For the past few months I have been working on a seminar to teach at the church I attend on how to overcome fear in evangelism. To say that I have a few notes is a gross understatement. I have papers, post-it-notes, and things everywhere around my office; and of course they are not in order. It was a hot mess.
After trying to organize my thoughts in a cohesive manner I failed miserably. I opened the door of my desk and pulled out several paperclips. Wow, what a difference that made. Suddenly, my fleeting thoughts turned into an intelligible pattern which could be understood by anyone who happened to come across it. Especially me who wrote it.
Brief History of the Paperclip
The paperclip was invented in 1899 by Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian with degrees in electronics, science, and mathematics. Since Norway had no patent laws at the time, he received his first in Germany, then one with the United States in 1901. Through the years the paperclip has evolved with different designs and functionality. Here are a few US patents courtesy of Google Patents.
- US581901A: May 4, 1897, W.W. Cole
- US709523A: September 23, 1902 Samuel R. Strattan
- US744529A: May 19, 1903, Harry E. Gifford
- US1395803A: September 20, 1920, Bois John T Du & Frank B. Harter.
- US2269649A: January 13, 1942, James H Comlcy
Paperclips have a power all their own. These tiny pieces of wire are able to bind thoughts into a comprehendible fashion and make even the most jumbled mess, understandable. They can’t talk, teach, or translate; but even though they don’t have arms or legs, they organize and keep paper together.
What’s the Point?
The fact that they are small, cost so little, and do so much. Even when paperclips are unraveled and misshaped they can get CD’s out of computers, and eject SIM cards out of phones. A paperclip saved Ethan Hunt’s life in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol when he used one to pick the handcuff lock and escape from the Russian Detective.
How does such an insignificant piece of metal do so much.
We think of how great the Apostle Paul was and how God through him changed the world. But one Greek Scholar described him as, “A man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were far apart; he had large eyes, and his eyebrows met; his nose was somewhat long.” Hence, he was a small, bald, bow-legged man with a big nose and an eyebrow that resembled a large caterpillar. In Scripture it’s said of him that, “his letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” (2 Corinthians 10:10 NLT) I wonder if we lived in his time, would we even recognize him? Probably not.
When I got saved I didn’t know anything. I was as green as green could be. I didn’t know anything, couldn’t lead a Bible study if I wanted to, and extremely shy. But, I had a servant’s heart, and just wanted to be a blessing to others. I started mowing the church lawn, washed dishes, and cleaned up messes. I came along side Tony and just listened as he shared his faith so he wouldn’t go alone. Over time, I grew up and you know what? I still do the things I did before, only more of them, and in different ways.
I would love some company as I share my faith on the streets. The person wouldn’t even need to speak; but listen, and lift up their hearts to God in prayer for the salvation of the person I am speaking with. There is much power in prayer. Like paperclips, we shouldn’t underestimate the help of seemingly small and insignificant people. Not only that, but you shouldn’t underestimate yourself. Too many times we think we can’t do anything right, that we are pointless and small. But that is not true. Each of us is useful to the Lord for something, and together we can change the world.
Thanks, Frank. I enjoyed the info on the humble paper clip and the analogy. We all have different talents, abilities, and gifts from the Lord and we can all use those gifts to help sow the Gospel.
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