God Always Uses the Right Tool

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” If, like me, you watched The New Red Green Show in the ‘90s and 2000’s, you recognize these words as the catchphrase with which host Red Green ended each segment of “Handyman Corner” during the show’s fifteen seasons. While Red may look like Bob Vila, his projects bore no resemblance to those demonstrated by the grandfather of DIY. Red, fictional president of fictional Possum Lodge, taught viewers helpful things like how to make an intercom system out of old toilets and how to turn a refrigerator into a den. Along with these projects, he also educated his audience in the many uses of the “handyman’s secret weapon: duct tape.” Another tip of sage wisdom that has stuck with me is this: “Any tool can be the right tool.” (For Red, that meant that pretty much anything could be a hammer.)

While that adage is memorable, anyone with even as little knowledge of tools as I have knows that it’s just not true. Having the right tools is not just helpful, but often imperative in getting a job done well (something else Red Green didn’t know much about). God has many tools in His toolbox, and He never fails to use just the right one to accomplish His purposes.

Tool #1: Sinners

Saul of Tarsus had gained a reputation as a Christian killer. He applauded the men who stoned Stephen and was out to round up more Christians in Damascus when Christ abruptly put an end to his mission. You probably know the story. Saul (later known as Paul) met his Lord that day, and his life changed forever. Struck blind by the risen Savior, Saul was led to Damascus by his fellow travelers where he remained for three days, waiting for someone named Ananias to show up.

The Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision to commission him with the unenviable job of walking right into the hands of the man known to be hunting Christ-followers. Ananias, understandably, questioned this calling.

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. “And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”  (Act 9:13-14)

Ananias wasn’t whining. But he did want to make sure he got the message straight.

The Lord replied:

“Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.” (Act 9:15)

Saul, who would later label himself as the “chief of sinners” would prove to be one of God’s most useful tools.

Saul, though, was not an exception to the rule. In His great and unfathomable mercy, God has chosen to use sinners like you and me as tools in His hand. Like a patient father allowing a toddler to “help” him with a project, our heavenly Father kindly wields us blood-bought rebels to fulfill His purposes. Were it up to us, He’d use angels or just snap His fingers and have done with it. Yet, in His infinite wisdom, God selects what seems to be the unlikeliest tools in the box, knowing that they are exactly right for the job.

Tool #2: Suffering

Had I the chance to rifle through the drawers of God’s toolbox (as I remember doing with my dad’s on occasion), I would probably try to make this one disappear. What can be, to some, a great deterrent to faith, is actually one of our loving Father’s most versatile and powerful tools: suffering.

God sometimes uses the tool of adversity to turn a wicked heart to Himself, in either repentance or salvation. He used a violent storm at sea to bring slave trader John Newton to faith in Christ1. And a tragic diving accident that would leave her a quadriplegic for more than half a century was the tool that God used to move Joni Eareckson Tada to surrender her heart for His glory2. Never capricious or arbitrary in the suffering that He allows, God brandishes this tool with precision and care, always guided by His grace, wisdom, and kindness.

While the Master sometimes chooses to use momentary suffering to produce eternal good in a stony-hearted rebel, at other times, He pulls this tool out of the box to foster growth in hearts of His children. Again, with the skill of a surgeon, He uses the fires of suffering to refine and purify those He calls His own.

We see this truth repeated throughout the New Testament:

 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  (Jas 1:2-4)
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Rom. 5:3-5)
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith ​-- ​more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire ​-- ​may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pet. 1:6-7)

As the project on whom He’s laboring, we often don’t understand His use of this tool. But we trust the heart of the One who did not even spare His own Son so that He might redeem us. With the same faith by which we were saved—given as a gift of His wonderful grace—we trust Him to use this tool for both our good and His glory.

Tool #3: Sins

While in some respects a subset of suffering, the third tool that God surprises us with is our own sin (and its consequences) and the sins of others against us.

I’m not sure we could find a better example of God’s using a person’s own sinful choices for good than the life of Samson. The twelfth and final judge of whom we’re told in Judges was an arrogant and impulsive man driven by the lust of his eyes. When he saw something that he wanted—whether a beautiful woman or honey in the carcass of a lion—he took it, whether it was prohibited by God and his Nazirite vow or not. And when his impulsive and selfish decisions ended in disaster, he took revenge on God’s enemies in dramatic ways. Eventually, he was captured by the Philistines, who, in an act of great irony, gouged out his lustful eyes and bound him between two great pillars of a house filled with 3,000 of their own people. In a final feat of strength, Samson brought down those pillars and killed everyone in the house, as well as himself. Judges 16:30 provides this tragic epitaph of his life: “And those [Philistines] he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life.” (For his full story, read Judges 14-16.)

Samson never really wanted to do things God’s way, and yet, in His wisdom and kindness, God used Samson’s sinfulness as a tool to accomplish His purpose of delivering Israel from the oppression of the Philistines.

God’s masterful use of this tool makes it impossible, even when we’re at our very worst, for us to thwart His plan.

Not only does God use our own sinfulness as an instrument of His will, but He also uses the sins of others against us. Consider the account of Joseph, favored son of Jacob. Sold into slavery by his ten jealous and hateful brothers, Joseph, whom God raised to power in Egypt, would eventually save those brothers’ lives, as well as the entire line of Abraham. When the brothers finally reunite, Joseph offers forgiveness rather than a grudge. He tells them,

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result ​– ​the survival of many people” (Gen 50:20).

Even attempted murder, sexual harassment and attempted rape, and false accusations, though perpetrated in conniving sinfulness, were used as implements of God’s glorious providence. (For Joseph’s full story, read Gen. 37-50.)

God, of course, has many more tools than these that He uses to chip away at our sinful flesh and shape us into the image of Christ. In fact, we learn in Romans 8 that all things can be used in this way (vv. 28-29).

We must learn to trust that He will always use the right tool.

[1] Sheward, David. “The Real Story Behind ‘Amazing Grace’.” Biography, http://www.biography.com/news/amazing-grace-story-john-newton. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021

[2] Tada, Joni Eareckson. The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus. Zondervan, 2003.

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