"Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus....." (Ezra 1:1a)
We are not surprised when we witness God using believers to accomplish a divine task. In fact, we rejoice with them and praise the Lord together. A much different reaction occurs when we learn that God has used a person who appears to be outside the mainstream of Christianity. Can God use someone who is purely secular, an unbelieving friend, or even a pagan ruler to fulfill his plans? Would he use someone who was his enemy? What do the Scriptures reveal about God "working outside the box?"
Jesus worked outside the box when he chose the disciples. Among his choices was Matthew (a hated tax collector), Simon the Zealot (who was noted for stirring up trouble with Rome), and Judas Iscariot (who was an unbeliever and traitor). He also chose Simon Peter who has a bad case of "foot in the mouth disease".
Since God is Sovereign, he has the right to work through whatever means available. On one occasion Jesus said, "If they (followers) keep quiet, the stones along the road will cry out." (Luke 19:40 NLT) This proves that nothing is outside God's power to control.
It behooves us as believers to "think outside the box." We are so prone to operate through sacred rituals, formats, schedules, programs, and traditions. The Lord is not restricted to our set way of doing things, and loves to accomplish his purpose by working outside the box.