Most people would probably answer the title question of this post, “Not me,” but I’m not sure I would be unhappy with the designation for myself. Michael Horton’s 2014 book Ordinary was written for Christians who are always looking for the next radical, epic, impactful, life-changing, ultimate, extreme, awesome thing in the Christian life and/or church. Oversimplifying his point, he suggests this hunger keeps us disillusioned and disappointed. His suggestion: “we need a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.”
I had forgotten about Horton’s book until this week I was reading about the apostle Philip in Leon Morris’s commentary on The Gospel of John. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Philip is included in the list of apostles, but nothing else is said about him. He is mentioned four times in the Gospel of John, and Morris observes “each time he seems somewhat out of his depth, and it is probable that he was of limited ability.” (Who isn’t?)
Philip is mentioned in John 6:7 when he reports to Jesus there is no way they could gather the funds to feed the people. He is mentioned in John 12:21 when he is checking with Andrew about some visitors who have come to see Jesus. And he is mentioned in John 14:8 when in the upper room he requested of Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (14:8). Philip was no Peter, James, or John; neither was he a Matthew or Thomas; and Philip was no Judas (thankfully).
But what I find interesting and encouraging is John’s first mention of Philip: “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (1:43). Morris suggests “the fact that on this occasion he did not seek Jesus, but Jesus went to find him may indicate some lack of initiative.” (Perhaps, but not necessarily.)
It is what Morris wrote next that grabbed my attention: “It is so encouraging to reflect that Jesus went out of His way to find this perfectly ordinary Philip and to enlist him in the apostolic band. Some of the apostles were undoubtedly men of great ability, but Philip compels us to reflect that others were perfectly ordinary people. Christ had and has use for such followers.”
I’m wondering if we shouldn’t rethink what it means to be ordinary. I remember a sermon many years ago from Matthew 25:14-40. Translated now in the NIV as “The Parable of the Bags of Gold,” it then was called “The Parable of the Talents.” If you’re not familiar with the account it’s about a master giving three of his servants five talents (bags of gold), two talents (bags of gold), and one talent (bag of gold). In the message the preacher noted “God must really love one talent people—he made so many of them!”
The takeaway from the parable is that the master did not expect the two talent man to perform as the five talent man or the one talent man. He wanted each of them to perform in terms of what he had given them. The one talent man was not judged because he didn’t accomplish what his two colleagues did, but because he did not do anything with what he had been given.
If you’re ordinary you’re in good company. The Lord wants to use you. He doesn’t expect you to be someone else—He wants you to be who He made you to be.
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I needed to read your about Philip today. Very helpful. thanks
Wow! This article really got me thinking, Bob. I was reflecting on just how often I (and many others like me) have been “handcuffed” in the past concerning my sharing a testimony with a non-believer.
You see, early on in my Christian walk, I was always in awe of those who had been delivered by God from really horrible lifestyles – addiction, abusive relationships, criminal acts, etc. To see them share their testimony always intimidated me. I had no such powerful testimony, having grown up poor, but with parents who taught me right from wrong, and who modeled for me the way a person should live. I never took drugs, never rebelled. In short, I was “ordinary.”
But since, I have come to realize that God doesn’t need, or even expect, my tremendous deliverance in my testimony; just my honest, “ordinary” one.
Thanks for this article that reminds me of it once again.😊
Thank you Dennis.
Good food for thought, I enjoyed this.