Overcoming Your Inferiority Complex

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  1 : 26-31
Subject: Inferiority; Common People; Power of God; God, Used by

For many years I have heard about professed inferiority complexes. And inferiority is just that—complex. Psychologists even claim that a superiority complex is essentially a facade for feelings of inferiority.

You have probably heard about the fellow who was obsessed with feelings of inferiority. He attended several sessions with a psychiatrist at the cost of thousands of dollars. Then the psychiatrist rocked the client back on his heels. “Mr. Jones,” the doctor uttered in a professional air, “I have discovered the root of your problem. You’re just plain inferior!”[i]

Many of us feel inferior, no count, powerless—and rarely do our friends or families help. Not too long ago I asked my wife, April, “Honey, how many great preachers do you think are in the world?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “But there’s probably one less than you think there are.” What a disappointment! We are often discouraged by our seeming uselessness, inability, and immobility. We mope and moan to ourselves the lyrics of Linda Ronstadt’s classic song, “You’re no good, you’re no good, Baby, you’re no good!”

In the world’s eyes, you may not be popular or good-looking or successful. But in God’s eyes, you are special. Most of us are ordinary people, but God can still use us. God uses ordinary people who have seemingly pedestrian lives, and He does an extraordinary work in them that brings Him honor and glory.

The twelve disciples were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot. None of them had sat at the feet of the more learned rabbis. What a ragtag bunch—but they turned the world upside down. Jesus made the difference. “They perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, but they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

I.The Simple People Of God

First, I want you to look at the simple people of God. That’s right. Simple. Common. Plain. Ordinary. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

That word foolish is a derivative of the Greek word moros. Note the resemblance to the word moron in our English language. Foolish and moron come from the same root and literally mean “nonintellectual,” referring to those regarded by the world as “dummies.” Paul was trying to show that God can use all sorts of people, not just the intellectuals.

God can use the seemingly dumb to bewilder the brilliant. This is not a critical remark. It is merely a statement of fact that God can use anyone. People who feel inadequate and even foolish can be more successful in life than those more intelligent or more educated because they are aware of their limitations—and thus trust God all the more.

It is a wonderful honor to be intellectual and belong to the organization of geniuses called Mensa. But God realized that most of His creatures would be what we country people refer to as “fair to middling.” Nothing special, nothing impressive, nothing extraordinary. Nearly all of us, to cite an old ballad, “are just plain folks,” plain as any folks could be.ii

“And God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Weak literally means “those who are physically weak—the feeble, the frail, the emaciated.” “And the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). Base carries with it the idea of worse than lowly—in other words, a zilch, a zero!

In this particular context, “the base things” means low in station, dishonorable, of low degree, and without the proper pedigree—maybe even those from the wrong side of the tracks. “Things which are despised” represent things or people hated, abhorred, due every form of abuse and defamation.

It becomes clear that God uses lowly things to carry out His plans. Even the cross of Christ was and is despicable, mocked, and ridiculed by the world to this day.

Paul also referred to “things which are not.” That means those things or people that are nonentities to others. They don’t rate; they don’t fit in; they are overlooked. Maybe you didn’t make “Who’s Who,” but worse than that, you didn’t even make “Who’s Not”! That’s fine. God still has a plan and a purpose for you.

Yes, God knows just what He is doing. He turns the tables. What the world thinks is important may not be so. Wealth, fame, fortune. None of these are required for God to use you. God often chooses the plain, simple folks.

I want to make three things clear . . .

He Does Not Say “Not Any Wise, Not Any Mighty, Not Any Noble.”

The passage states “not many” wise, mighty, or noble are called. Thank God for the successful, the brilliant, and the wealthy people who live for Him. Paul was one of the “mighty.” He was a Jew of the Jews, a man of background, breeding, education, and experience. He had all the credentials. He was also a Roman citizen and even used that to his advantage. But Paul knew that without God, he was nothing. He depended on God’s strength, not his own.

God used Paul’s amazing gifts for heavenly purposes. But before God could use him, Paul had to be humbled. His self-image had to become subject to the lordship of Christ. Paul wanted more than anything else to know Christ. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

He concluded that anything other than an intimate, personal relationship with Christ was nothing but “rubbish.” That attitude had to materialize from Paul’s heart and mind before he could be used to his greatest potential.

God can use extraordinary people only when they are submissive to the matchless Christ. They must lay their sense of self and their aspirations in the dust at His feet.

I Am Not Putting a Premium on Laziness or Weakness When I State That God Uses Ordinary People to His Glory.

You may not have a razor-sharp mind, but you must study. You may not be a genius or a near-genius. You may have scored low on the SAT. You may be puny, may have plain looks. But God can use you if you yield all of yourself to Jesus Christ. That is the essential point.

Someone has remarked that it does not take much of a person to be a Christian—it takes all of him. Anything less than your best is not enough. The Lord wants all of you, no matter how flawed or imperfect. That is why He commands this: “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

If you are not extraordinary, that simply means you will have to work harder and study harder than the genius. The old hymn “Our Best” says, “Every work for Jesus will be blest, But He asks from everyone his best. Our talents may be few, these may be small, But unto Him is due our best, our all.” Second Timothy 2:15 states that we are to diligently study to show ourselves “approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

You may be a singer with only an ordinary voice. You should strive to make that voice sing the sweetest notes it can for Jesus. You may not have a muscular physique, but every nerve, every fiber, and every muscle should be committed to Him.

God never asks us to understand all He is doing. He calls us to accept His “good and acceptable and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

God Uses Ordinary People in Extraordinary Ways

Christian history is packed with ordinary men and women who devoted their seemingly insufficient abilities to Christ. The early disciples. John Wycliffe, Miles Coverdale, John Tyndale, Clara Barton, John Wesley, D. L. Moody, Fanny J. Crosby. They were either ordinary or had rigorous handicaps, but God did great things through them.

God takes pleasure in using the ordinary, the handicapped, the wounded. He intentionally chooses plain people to carry out His purposes and then fills those people with supernatural power.

Billy Graham preached often that many people will be closer to the throne in heaven than he—the unsung, unheralded folks who go about God’s business. The minimum-wage clerk, the mailman, the physical therapist, the little widow trying to survive by herself, the mission pastor, the missionary on “the backside of nowhere.” And, in reality, they are truly extraordinary. “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3 NIV).

God has chosen you for a purpose. God uses simple, ordinary people. And what makes that possible? His significant power.

II.The Significant Power Of God

We should look not only at the simple people of God but also the significant power of God. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is precisely how God works. What does this verse teach? That Jesus makes up for our lack. He is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption! This is our position if we have put our faith in Christ Jesus.

We might be ordinary, but we serve an extraordinary God. If only we could learn to let God live His life through us, what a difference it would make. Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The apostle acclaimed, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Shortly after I entered the gospel ministry, I learned a valuable lesson. I discovered that God did not want me to do anything for Him. Rather, He wanted to do something through me. How often I have heard people say, “Why, I just serve God in my own poor, weak way.” Such a statement usually reveals mock humility. They want you to brag on them: “No, you’re wonderful. It’s great what you do for Christ!” If you are serving God in your “poor, weak way,” stop it!

God doesn’t want you to do something for Him. He wants to do something through you. And His power is unlimited. Let this sink in: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He works in you if you will let Him. We ought to reach the place where we cry out to Him, “God, I’m tired of being inhibited. I want to be inhabited by You. I’m sick of my life as it is, relying only on myself to live the Christian life. It’s time I let You live your life through me.”

Let Him live His life through you, and then you can shout to the world, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Coming back to the text of 1 Corinthians 1, God uses foolish things, weak things, base things, despised things.

When I think about foolish things, I think of the late and great evangelist Billy Sunday. Billy was rough and tough, sometimes rather coarse and crude. When he was converted, Sunday was a baseball player with the Chicago White Stockings. When God called him into the ministry, he had no education to speak of. He became a clerk at the YMCA in Chicago.

Sunday had laughable ideas and used slang language. Often he would turn flips or do somersaults on the platform. He was known to rip hymnbooks and break chairs to make a point. Sometimes to illustrate repentance he would do a back flip. He was roundly criticized, yet he was the most successful evangelist of his day. He was the D. L. Moody, the Billy Graham, of his time. Interestingly, Billy Graham’s father, Frank Graham, became a Christian in Sunday’s 1923 campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina. Who can tell the profound impact Sunday has had on subsequent Christian history? Unorthodox as he was in his methods, it is estimated that over one million people were won to Christ during his ministry, a day when there was no sound amplification except a megaphone or a sounding board. Commercial radio came into being only during his last seven years of ministry, and television was nonexistent. Yet millions of people will be in heaven either directly or indirectly because of his preaching.

Many preachers and professors have had all the benefits of education. They have enough earned degrees to paper the walls of their studies, but many have not been used like a stumbling, stuttering D. L. Moody or a crude Billy Sunday. Why does God powerfully use some who seem to be ill prepared and not use others who have all the credentials and degrees? Could it be that Billy Sunday had tapped a source of power others had ignored? Billy used to lay his sermon notes over Isaiah 61:1, which says “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings.” Perhaps Dr. Sounding Brass and Professor Clanging Cymbal count solely on their learning. I believe God often chooses the “common” person so He can display His supernatural power to a skeptical world.

God has also chosen the weak and base things of the world. Weak. Dishonorable. Of low-degree. Without standing. In Judges 6-8, Gideon (Jerubbaal) won a major victory over the Midianites. When we meet Gideon, he is threshing “wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). He was keeping a low profile. He was fearful the Midianites might attack him. He could have been described as a weak and base vessel. On the surface, he was a wimp—but God knew better.

“And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!’” (Judges 6:12). Come now, if there was something Gideon was not, it was a man of valor and courage. At that time Gideon was a chicken with a capital C. He was hiding out. Yet the angel of the Lord called him a potential hero. “Then the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’” (Judges 6:14).

Many men of God have alibied and revealed their inferiority complexes—Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Gideon. Gideon argued with God Himself, “So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house’” (Judges 6:15). Gideon was saying that of all the tribes, Mannaseh was the worst; of all the families in that tribe, his was the poorest; and of all the kids in his family, he was the runt of the litter. But God was saying, Gideon, I can use you!

You probably recollect the account. God wouldn’t let him have an army of 42,000 or 32,00 Gideon ended up with an army of 300! And they routed the 42,000 soldiers in the army of Midian.

Verse 34 of chapter 6 presents an amazing insight in the original language. “But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon” literally means that the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon.  God’s Spirit converged upon Gideon and acted through him. God wore Gideon like we do a suit of clothes. It was no longer Gideon. It was God in Gideon. God called an ordinary man and did extraordinary things through him. And God received all the glory.

The Bible also confirms that God has chosen those things which are despised, those things that are looked down on by others. Beginning in 1 Samuel 16, we become familiar with David, the son of Jesse. Samuel anointed David in private as Israel’s future king. “So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him’” (1 Samuel 16:12 NLT). In chapter 17 David volunteered to fight Goliath, the formidable giant of the Philistines. David was a kid with peach fuzz on his face going up against a monster nine feet tall. Goliath was the “big bad Leroy Brown” of the Philistines. The most skilled Israelite veteran blanched even to hear the giant’s voice, much less to look in his direction. So little David strode out to fight the blasphemous Goliath.

Goliath roared, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Samuel 17:43). Today, he might have yelled, “When I finish with you, I am going to feed your carcass to the birds of the air and the animals of the field!”

David replied, “I’ve come out to fight you in the name of the LORD All-Powerful. He is the God of Israel’s army, and you have insulted him too! Today the LORD will help me defeat you. I’ll knock you down and cut off your head, and I’ll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God. Everybody here will see that the LORD doesn’t need swords or spears to save his people. The LORD always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you” (1 Samuel 17:45-47 CEV).

If Israel had sent out a giant as awesome as Goliath, what would that have proved? Nothing—just a good fight. But when a kid goes out and defeats a giant, people will sit up and take notice. Then people must acknowledge there is a God in Israel.

III.The Sovereign Plan Of God

Last, recognize the sovereign plan of God. Why does God operate like this? We can find the answer in 1 Corinthians 1:29: “That no flesh should glory in His presence.” There are not going to be any peacocks in heaven. That’s why God saves us by His grace. He won’t save us by our works. Our works, no matter how many or how good, would never be enough. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can glory in no one but the Lord Jesus.

This is the reason we should continue to give Him the glory. Don’t be like the South Georgia woodpecker that was pecking away when a bolt of lightning split his pine tree from top to bottom. Later he was seen with nine other woodpeckers as he proudly pointed out, “There it is, gentlemen, right over there!”iii

God is not going to judge whether you were rich and famous or successful. He will judge you according to whether you filled the place He had for you. And what is that place? He is not going to ask whether you were the pastor of a mega church, whether you were a best-selling author, whether millions heard you preach. He is going to ask if you were faithful. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). What matters is whether you are in the center of His perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).


In Christ Jesus there is no inferiority. No matter how unqualified you may feel, you can be a tool used by God. If you want to be, you can be. Now and then you may not be used of God exactly as you think you should be. That will not matter in God’s plan of eternity. If God is in it, you do not choose your place of service. Make yourself available to Him. The greatest ability is availability.

Why not pray, “Lord, reside in my humanity and do anything you want to in me. ‘Lord, I give myself to Thee, Thine forevermore to be. Lord, I give myself to Thee, Thine forevermore to be.’ Lord, make me your instrument, your tool”?

[i] Adrian Rogers, Mastering Your Emotions (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1988), 7

[ii] Tom Lehrer, “My Home Town,” Lyrics.Time: http://www.lyricstime.com/tom-lehrer-my-home-town-lyrics.html (November 24, 2010).

[iii] Adrian Rogers, The Power of His Presence (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995), 85