life for blessings to others. A great example is found in the diary of Anne Taylor. She was a Quaker servant girl who was raped on her way from England to America. She tells of how she ran to Henrietta Best and collapsed in her arms in the fold of the ship. She breathed in horror that she had been raped. "Hush," said Henrietta, "it happened to me too." She shared how decades before she had been raped by soldiers in France. Anne wrote in her diary, "Those words saved my life and my reason. What resurrected me was her love and her understanding, which, clearly, were the fruit of her own suffering; she could identify with me without pious pretense. When she consoled me and took me in her arms, I experienced the presence of God."
Henrietta gave her what she had, and though it was not much, it was adequate to meet the need. It was enough so that Anne could gain the victory over her own suffering, and go on to live for Christ and serve others. Henrietta was a nobody in the world, but she was God's gift to Anne, and who knows but God how many other suffering children of God needed her love and comfort? Everybody is somebody when they are a channel of God's love.
Most of the trouble of the world is caused by people trying to become important, and most of the blessings of the world are caused by people trying to be useful. Jesus was tempted to become important by jumping off the temple, but He chose to be useful. All of His miracles were done to help people solve a problem or meet a need. Our goal in life is to be like Him and seek to be useful in being a blessing to others. This is the road to success in God's book. We may not have much to work with, just as the little lad did not, but if we make what we have available, Jesus can make it adequate, and we can become successful nobodies. You have no idea what Jesus might do with your resources if you yield them to Him. That little boy would have laughed at you had you told him that God would do great things with his lunch that day. We need to learn that little is much when we make it available to Christ.
Mary Millis was a poor housemaid in an English nobleman's home. The son was being allowed to grow up with no knowledge of the Bible, and so Mary taught the boy to read the Bible and to put his trust in Jesus. That boy grew up to become Lord Shaftesbury. He changed the course of England's history by fighting for laws that protected children from working 12 hour days in coal mines. He helped establish schools all over England. He brought about prison reform, and changed the attitude of a nation in many ways. He became somebody in the world because of a nobody who was somebody yielded to God, and who yielded what little she had to her Lord, and it was enough.
Another Mary was a tiny Chinese slave girl named Mary Liu. She was just a worthless nobody to her mistress who threw her away on a dung heap to die. Her feet were nearly burned away, and her hands were hopelessly crippled. A missionary heard her pathetic cries and rescued her. She was taken to a hospital where they amputated her feet and fingers. Wooden feet were made, and she was given a lot of love. What could such a person give in return? This poor little nobody with such a damaged body became the editor of two Christian magazines called The Messenger and The Star. She made what she had available and Jesus made it adequate to feed far more than five thousand with the bread of life.
If you ever feel like a nobody with very little to offer for the kingdom of God, do not despair. You are just what Jesus is looking for to demonstrate again, as He has all through history, that He loves to make much of little. He did it with the lad and his lunch, and He will do it with any of us who give what we have for Him to use. This is the key to becoming a successful nobody, which means one who is somebody in the eyes of God.