Does God use broken people?

Question
I'm just a sinner. I'm saved, but a sinner. I'm broken because I'm a sinner. Can God still use me?
Answer
Just by asking this question, God has used you. The Great Physician and Master Mender uses broken, repentant people. Vance Havner, a Baptist pastor, (1901-1986) once said:

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.

So let's take a look at Peter as an example. He was a follower of Christ for many years. He was a dedicated follower of Christ and loved him dearly. However, just before his crucifixion, Christ told him:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat ... I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me (Luke 22:31-34).

Peter responded rather abruptly saying, "Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death" (Luke 22:33).

We recall that Jesus, while on the cross, turned and looked directly at Peter. Just then, Peter realized what he had done. He left and wept bitterly (Luke 22:61-62). Peter was a broken man. He was saved, but a broken sinner too.

However, just as Jesus reached out and saved Peter from drowning (Matt. 14:31), he restored Peter to fellowship after his betrayal as well (John 21:15-19). Peter understood more fully what it meant to be loved by God. He was encouraged in Christ. He developed a fuller understanding of what being "in Christ" meant. And God used him mightily in his church. His name is referred to at least 72 times in the Book of Acts, and two epistles bear his name. Ultimately, Peter died for his faith, some even reporting that he was crucified upside down as he considered himself unworthy to die as his Lord did (Origen in Eusebius, Church History III.1., says: "he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way").

God uses broken people like you and me.

Every Superman in Scripture, except Christ, had his Kryptonite moments. If we were to take a roll call of the Bible's greatest losers who in time became God's greatest winners, it may look somewhat like this:

Noah became drunk (Gen. 9:21).
Abraham lied about his wife (Gen. 20:2).
Sarah laughed at God's word and then lied (Gen. 18:15).
Jacob was a deceiver (Gen. 27:1-29).
Moses was a murderer and disobeyed God (Exod. 2:11-12; Num. 20:11).
Rahab was a prostitute (Josh. 2:1).
Samson was lustful (Judges 16:1).
David was an adulterer and a murderer (2 Sam. 11:4, 15-17).
Solomon married foreign wives and embraced idolatry (1 Kings 11:1, 4-5).
Elijah was afraid and struggled with depression (1 Kings 19:3-4).
Jonah ran away from God (Jonah 1:3).
The disciples argued about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-37).
James and John wanted the most honorable kingdom seats (Mark 10:35-45).
Peter denied Christ (Luke 22:57, 58, 60).
Paul had a sharp disagreement Barnabas (Acts 15:39).

Are you and I really any different?

It was later that Peter realized these victorious truths:

1 John 2:1: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 4:4: Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 5:4: For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Like Paul, who was once a Christian-hating (Acts 9:1), Christ-persecuting (Acts 9:5), ungodly zealot (Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:6) and who later referred to himself as the chief of all sinners (1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:15), Peter understood that they could be used mightily by God because they were more than conquerors through Jesus Christ:

Romans 8:31-39: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God uses broken people like you and me.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).