Presumably, men mentioned in the Bible who served God demonstrated the attributes and/or capabilities that are necessary for such service. Before testing this presumption, let’s define the terms attribute and capability as they are used in this article in either singular or plural form.
An attribute is a characteristic or a quality of a person. For our purposes, it involves personality, not physical appearance. It may be either good or bad, depending on how it is used and/or on the specific circumstance. For example, ambition is generally perceived as good, but if it causes harm to other people, it almost certainly is bad. Likewise, humility is likely to be regarded as good if it results in sharing credit for accomplishments, but if humility keeps a person from speaking out when they are aware of injustice, it probably would be perceived as bad.
A capability is an ability or a skill that may be mental, physical, or spiritual. Like an attribute, it can be either good or bad, depending on how it is used and/or on the specific circumstance. As an example, if a person is a good orator and he uses this skill to encourage others to take constructive action, it would be deemed to be good, but if instead he uses his oratory ability to disparage others, it probably would be considered to be bad.
Now let’s consider a number of men mentioned in the Bible who served God. However, we will note their most infamous imperfection(s), rather than their favorable attributes and capabilities.
- Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:20-21)
- Abraham lied about his wife (Genesis 12:10-19)
- Isaac also lied about his wife (Genesis 26:6-9)
- Jacob took unfair advantage of his brother and deceived his father (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:19)
- Joseph lacked tact in sharing his dreams with his father and brothers (Genesis 5-10)
- Moses was a murderer and lacked confidence in his ability to be a spokesman for God (Exodus 2:11-12; 3:11; 4:13)
- Gideon lacked trust in God (Judges 6:12-15)
- Samson was vengeful and had a sexual relationship with a prostitute (Judges 15:3, 7; 16:1)
- David committed adultery and a murder (2 Samuel 11:2-4, 14-17)
- Elijah was afraid that God would not protect him (1 Kings 19:1-3)
- Jonah tried to run away to avoid doing what God wanted him to do (Jonah 1:1-3)
- John the Baptist lived a nonconventional lifestyle (Matthew 3:4-5)
- Peter was afraid to admit that he knew Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:69-74)
- Paul (formerly known as Saul) had persecuted Christians (Acts 9:1-5)
The foregoing list suggests that God can use anyone He chooses to accomplish His objectives, regardless of their human shortcomings. In a sense, these shortcomings reflect deficiencies in what generally would be regarded as “favorable” attributes and/or capabilities.
Rarely will any one individual possess all the necessary attributes and/or capabilities to accomplish by themselves the task to which God calls them. In many, if not most, instances, God uses more than one person to achieve His objective(s). For example, the book of Exodus tells how a number of people helped Moses carry out his responsibilities in behalf of God. And sometimes God provides supernatural assistance, such as when He sent the plagues on Egypt to help Moses persuade Pharaoh to free the Israelites, which is also discussed in the book of Exodus.
Thus, when God uses a person, He will provide what is necessary to accomplish His objectives. As a result, it is not necessary for a person who is serving God to depend entirely on their own attributes and capabilities. God can use people who don’t have the exceptional attributes and capabilities that other people may think are necessary to be a successful servant of God.
The following excerpts from the Adult Learner Guide for the summer of 2012 support this viewpoint:
The first step of accepting any God-given task is a step of faith. It is deciding to depend on the Lord’s power and presence rather than to focus on our weaknesses.
In God’s call to service, a person’s social position and wealth do not matter. God is looking for someone who will respond to Him with trust and obedience.
We . . . can accept God-given tasks with confidence by focusing on the Lord’s power and presence instead of on ourselves.
God goes before us and then goes with us as we complete the tasks He gives us.
Because God is omnipotent and omniscient, He can – and will – achieve everything He wants to accomplish. [For a discussion of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, click on “Is God Really Omnipotent and Omniscient?”]
Therefore, even though we may question whether or not we have the attributes or capabilities that we think are necessary to successfully accomplish the task(s) God gives to us, we can be confident that He has the ability to ensure that the task(s) will be successfully completed. It is our belief that the primary qualification for a person to serve God is ultimately the willingness of that person to allow God to use him or her to achieve His objectives.