Ordinary, Flawed Giants

I’m sure you want to make some sort of difference in the world. I can actually very safely assume that’s the case. But if you’re anything like me, it’s really easy to think that living a big, impactful life is reserved only for some “elite” type of person. It’s true Bill Gates dropped out of school, but the school was Harvard and he scored a 1590 (out of 1600) on his SAT.

I’ve been reading through this big book on the history of the church for a class, and one of the most striking similarities I’ve noticed among the history-changers has nothing at all to do with their intelligence. Instead, I’ve seen how much they messed up and how ordinary they were.

These people all had a huge impactful on the world:

  • Paul (the Apostle)
  • Augustine
  • Martin Luther
  • John Calvin

I could continue to go on and list more people, but these four will do for my point. Think about these people. I bet even if you aren’t a Christian you have at least heard of most of these men. They did giant, awesome, great things. Paul wrote a huge part of the New Testament. Augustine was a major champion of grace and became one of the “Church Fathers” while also leading the way in theology. Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to a church door, changing the whole dynamics of Christianity forever. He also saw how the Bible teaches that man is justified by faith, not works. John Calvin, regardless of if we agree with his findings, carried on the reformation in a huge way.

But those things are obvious. We know these men did big things. What many fail to remember is how flawed and human they were. Paul played a major role in killing early Christians, perhaps most notably with the martyr Stephen. Augustine “found sexual temptations irresistible” and had a child out of wedlock before becoming a believer. Luther was just a man who had all intentions of becoming a lawyer (because his father wanted him to), then became a  quiet monk. Calvin was, in his own words, “by nature a bit antisocial and shy.”

To me, learning such facts has been the most comforting thing in the world. Four of the biggest pillars of Christianity all experienced making enormous mistakes and erred tremendously in some of the most important areas of life. Yet, somehow, they made such a difference. Some of their mistakes were monumental while others were quite simple, like being afraid. I can relate with that. I’m sure you can, too.

I guess what I’m continuing to realize is how strong God’s grace is and how much He wants to work with us. Even the “giants” fell, yet He picked them up so they could build.

I think it is way too easy to write off doing some sort of “big” thing because we/I “just don’t have what it takes.” Well, honestly, these men didn’t either. Instead of being fearful or downtrodden on ourselves, I pray we can see with what kind of broken people God has used in the past and decide we want to follow in these ordinary giants’ footsteps.

4 thoughts on “Ordinary, Flawed Giants”

  1. Thank you for this. When attempting to do even little things, I have to trust God’s strength, not my limiting self-talk. And even if I never do anything considered “great”, I can do small things with great love – i think Mother Theresa said that.

  2. It is motivating to realize God uses mere mortals–it’s actually his chosen medium for now. Thanks for tracing this through church history. I also like how you point out the role of grace awakening in these believers’ lives. They were all champions of the doctrine of grace and, as you showed, they were trophies of God’s grace as He worked through their flaws.

  3. In re-reading this blog, I was reminded of something. It is true that God uses extremely flawed people to do His work. But more importantly…He ONLY uses flawed people, and He uses them for a very specific reason.

    1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
    And then Paul ends that thought on this note: :31 – Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the lord.”

    What we attempt for God reveals what we believe about God. If it IS God working through us, if the power of God through the Holy Spirit is within us now, then we will step out in faith every day and do the big things.

    Zak: again, keep writing, brother!

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