Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Ordinary People

Farm Couple

by Dennis Pollock

In our world we celebrate the extraordinary. Most of the leading men and women in our movies are extraordinarily good-looking. We watch baseball games, football games, and basketball games played by extraordinary athletes, who are able to do things on the court or on the field that ordinary people could never dream of. We download music sung by singers who can sing effortlessly with outstanding tone and pitch in a way that most of us regular folks could not match if we took music lessons eight hours a day for the next fifty years. We read biographies of businessmen who built billion dollar businesses, while most ordinary entrepreneurs struggle to simply make a profit, and consider any year in the black a major accomplishment. And we watch talk shows hosted by men and women who are not necessarily smart or beautiful or great singers, but who have been gifted with boatloads of personality. They make it look easy, but let any of us ordinary people try hosting a talk show before cameras that will air the program to millions of viewers, and we would soon find out just how difficult it is to be smooth, witty, and winsome on cue.

It is not much different in the church. We buy books and sermon series, and watch sermons on television by ministers who are exceptional speakers, preachers, and teachers, head and shoulders above the typical pastors who have led the small churches we have attended throughout our lives. And if we do attend a megachurch with a congregation that numbers in the thousands, we soon discover that there is a reason for the church’s large size. In most cases it is not necessarily that this particular church is in the throes of a heaven-sent revival. It is far more likely that the pastor is an outstanding speaker, or highly gifted administratively, or that the music program or the youth program is off the charts – or chances are, it’s all the above. As with all things in life, excellence and high levels of skill and diligence tend to bring about better results than mediocrity.

Us Regular Folks

The problem is that most people in this world and in the church are not extraordinary, at least not in any especially noticeable way. When it comes to appearance, the vast majority of us are not stunningly beautiful or handsome. People don’t gasp in amazement when they behold our faces. Despite the beauty shop and innumerable hair products and creams and lotions and pimple removers, we still look pretty much the way millions of others do – fairly common. Abraham Lincoln once said that God must surely love common looking people, since He made so many of them.

We all arrive in this world with differing abilities, but most of us will never play pro basketball, or become CEOs of major corporations, or pastor megachurches, or perform concerts before tens of thousands of people, or receive million dollar contracts from Hollywood film studios. No, most of us will live ordinary lives, marry ordinary-looking husbands or wives, work at ordinary jobs, live in ordinary houses, drive ordinary cars, worry about finances, shop at Walmart, go to garage sales, and eat at home far more than we eat out. And when we die we will not have thousands of people attending our funerals or lining the curbs to pay respects when our casket is driven through the streets. Our funerals will be an assembly of our families and a few friends, and there will be no paparazzi present to take anyone’s picture or report what famous people were in attendance.

Now this could be depressing if: 1) you remove God from the equation, and 2) the goal of your life was celebrity, fame, or exceptional achievement. But as Christians, we can never remove God from the equation. And when we read the Scriptures we find that God places a far greater premium on faithfulness than on being exceptional. This is not to say that there isn’t something exceptional about the life lived in Christ – far from it!

An Extraordinary Savior

First, we need to recognize that we serve a truly extraordinary Savior – and that is putting it mildly. When our Lord Jesus began His ministry at the young age of thirty, He went through the length and breadth of Israel healing lepers, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead. He immediately became a phenomenon in Israel such as that nation had never seen before – which is really saying something considering the numerous prophets and miracles that abounded in their illustrious history. Not only did Jesus heal, but He did things that people simply do not do, whether extraordinary or common. He walked on water and shut down violent storms with a word of command. And then of course, there was His birth. Our Lord Jesus was born of a woman that had never had relations with a man – something that is utterly impossible, apart from the miraculous hand of God.

Jesus walking on waterBut the greatest indicator of the truly extraordinary nature of Jesus was the fact that He never sinned. There was never an occasion where Jesus had to tell someone, “I’m sorry.” Nor was it ever necessary for Him to ask the Heavenly Father to forgive Him. He asked His critics an amazing question, one that none of us could ever ask anyone else with a straight face: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” In Hebrews we read, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Finally, there was His resurrection from the dead. After dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world, He was raised again three days later, and He still lives today.

People have died and been resuscitated, and as mentioned before, Jesus raised some from the dead, but no one ever died, was raised, and continued to live for the next two thousand years. No one but Jesus! In the Book of Revelation, He tells His servant John, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18). Our Lord Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, who is Himself God, and the only way by which we may come to the Heavenly Father. To use the word extraordinary in describing Jesus is a tremendous understatement!

Few would argue that Jesus was and is exceptional in the highest degree, but does that affect us in any way? Does that impact us as we seek to escape the bonds of mediocrity and see ourselves as something other than common? Indeed, it does. We are told in Scripture that to be born again through faith in Jesus is to receive the very nature of Jesus, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. We may not be exceptional or in any way extraordinary in and of ourselves, but a highly exceptional Person lives in us, and we can and should expect that flashes of His genius, His melting compassion, His wisdom, His love, and His patience will show forth in our lives. At first it may be mere hints of the Savior that shine out from us from time to time, but as we grow in Christ, those early trickles will grow into rivers of living water, dynamic, powerful, and touching the lives of those around us. Paul writes, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Talent Not Required

It is so encouraging to all us ordinary people to know that we do not need extraordinary talent for this to happen. Jesus Christ loves to make Himself known to the world through all of his people, the talented and the not so talented, the beautiful and the plain, the research scientist and the bricklayer, the white American and the African-American, and the African-African, and the Asian, and the Hispanic, and every other race of people.

In the heart of every man and woman lies the desire to make a difference in the world, to achieve some form of greatness, to rise above the level of the commonplace and the mediocre. There is nothing wrong with that desire. It is, in fact, God-given. But too often we suppose that we can achieve greatness through worldly success or through this world’s applause or attention. And so we dream our carnal, selfish, little dreams, make our ambitious plans, and dare to hope that one-day people will all know our faces and our names, and we will truly make our mark on this world.

But the applause and attention of this world can never truly satisfy the soul. We were made for something far greater than that. If you go deeper than simple human ambition and pride, God has placed within men and women a desire to truly make a difference through a life of faith and obedience to Him, and service toward others. When on the earth, Jesus pointed out a widow who dropped two small coins, pennies we might call them, into the temple offering box. Ironically, she is famous today, and the story of her small gift has been told many thousands of times in every nation where Christ is named. But in her own day she was far from famous. She was simply a poor little lady whose husband had died, which in those days was about as pitiful a situation as a woman could experience. In fact, she was so poor that Jesus declared those two pennies were all the money she had in the world.

Yet our Lord commended her and declared that she gave more than all the people who had been putting their offerings in the box that day. She gave precisely 100 percent of all she had to God, and Jesus seemed to feel that what she had done was a great thing. She didn’t look extraordinary, and had you asked the Jews to make a list of the twenty most extraordinary people in Jerusalem, she would not have received even one vote. But in the mind of God she was an exceptional woman. Her devotion to God rose to a level vastly beyond that of all the rich and famous so highly respected among the people.

Inner Extraordinary

Sometimes we mistake spectacular for God’s view of extraordinary. If someone’s ability to speak, or to shoot a basketball through a hoop from twenty-five feet, or their looks, or their achievements rises to the top one tenth of one percent, we perceive them as extraordinary. And of course, in human terms, that is exactly what they are. But in the mind of God, the life of a man or a woman fully devoted to Him is extraordinary. And sometimes it is the quiet achievements that rank highest with God. That elderly couple who have been married and been faithful to each other for fifty years probably rank far higher on God’s extraordinary meter than the superstar entertainer who is beautiful to look at and sings like an angel, but can’t remain married to the same spouse for two years. That struggling pastor who has faithfully led his small country church for the last thirty years, endured criticism, put out fires, weathered controversies, and patiently demonstrated the love of Jesus to all his people, may be, in the eyes of God, far more extraordinary than the megachurch pastor who is a dynamic speaker, has grown an enormous church, but focuses far more on church growth and polished presentations than on abiding in Jesus.

Around two thousand years ago an angel appeared to a young woman named Mary who was, at first glance, not at all extraordinary and was certainly not famous. She had done nothing particularly spectacular during her few years on earth. But she was informed by the angel, “You have found favor with God.” Beneath her common and ordinary exterior there must have been something truly extraordinary about the character, the humility, the devotion to God in Mary that heaven had noticed. Ordinary? Yes, in a way she was quite ordinary. But in another sense she was an amazing young lady, so amazing that the Creator of heaven and earth hand-picked her to be the mother of His only begotten Son.

God’s people are like that. To the casual eye, they really don’t appear to be anything special. They live quietly and responsibly, they work diligently at their jobs, they don’t cause trouble and aren’t known for their flashy clothes, boisterous ways, biting sarcasm, or expensive tastes. To use Micah’s words, they do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. But if you spend much time with them, you’ll probably hear about their Savior, and before you know it you may end up trusting in Him yourself, and receiving the priceless gift of eternal life. And that is truly extraordinary!


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