Does God ever use unbelievers to accomplish His will?

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Hi, friends. I received a great sermon question just the other day on the heels of my sermon from Esther, chapter four. And if you missed that sermon or you didn’t get to read that passage, I really encourage you to go back. You can watch the video. You can read along with Esther four.

Such an encouraging passage at this momentous crossroads in the story of the life of Esther. Well, here’s the question that I received. Does God ever providentially provide unbelievers or unsaved people with certain talents or attributes, such as musical abilities or artistic or athletic, mechanical kinds of abilities, and use them for his purposes? Does God place unbelievers, unsaved people in places and circumstances using these talents to do his will? It’s a great question.

And we think about that from the life of Esther, because we see God using people that we today would look back and say, those are God’s people. But he also uses people in the story of Esther who we would say are not part of God’s people or who had evil intent, and yet God still even used them. So what the life of Esther in the book of Esther teaches us, as well as say, if we look at the life of Daniel or the life of Joseph, and really all throughout scripture, is that God not only uses people within believing communities, and not just pastors and missionaries, but God also uses people in public and in secular cultural institutions, that God can use people both inside and outside, so to speak.

He does it all the time. Now, sometimes people aren’t aware that God is using them for his purposes, but nevertheless, God, in control of all things, is able to use all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes and his work in the world.

Think about the sermon series we did just before this book of Esther series, where we talked about God’s good creation. And in the story of Genesis one and two and of God’s good creation, we looked at the nature of work, and we define work as something that is good, because God created work for people to do before sin entered into the world. And we can get our understanding of the nature of what work really is by looking at the nature of God’s work all the way back in Genesis one, verse two, where it describes that God took something formless and void and without purpose and without use, a desert, a wasteland.

And he brought life and meaning and order and beauty and purpose out of that. And so what we looked at back then and is applicable to us now, is that when you see a person at work bringing some order out of something disordered, and then, boy, gosh, that could be just about anything.

Or when you see somebody who’s able to bring something beautiful out of God’s creation or make something that is a benefit to other people, and not just for selfish reasons, when you see a person doing that kind of thing, whether they’re a believer or not, you’re seeing the image of God at work in people. And so, for sure, God can use all types of people in positions of authority, or people with certain skills in business, or people who create things with their hands, artisans, works of art, people who use their generosity and the money that God has used to provide to them, whether, again, they recognize it or not, God can use even those funds for good things that benefit other people.

We see that all the time. Now, again, we’re not talking about a person’s eternal destiny there. That’s a separate matter.

But God can and does use people both within and outside, again, of believing communities. Here’s a couple examples. In the book of Ezra, chapter one, it says, in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, we’ve been talking about the king of Persia, a different king of Persia, in the book of Esther. This is a different king of Persia who was not, we believe, one of God’s people or a believer. But it says, in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing.

And this is what Cyrus, king of Persia, says. The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. So this is an unbelieving, so to speak, king, an unregenerate, unsaved king, who through his own mouth is saying, God moved my heart to build a temple to the Lord. That’s incredible. We see that in the lives of other people throughout scripture.

I thought about also in Habakkuk chapter one, where there’s this prophecy that is given that God is going to use the ruthless and brutal kingdom of Babylon, the babylonian empire, at that time, to judge God’s people in Judah for Judah’s idolatry. Babylon didn’t know that they were being used by God for this purpose. But God had a greater purpose in mind. So God can even work sometimes when people aren’t even aware of it. A couple other examples.

We look in the New Testament at the life of Judas and how it seems that there was something about Judas that could add benefit and value to the disciples. People think he must have been good with money or had some leadership skills of some sort, but we ultimately saw that he was placed where he was by God, ultimately to help reveal God’s plan, ultimately for Jesus. And that, to me, is the best example of God working, even in ways that we would say are evil and wrong to bring about something good. When Jesus died, that was an incredibly horrendous and evil act, and God used evil men to bring that about who thought that they were doing good, but it was actually evil.

But God used it somehow for good to bring about the redemption for his people and the possibility of eternal life and defeating death and the power of sin over our lives.

Friends, there are many, many examples of God doing this. We shouldn’t mistake that, though, for a person’s salvation and eternal destiny, those are often things that are linked, but those can also be separate things. We should pray for people in positions of authority, whether they’re believers or not. We should pray for people who are in law enforcement and education and people who work with their hands and with money and with technology and all the ways that people can influence others. That God would work through these people and hopefully they would recognize it.

But even if they don’t, that God would work through these people to help bring order and benefit and beauty to this world as God is carrying out his purposes in the world. Well, I hope that all this is helpful to you. I know it sure is for me as I explore this question. Thank you for that sermon question. We hope you’ll join us next time.