God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways

Published 2:04 am Saturday, April 6, 2019

Charles Swindoll tells of the remarkable experience of a B-17 pilot who flew a bombing mission over Germany near the end of World War II.

On that day the plane was hit several times by Nazi anti-aircraft guns, some directly hitting the fuel tank.  Miraculously, the B-17 bomber landed safely, instead of going down in a flaming crash.

Upon returning from the mission, eleven unexploded twenty-millimeter shells were taken out of the fuel tank.  When the shells were dismantled, everyone was amazed to find all were empty of explosives.  A note, written in Czech language, was discovered inside one shell which provided the explanation.

Translated, the note read, “This is all we can do for you now.”  It was determined that members of the Czech underground, working on an assembly line in a Germany munitions factory, left the explosives out of the shells.

One wonders whether the unknown workers ever knew that their efforts to undermine the Nazi war machine made any difference in the outcome of the war.  It certainly did, at least for this B-17 pilot and crew.

Author Phillip Yancey writes that we may wonder, “What can one person do?  What difference will my small effort make?”  He recalls watching a public television series interviewing soldiers about how they spent one particular day during World War II.

“Mostly, the day passed like any other day for an infantryman on the front,” says Yancey.  Some soldiers were involved in furious firefights, while others sat all day in a foxhole shooting once or twice at a German tank driving by.

“Later, they learned they had just participated in one of the largest, most decisive engagements of the war, The Battle of the Bulge.  It didn’t feel decisive to any of them at the time because none had the big picture of what was happening elsewhere. Great victories are won when ordinary people execute their assigned task,” Yancey concludes.

I once read a news article about Emma Daniel Gray who cleaned the Oval Office at the White House each night for 24 years.  When she came to the president’s chair, she would pause and say a quick prayer asking for blessings, wisdom and safety for each of the six presidents she served.

A person whom some would consider ordinary, Emma Gray was described by her family as a Christian lady who “always believed there was a higher power to grab on to that would lift you above the circumstances.”  Emma reminds me of the words of Jesus to a woman in the Bible, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8).

Jesus chose twelve ordinary men to be His disciples.  Author John MacArthur describes them as “a handful of common fishermen, a hated tax collector, and an impulsive political zealot….hopelessly human…but available and obedient to the Master’s call.”

God has something for each of us to do.  There’s a quote I once heard with some practical advice, “Start where you are.  Use what you’ve got.  Do what you can.”

Jan White is an national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at jan@janwhitewriter.com.