Do You Feel Inferior?February 1, 2021 Save Article
You need a proper assessment of your worth. What are you worth to God? Do you have anything to offer Him? Do you sometimes feel foolish? Weak? Despised? This study will give you a way to accurately assess yourself in the light of God’s Word and His principles. What does He say about you? What does He expect from you?
…not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
You’ve heard the old punch line, “You don’t have an inferiority complex—you’re just inferior.” Many of us struggle with inferiority, and if you do, it’s not funny. We feel so inferior, we’re convinced “God can’t use me.”
Through this study in His Word, may God remove such thoughts from your mind. He can and will use you, beginning now, right where you are, and with what you have.
In the above passage from his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes the people God cannot use. Notice how he describes them:
Those who are wise “according to the flesh”
Then Paul lists the 5 types of people God chooses to use instead.
- Who are they?
To us, this sounds strangely counterintuitive. If you’re God and you’re putting together a winning team, who do you want on it? The mighty, noble, and wise. The last people you would choose for your team are the weak, foolish, base and despised. What does “base” mean, after all? And what are “things which are not”? We’ll look at these one by one and then examine why God would choose them over the standouts in society.
God uses simple people.
The word “foolish” in this Bible passage comes from a Greek word meaning the nonintellectual, those who weren’t at the head of the class, the PhDs or Phi Beta Kappas. God chooses the simple to confound the wise. He’s not out searching for philosophers to enlist.
Having said that, notice what Paul doesn’t say. He doesn’t say “any” mighty or noble. He says “not many.” Thank God for the PhDs, millionaires, movie stars, and athletes who love Jesus. God does use extraordinary, brilliant people, and thank God He does. Paul himself was one of the mighty, the noble, a Pharisee, a learned man. God took his brilliance and used it.
But before God could use Paul, He needed to bring Paul to a place where he counted all his accomplishments as nothing: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
In Paul’s life, the trophies and awards of the world were “lost,” no longer his focus, for the knowledge of Jesus. He laid all his accomplishments in the dust before the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Some other unlearned or often troublesome people were greatly used by God. They spoke or wrote prophetically, and the writings of some of them became part of the canon of Scripture. Who are they?
God uses weak people.
The word for “weak” in 1 Corinthians literally means those who are physically weak, without strength, even sickly. God can use those to confound the mighty. I learned an unforgettable example of this when I spoke with a young college student who came forward to profess faith in Jesus Christ at the church I pastored in Merritt Island, Florida.
The week before he came forward, we had held what we called “The Week of Champions.” We rented the high school auditorium and brought the best athletes we knew from all over the United States, people from Athletes in Action, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, professional football players—it was a great week. I asked the young man, “When were you saved?” He answered, “During the Week of Champions.” I asked, “What night?” He replied, “The night Paul Anderson spoke.”
Paul Anderson was known internationally as “The World’s Strongest Man.” He had won an Olympic gold medal for weightlifting and was in the Guinness Book of World records. He had a great testimony. I asked, “What was it Paul Anderson said that really impressed you?” The young man said, “I don't even remember what Paul Anderson said.” Then he mentioned another man’s name—a name I didn’t know.
I tried to figure out which athlete he was. Where had he come from? Then I remembered he wasn't an athlete at all; he wasn't even on the program. We’d had a time of open testimony, and during that time a paraplegic in a wheelchair rolled himself forward. He couldn't get on the platform, so some men took the wheelchair and lifted him up. He wheeled around and with a face shining like the noonday sun he talked about his faith, his love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and the joy he had in Jesus.
The college student said, “When I saw that man, when I saw his joy, the reality of Jesus Christ in him, I said to myself, ‘That’s reality. If God can do that for that man, maybe He can do something for me,’ and I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.”
I’ve never gotten over that. In the auditorium that night was the strongest man in the world, and God used a paraplegic in a wheelchair to bring a college student to Jesus. “God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty” (v. 27).
Many of us believe we’re unimportant, of little value to God and His kingdom—we're on the sidelines while the superstars get out there and do their stuff. Not so. God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things through them, thereby bringing more glory to Himself! God uses the non-superstars to confound the All-Americans.
God has been looking for people just like you. In fact, God actually goes after them. You see, God’s plan, the one that brings Him the most glory, is to use the weak things of this world to confound the wise. If you’re listed in “Who’s Who” or voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” God can still use you, but He'll have to work a little bit harder to do it. Think about that.
God uses “base” things.
“Base” means lacking higher quality, ignoble (the opposite of noble), of comparatively low value, having relatively inferior properties. The world looks down on those they see as “base.” They lack the proper pedigree. They’re from the wrong side of the tracks. Those are exactly the people God uses.
Take Gideon, for example. (See Judges 6-8.) He was hiding out from the Midianites, hoping to stay off their radar, sneaking around on the threshing floor, when the angel of the Lord appeared saying, “Hail, mighty man of valor!” Of all things Gideon wasn’t, it was a “mighty man of valor.” He was a chicken with a capital C.
He protested to the angel, “My family is the poorest in Manasseh and I’m the least in my father's house. I'm the runt of the litter. You’ve hit the bottom of the barrel—you can't use me.” But it’s likely God was thinking, “You're just about low enough that I can use you.” Why else would He appear to a man so devoid of initiative and courage?
Gideon was a shrinking violet, but God knew what He could do with Gideon. To this frightened man “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” (Judges 6:34). One translation says the Lord “clothed Himself with Gideon.” God wore Gideon like you’d wear a jacket, and it wasn't Gideon’s talents, it was God in Gideon who took an ordinary man and did extraordinary things. And who got the glory? God.
This is what Paul meant when he said God uses the “base” things of the world. God used ordinary fishermen to change the world. He used a Jewish tax collector—a sellout to Rome—to write the first Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- What unlikely characters in the Bible do you recall God using to bring Him glory? Here are three. Who were they? What did they do?
- One of the most famous of all “base people” is the man described in Luke 3:16 and John 1:27. He openly admitted he was unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals (Luke 3:16). Who was he?
- The religious leaders of his day thought of him as an oddity—almost a circus act. Yet Jesus said of him, “among those born of women, there has not risen one greater than” this man. What does this tell you about the world’s opinion concerning your worth?
God uses the despised.
Those whom the world scorns and laughs at, God has chosen. Remember, as a teenager, David was despised and even mocked by his own brothers when he took on Goliath. David’s sole motivation was for Jehovah’s enemies to know “there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46). A youth goes against Goliath, wins the victory, and everyone says, “To God be the glory.” David is a perfect example of God using a person willing to be made fun of by his peers to bring victory and glory to God.
- What would have happened if Israel had had its own giant to go against Goliath and defeat him? Would God have gotten the glory?
- Have you known people like this? Not people who became nationally famous, but people who disregarded the reactions of others and followed their own vision anyway? Perhaps this has happened in your own life. Write about the circumstance here.
God uses things which are not.
These are God's little nobodies who are really somebodies. They're the people no one else knows about, ordinary people who never get mentioned, but God knows about these precious people.
Maybe you didn't even come up to the level of being despised or ridiculed. You feel invisible. You think you’re so insignificant, you say, “It's not that they hate me; they don't even know I'm here.” You didn't make Who’s Who. You didn't even make “Who’s Not.” There’s good news for you. You’re included in Paul’s list. God still can and will use you.
Many people never sing a solo, never preach a sermon, never get their names in the church bulletin, don't even get to lead in silent prayer in the nursery. Nobody knows about them, yet God uses the insignificant to flip things around and bring to nothing what people think of as “something.” Many people the world view as so important, the Bible says are just passing away.
- Scripture calls out some things we think are vitally important, but on this earth are only fleeting. Here are a few examples. What are they?
Billy Sunday was a famed evangelist in the early 1900s. He was the Billy Graham of his day. But unlike Billy Graham, who was cultured, educated, and intellectual, Sunday was an ex‑baseball player and a YMCA desk clerk who was about as uncouth as you could get. He did weird things in the pulpit—like backflips to illustrate repentance. His biographer called him, “God’s joke on the ministry.” Yet Billy Sunday won over a million people to Jesus Christ. I think God chose Billy Sunday to show that He could take someone the world would call foolish, yet loved God, and infuse him with His mighty power. It doesn't take much of a person to be a Christian, it just takes all there is of that person. But there’s more to the story.
Everyone knows the name Billy Graham, but if you trace the story of how Billy Graham got saved, it goes all the way back to an obscure Sunday school teacher named Mr. Edward Kimball. Is he a household name? He was one of those “which are not.”
In his faithfulness to witness, Mr. Kimball won Dwight L Moody, a young shoe clerk, to the Lord.
Most Christians have heard of Dwight L. Moody. He became a famed evangelist in the early 1900s, so famous in the United States he was invited to England to preach. There Moody’s message and approach to soul-winning changed the life of an elegant, intellectual, refined minister—the opposite of Moody—Frederick Brotherton Meyer.
Meyer’s ministry was transformed. He came to the United States and one day was speaking to students at a Bible college. Many were downcast, ready to throw in the towel. Meyer said to them, “Are you discouraged? Ready to quit? If you're not willing to give everything to Jesus Christ, would you at least be honest with God and tell Him, ‘Lord, I’m not willing, but I’m willing to be made willing’?”
A young man with great ability, Wilbur Chapman, was sitting there. He prayed, “God, that’s me. I haven’t been willing, but O God, make me willing,” and Wilbur Chapman became a dynamic evangelist, teaching the gospel of Christ across America. The story’s not over.
One of those Chapman worked with and mentored was Billy Sunday, whose powerful revival in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a prayer group. The group called Mordecai Ham to Charlotte to hold a revival. It was at that crusade that a boy from a dairy farm, a tall, lanky teenager named Billy Graham, gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ.
Few know the name of obscure Sunday School teacher Mr. Kimball, but I guarantee you God knows his name. From Kimball to Moody, to Meyer, to Chapman, to Sunday, to Mordecai Ham, to Billy Graham, the chain of influence went from one “who is not” to perhaps the world’s greatest evangelist. Millions were saved. And all those men in between had a huge impact in their own right.
Thank God for the notables who love Jesus. Paul himself was one of the most brilliant men of his generation. But before God could use him, Paul had been brought to the place where he could truthfully say, “I count all these things but loss that I might win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). He laid his all in the dust before the Lord Jesus Christ.
No matter what abilities you have, every nerve, every sinew, must be given to God. Anything less is not enough for the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s all by God’s power.
Look again at 1 Corinthians 1:30-31: “But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’”
You see, you are in Christ, Christ is in you, and anything you lack (wisdom, righteousness, etc.), Jesus supplies (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). I may be ordinary, but He is extraordinary. He is in me, and He does it through me.
One of the greatest secrets I ever learned came after I was already in the ministry: God doesn't want me to do anything for Him. He wants to do something through me.
This is a fundamental truth: God wants to do something through you. People say, “Well I just serve God in my poor little ole weak way.” I feel like saying, “Well, quit it.” He doesn't want you to serve Him in your poor little ole weak way. He wants you to serve Him in His mighty, glorious, dynamic way. The Bible says, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Do you know what the greatest ability is? Availability! We need to make ourselves available to God and say,
Dear God, I'm tired of being inhibited. I want to be inhabited. Come inhabit my humanity and live Your life through me. Then I can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
That's what God is about: taking ordinary people, doing extraordinary things through them, and getting glory to Himself, like Mr. Kimball of Boston.
God knows you Sunday school teachers, ushers, people in the sound booth, and in the nursery. Not a cup of cold water will be given that He doesn’t notice. Friend, God is keeping score.
God’s Sovereign Purpose
God takes the nobodies, who are really God's somebodies, and uses them in an extraordinary way.
- Why does He do this? See verse 29 in our passage from 1 Corinthians 1 for the answer.
- Why does God save us by grace rather than our works? (See Ephesians 2:8.)
There won’t be any peacocks in heaven—no human ones, at least. God will judge you on whether or not you filled that place He had for you. What is that place? It’s the highest place in the world. It’s not being Billy Graham or a Christian “superstar.” It’s being in the center of His will for you, wherever that is.
Do you sometimes think to yourself, “I have more ability than someone else”? That may be an honest assessment; we all have abilities in specific areas that are better than other persons’ and vice-versa.
- See Luke 12:48. What does this verse say to you about your responsibility regarding your gifts?
- In verses 42-48 of Luke 12, Jesus describes a somber situation. How does this speak into your life?
Teaching His disciples, Jesus told them “The Parable of the Ten Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30. In the original language, the word “talents” refers not to gifts and abilities, though the principles in this story could certainly apply to them, but “talents” means a specific amount of money. Where you see the word “talents,” substitute the idea of gold coins.
- Read Matthew 25:14-30.
- In the story, how did the master distribute the responsibilities?
- What was the master expecting?
- Upon his return, the master doesn’t refer to the last servant as incapable. What two words did he use to describe him? (v. 26)?
- How does God expect us to handle what He has given us?
- For the epilogue of this story of opportunity lost, read verses 29 and 30. What does this say to you?
Dear friend, when God comes to judge you, He will judge you on whether or not you filled the place He had for you. What is that place? What is the highest place in the world? It is not being Billy Graham or the pastor of a church or writing a best-seller. The highest place for each one of us is the center of God’s will, wherever that is.
If you want to be used by God, you can be. You may not be used the way you want to be. You don't choose your place of service. You make yourself available to Him. The greatest ability is availability. What matters is, are you willing to be used the way God wants to use you?
Here is what I so often pray. Whether you are known or unknown, mighty or weak, base or noble, if you can pray this and mean it, you’ll be used mightily of God.
“Lord Jesus, inhabit my humanity. Do what You want to do in me. I am available. I yield myself to You, dear God, to do, be, say, and think what You want me to.”
Don't insult the grace of God by saying God can’t use you. God has been looking for somebody just like you.
This Bible Study was taken from the message, "Inferiority" (#1155).
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.
Learn more about this subject by reading Mastering Your Emotions by Adrian Rogers.