“Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). (John 1:42)
God knows you. Beyond that, He knows who you can be. He does not see you in the light of your limitations, but as the finished product He’s called you to become. This is evident in the way Jesus dealt with His disciples. Simon He called, “Stone,” or “Peter,” as it is also translated. His given name was Simon, which means “reed.” This was certainly true of his character as seen in the gospel accounts. Simon was a man of extremes, and like a reed, easily blown about by the winds of circumstance. One moment he’s in the Garden at Jesus’ side, cutting off the ear of a man threatening harm to his Master, the next he’s running for fear of capture. One moment he’s swearing to go to with Jesus to prison and death, the next he’s denying he ever knew Him. That was Simon, but it was not Peter.
The Bible says that God “calls into being that which does not exist” (Romans 4:17). He did that with the stars and the planets, and He does it with people as well. Again and again, throughout the scriptures, we see God calling people to do great things who are desperate to educate God as to their lack of qualifications. Moses, a man once brimming with ambition to be used by God, had long since hung up his cape and cowl and resigned himself to be a shepherd on the backside of nowhere when God told him that it was at last time to lead His people to freedom. He objected to being their deliver on the basis of his lack of communications skills. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep himself and his crop hidden from the Midianites, when the angel of the Lord found him. The angel called him a “mighty man of valor,” despite all evidence to the contrary, and told him that he was God’s man to deliver His people from oppression. Like Moses, Gideon tried to backpedal out of his assignment, pleading his family’s insignificance as his reason for opting out of God’s divine call on his life.
When Samuel the prophet came to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as King over Israel, David was thought so insignificant by his father that he wasn’t even called in from the field where he tended the sheep. He was truly the “least” of Jesse’s sons according to his own family, but God saw past the limitations of his stature and family position to the heart of a warrior yet to be revealed. In fact, the scriptures are full of such stories; men who were unlikely heroes, born to the wrong family, in the wrong town, with little or nothing to recommend them except for God’s irrevocable call and His divine insight into their true character.
Like Peter, the brothers, James and John, were given names by Jesus as well. He called them “sons of thunder.” Many have assumed it was because they were tough and reckless, forgetting that these names were not given to describe who they were when Jesus found them, but to describe the men He saw them capable of becoming. In reality, James and John came from a well-to-do family, and when it came time for them to try to secure a position for themselves in His kingdom, they actually sent their Mother to lobby Jesus for places at His right and left hand (see Matthew 20:20-21). Essentially they were Momma’s boys who tried to use their family connections to position themselves ahead of their fellow disciples. But Jesus saw past these limitations to the men they would become, eventually sacrificing much for the Kingdom of God and the Lord they loved. In fact, James would become the first of the apostles to die a martyr’s death, and John would suffer cruelly on the prison Island of Patmos in his old age because of his devotion to Christ.
In fact, all these men became what God saw they could. Moses was used by God to bring the superpower of His day to its knees as he brought the children of Israel out of four hundred years of Egyptian bondage. Gideon would ultimately lead a small band of three hundred men against the innumerable Midianite army and secure a great victory for Israel. David became the warrior poet of Israel, great in battle and numerous in conquests, as the hand of the Lord brought him one victory after another. He was known as a man after God’s own heart and the benchmark by which all the other kings of Israel and Judah would be compared. Simon Peter, the once inconstant disciple, became the Stone Jesus envisioned Him to be. As one of the principle leaders of the early Church, he would ultimately give his life for the Lord he once denied, crucified upside down at his own request, feeling unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Regardless of the perceived limitations, whether of status or birth, whether geographical or societal, God raises up men from common circumstances to stand as giants in their generation, accomplishing great things, not by virtue of their own credentials, but by the grace of God upon their lives. So, what is your name? Like some of these we’ve mentioned, you might have named yourself “Stutterer” or “Fearful.” You might have carried the moniker of “Insignificant” or “Overlooked.” Maybe others saw you as “Dull” or “Unexceptional,” but I can promise you that God has a different name for you, and that name is tied to your God-appointed destiny.
Perhaps the best illustration of this in the scriptures is the story of Jacob. Once a man who connived with his mother to deceive his father and stole the blessing of the first born from his brother, this man went through a life-long transformation through his encounters with God and his dealings with an uncle who proved to more than a match as a manipulator and deceiver. Before returning to visit his once aggrieved brother, Jacob had a mysterious encounter with God as he wrestled with the angel of the Lord all night long, refusing to release Him until he received a blessing. Very often these encounters with the “angel of the Lord,” were a Christophany, or an Old Testament appearing of Jesus. In response, to Jacob’s demand for a blessing, we read:
So He said to him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Jacob.”
And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed (Genesis 32:27-28)
It was through this encounter that Jacob, whose name had meant supplanter, had his name changed by the Lord to Israel, which means Prince with God. It was not merely his name that had been changed but his character as well, and for the rest of his life, Jacob would walk with a physical reminder of that encounter with the God Who had so changed him.
God has called each and every one of us to a significant life. His purpose for you is beyond the ability of the person you are now, but He sees in you another you, full grown in His grace, courage, and ability. You’ll never get there on your own, but He is with you as He was with Moses, Gideon, David, and Peter. His purpose for you is no less significant. Regardless of your deepest fear or your greatest liability, God sees a conqueror in you just waiting to be released through faith in His purpose for you.
God called a childless man the “Father of a multitude,” but it started with one son born of a promise. If you will surrender to God and His purpose for you, He will make of you the person He’s called you to be. Don’t live by the name others would give you or that you’ve given yourself due to your limitations and liabilities. Don’t settle for a “less than” life when God’s called you to inherit a promise. Like Abraham, who bore his son at one hundred years of age, God wants you to look to the stars and believe in those things that are only possible when God has called you by name.