by Mutua Mahiaini
I came to know the Lord Jesus personally when I was 10 years old. That day remains etched in my memory. I knew my life had just changed because I’d never experienced that depth of joy before. As a decent preacher’s kid, I already knew the gospel and hoped to take this step at some point, but I wanted to do it in a style befitting my privileged spiritual upbringing. And so, just before I took the faith step of gladly giving my life to Christ, I hesitated for the ridiculous reason that other boys my age were also responding to Christ in that meeting. That should have encouraged me, but instead, I was thinking about how super-sinful (by 10-year old standards) those other boys were. Today that sounds silly, but I have come to view it in the light of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’. ESV
These words help us to encounter afresh the beauty and power of God’s Grace. It is striking how in these 3 verses Paul repeats words and phrases to demonstrate that God is at work in the lives of the Corinthians. Both choose and world each occur three times in verses 27 and 28. Paul makes it clear that God’s choice was independent of our help. Truly there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more, and nothing can make Him love us less. Still, the world loudly mocks this shameless offer of love and offers an alternative that doesn’t involve yielding to him. God turns the tables on the world and leaves it ashamed and brought to nothing!
Remember that what the world stood for in Corinth at that time was very enticing. Corinth was known for vulgar materialism, and a shocking level of immorality but they also valued certain competencies and accomplishments: the polished art of speaking, and the possession of knowledge. Some people in the church were so keen on this that they expressed a preference for Apollos over Paul because Apollos had a gift of speaking. We can imagine how these Christians might have struggled with feeling inferior, since few of them were part of the elite crowd. Perhaps to make up for this they started to boast about things that weren’t that important: material things and being in the right circles. Paul’s chides them in his letters for this sin of boasting. He wants them to understand that they’re choosing junk instead of experiencing God’s glory.
The rather spiritual sounding word glory is not in the ordinary man’s vocabulary, but we’re created for glory and it drives the restless chasing we see all around us. We long for it. The mind-blowing truth is that we have a clear pathway to the fulfilment of that longing, and, much to our surprise, it’s not based on what we bring to God. We can glory — not before God, but in Him. Accepting the world’s value system, turns us away from glory. True glory comes camouflaged as foolishness, because God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.
The way up is down, but humility doesn’t mean being passive and having a low opinion of ourselves. How could that be, when we’ve been hand-picked by the God of heaven? And we can’t compare ourselves with other people either. We operate on a higher plane! When we’re tempted to buy into the world’s value system, we find God mocking it: “God chose what is foolish in the world to SHAME the wise.” And when we are inveigled by the glitter of this passing world, God uses what is low and despised, even things that are not, to BRING TO NOTHING THINGS THAT ARE. Paul puts it graphically in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” And of course, we remember his famous words in chapter 12 of his second Corinthian letter: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
We’re invited into this wonderful paradox. Every day, we make countless choices and the enemy offers his counseling services. Here is the good news: we get to fire him as our counselor! We recognize the deceit when the offers of the world appear to be sensible, beautiful and powerful while Godliness seems weak and unimpressive. God won’t force us to choose, but His Spirit in us opens our eyes and enables us to join Him in choosing what feels and appears foolish. This is what leads to the experience of joy and power.
You may know the song, “Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus”. When God does that, He also enables us to see the world’s value system as rubbish. Our hunger for God is matched by our dissatisfaction with anything that doesn’t promote His glory.
Pause and ask God to reveal to you any lies that drive your value system, and deliberately do business with him by letting Him teach you how to live by the truth. Look up Ps. 86:11 and pray over it.
A good prayer of declaration to consider: “Lord, I agree with Paul that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. For Christ’s sake, I gladly sign up to be God’s fool in the eyes of the world.”