Does God Really Qualify the Called?

952342837_926ed79253_zSome things seem like a really good idea at the time, but later we realize how dumb they really were.

Like attempting to surf an ironing board down a concrete stairwell.

Likewise, some quotes and clichés seem really profound when we first hear them, but upon later reflection, they don’t really make much sense.

Like this one:

“God doesn’t call the qualified! He qualifies the called!”

I’ve heard it many times. Almost always in a sermon. And almost always as an encouragement for someone to do something for God.

It’s poetic. It’s nicely balanced. It even seems deeply spiritual, as if God is thumbing his nose at a cloister of theologians with clipboards and checklists.

I even think I know what it really means. (I’ll get to it at the end of this post.)

But does it actually make any sense?

God doesn’t call the qualified!

Really? He doesn’t call qualified people to do things?

For the moment, let’s set aside the pedantic observation that God’s calling in Scripture almost always refers to the act by which he draws people to Christ (e.g. Romans 8:30; Ephesians 4:1), and we’ll try to take it the way it’s probably meant. In our cliché, I think calling means inviting, asking, or even commanding some form of Christian service.

But still, he doesn’t do this for qualified people?

I started thinking about this while reading 1 Chronicles 26:6-8, where the Lord notes that the gatekeepers of the Temple were men with the strength and ability for their task.

Then there’s 1 Timothy 3:1-7 or Titus 1:5-9, where Paul gives Timothy and Titus the divine qualifications for men who would be pastors of churches. Most people today would say that’s a calling!

And what about the Apostle Paul himself? Did his legal mind have nothing to do with the way he wrote the letter to the Romans? Did his Jewish education have nothing to do with the way he preached Jesus in the synagogues? Was this “Hebrew of the Hebrews” not the ideal candidate to preach the Gospel that united Jew and Gentile under Christ?

I suppose we could say that God gave these men everything that qualified them for their callings, but then we’d also have to say that he called the qualified. Or…

…Does God Qualify the Called?

In each of our examples above, the men were qualified before they were called, so it seems like that’s the normal order of things.

But there’s a little more to it.

When God gives the qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, he follows it with qualifications for deacons in vv. 8-13. In verse 10, he specifically says that a man’s qualifications should be demonstrated before the church entrusts him with such an office.

Similarly, Jesus offers numerous parables that show how God tests a person before giving them responsibility. We can summarize the parables with the proverb, “He that is faithful in little shall be faithful in much.” (e.g. Luke 16:10)

Of course, we have to ask the reverse question: Does God call the unqualified?

It’s a legitimate question, for if God doesn’t call qualified people but only qualifies the called, then he must be calling unqualified people!

At first this is a little silly, and we can imagine what might happen if a polygamist said he was called to be a pastor, despite God saying that a pastor must be the “husband of one wife.” (1 Timothy 3:2)

But it gets serious when men and women respond to guilt or pressure and feel like they have to do something that God has not equipped them to do!

Like the guy who surrenders his life to God and feels like he should become a preacher, despite the fact that he has no gift for public speaking.

Speaking of Moses…

In Exodus 4:1-17, Moses argues with God. He attempts to convince God that he is not the right person to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He finally pleads a speech impediment, and God basically says, “I made you the way that you are. Now go do what I’ve told you to do!”

Verse 14 actually says that God got angry with Moses. That’s because Moses kept saying “I can’t,” when God knew what he really meant was “I won’t.”

That’s a big difference.

And I think that’s where this cliché came from.

Too often, Christians find themselves unwilling to do what they know God wants them to do, and they search for excuses. We look down the road as far as we can see, and frankly, it looks difficult.

Too difficult!

“God, I can’t.”

“God, I’m not qualified!”

There’s our escape hatch. Surely God wouldn’t want an unqualified person serving him in the church, any more than we would want an unqualified person running the forklift at the warehouse.

So, preachers – in an attempt to be helpful – have tried to eliminate that excuse. In effect, the cliché is trying to say: “If God wants you to do something, he’ll give you all the strength you need to do it. It’s not your lack of qualification that’s holding you back; it’s your lack of faith.”

And a lot of times, they’re right.

The truth is, just like God said to Moses, God has made us exactly the way we are. He has given us personalities, gifts, strengths, talents, and even orchestrated our experiences so that we are who we are right now.

The point is that whatever God leads us to do, he has already qualified us!

If we fail to meet the qualifications that Scripture lays out for us, I’d say he’s not calling us!

But where Scripture clearly indicates we should be serving – evangelism, discipleship, hospitality, etc. – we can be confident that God has equipped us to do exactly what he wants us to do, exactly how and when he wants us to do it.

He’s good like that.

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3 Responses to Does God Really Qualify the Called?

  1. Joe Pham says:

    As stated in your well articulated article, people don’t respond to the call of God for many reasons, most notably is their lack of faith. I still agree that God qualifies the called. Bible says many are called but few are chosen. “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;”‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬. The problem I often see is the passing of judgments of peers that limit one’s perspective about oneself which often discourage us from fulfilling the call of God in our lives. Look to Peter and John. Acts 4:13. People judge them for their lack of qualifications. The bottom line is, what God says about us supersedes what other people say. If we live our lives based on what people say about us, we’ll never go far and we’ll never reach our full potential.

    • Thanks for your comment, and I think I agree with what you’re saying. The only point I’d raise is that we’re talking about a different sort of calling than the Scriptures you quoted. And, in my opinion, the two Scriptures you’ve used are each referring to a different sort of calling from one another! The first refers to a general, universal Gospel invitation to all the world. The passage in 1 Corinthians refers to the special calling that is part and parcel of our salvation, as laid out in Romans 8:29-30. Of course, you might disagree with me about that – and that’s ok! The point is that both of those passages refer to a calling to salvation, not a calling to ministry, which is the topic of the article. In salvation, God absolutely calls the unqualified! (Who could be qualified for salvation?) But in ministry, there are often clear qualifications, and just as we must be careful not to exclude people from ministry, we should also be careful to help people find those ministries for which God has best equipped them. My opinion, anyway 🙂

      • Joe says:

        I like the last word, “we should also be careful to help people find those ministries”. The problem with being human is we tend to assess people through our own lens, sometimes intentional and sometimes not. 1 Samuel 16:7″ But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” At the end of the day, it is God who qualifies people. As leaders looking to raise up other leaders, we need to apply this godly principle. David would never been chosen if we look at his qualifications to be king. Peter was a fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter. Look to Judas Iscariot, despite that Jesus knew he was a devil and a betrayer, Jesus still chose him to be His disciple. Look to Paul, given his notoriety with Christian, I would never vouch him to be an apostle to Jews and Gentiles. Leave it to me, I would have disqualify all these characters. People are looking to serve in the kingdom of God, let us have God’s eyes to see their potential and His heart to encourage them into their calling.

        My other point is that the work of God is great, if not impossible for mere normal people to do. Despite our strengths and human qualities, God may or may not use these. Our natural tendencies is to glorify ourselves through our strengths and giftings, especially those who are involved in worship ministries such as singers and musicians. In strength or weakness, we must humble ourselves and surrender our gifts to the dominion and tutelage of the Holy Spirit. At the end of it all, God gets the glory and we do it for the glory of God.

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