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Annabelle Driesenga was a 96-year-old member of the North Blendon CRC congregation who died in 2022. She lived in a second-floor apartment up a steep set of stairs. She walked up and down those stairs until the final months of her life. She was at every worship service, every ladies Bible study, and every sewing group.

Annabelle was constantly serving others. For 10 years, she helped a handicapped neighbor get into bed at night. She visited the shut-ins of the congregation (all younger than her) more often than the pastor, and she would bring a plate of her homemade cookies. At the sewing group, she didn’t sew. Her shaky hands always managed to serve coffee and goodies to the other ladies. She served in the church nursery until she was 90. On her own initiative she made sure the church kitchen sink was wiped down and washed the dirty rags at her home. For many years she corresponded with the incarcerated through Crossroads Prison Fellowship. A widow for 39 years, other widows in the church will tell of how Annabelle taught them how to grieve and continue to trust the Lord in their time of loss. When praised for her humble service, she would deflect attention from herself and talk of how much God has blessed her.

Annabelle only had an eighth-grade education, didn’t win any awards or make much money. You won’t see her name in lights or in the history books. Yet I can’t help but think that as Christ looks at Annabelle and her life, he stands and shouts, “Yes! This! This is what I’m talking about.”

Glorifying the Ordinary

When we look at the life of Jesus, most attention goes to his three years of ministry. He did miracles. He taught with authority. He went to the cross for our sins. He rose to life again. But most of the life of Jesus was not spectacular. Between his escape to Egypt and his baptism by John, the Bible only records one episode of Jesus’ life. When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents mistakenly left him behind in Jerusalem. They finally found him in the temple hanging out with the teachers. Aside from this event, we know almost nothing about his life before age 30—the majority of his life. We know his homecoming brought offense because he was just a carpenter with a regular family in an insignificant town (Mark 6:1). They did not consider him remarkable enough to do the remarkable acts he did. Our Lord and Savior was an ordinary guy who did ordinary work for most of his life. He took care of his family, was part of his community, attended synagogue and helped his neighbors. You’d think that someone who can cure any disease and teach the deep truths of heaven would hit the ground running with this important work. Instead, for his first 30 years on earth, Jesus lived a seemingly ordinary life.

Biblical directives also flow in the direction of the ordinary. The Bible does not contain the common inspirational phrases such as “Believe you can and you’re halfway there” or “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We are not to murder, not cheat, not steal, not tell lies. We are not to envy or covet. The commandments eliminate many routes to the top.

Christian attitudes lend themselves to the ordinary. Instead of exalting ourselves, we are to humble ourselves before the Lord in order to be exalted (James 4:10). Instead of gaining more and more, we are to be content with what we have (Heb. 13:5). Instead of aiming to be first, we are to aim for being a slave of all (Mark 10:44). When Paul said he would boast, it was of his weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30). When Jesus was asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he called someone who had no accomplishments or property. He called a little child and said unless we become like this child, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1-5).

The Bible does not distinguish between honorable and dishonorable kinds of work. In Greco-Roman society, slaves did all of the nasty and undesirable work. Yet in Colossians, Paul tells them to take pride in their work because they are serving the Lord Christ (Col. 3:22-24). If our work is at the bottom of society’s ladder, we are to do it with all our might as working for the Lord. You don’t need to be a powerful CEO or a wealthy benefactor to do the Lord’s work. Flipping burgers or cleaning toilets is the Lord’s work.

1 Timothy 5:4 tells children and grandchildren to please God by taking care of their widowed parents and grandparents. This means the mundane tasks of cooking food, clearing the table, doing dishes and laundry, taxiing to doctor appointments, helping mom to the car or helping dad get into bed are pleasing to God.

Heroes of Faith

The Bible is full of heroes of faith, and the vast majority of them were ordinary by human standards. Peter and Andrew, James, and John were ordinary fishermen. We know very little about Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, but they organized and financed Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3).

Many in the Bible are obscure people with one shining moment. Obadiah hid 100 prophets from King Ahab and arranged for Elijah to meet Ahab (1 Kings 18:3-16). We know nothing else about him. The Canaanite woman who persisted with Jesus until he healed her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28) had “great faith,” but we don’t even know her name. The servant girl of Naaman probably lived her entire life sweeping floors, cleaning up after others (2 Kings 5:2-4), but her one mention of the prophet Elisha led to Naaman being healed and becoming a believer in the true God.

Even those who had spectacular achievements were quite ordinary before God used them mightily. Abraham and Sarah were an elderly childless couple en route to disappear into history. Moses was an 80-year-old shepherd before God called him to return to Egypt. Gideon was from the weakest clan and the least in his house, simply threshing wheat in a winepress when called. David was sent to tend the sheep while the rest of his brothers were being considered to be the next king.

Pleasing God

God’s fondness for ordinary people living ordinary lives is a stark contrast to what usually attracts human attention. The Bible has no challenge to achieve, earn, advance, prove your worth or follow your dreams. God is not impressed by world records or prestigious titles, mansions on the lake or beautiful celebrities in designer clothes. God does not push us to be wealthy or successful. God simply wants us to accept his gift of grace with a believing heart, repent of our sin, and love him and our neighbors, looking to him for everything we need and want. Anyone at any stage of life can believe and please God.

The North Blendon CRC congregation saw that in the life of Annabelle Driesenga.

If you want to please God, you don’t need to slay a giant or rule a country. Simply work faithfully, care for your family, support the body of Christ, love your neighbors. Belonging to Jesus Christ is all the significance you could ever want. If you are just another face in the crowd with a thin resume, average grades, and participation trophies, you are in good company. This is exactly the kind of person God chooses.

The Corinthian believers were not wise by human standards, not influential, not of noble birth. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). God values what is ordinary and makes it extraordinary.

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