There is probably nothing shockingly new or original in this blog, but sometimes the simple principles make the most difference.
I was reading in Scripture today from Mark, and in chapter 3 it lists off the name of the 12 apostles who were chosen by Jesus to be His most intimate friends and followers. The book of Mark might say the least about who these people were at the time of their calling, but we get enough information from the rest of the gospels to get a pretty decent picture of this motley group.
My reading today wasn’t meant to spawn a new blog entry, but as I was sitting there thinking about them, I thought it a good object lesson in the simplicity of the message.
Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sent to the earth to point the way to redemption and forgiveness, hand-selected His followers. Who did He choose? And why?
He chose a bunch of fisherman, rough-hewn, unkept, mostly uneducated. Hardworking, salt-of-the-earth folk with no distinguishing characteristics about them visible from the outside. Anyone tough enough to successfully make a living in this environment isn’t usually known for being a teddy bear softie.
And He chose a tax collector. In current events, we’re seeing a fairly substantial claim of abuse from the IRS right now in the United States. Corruption, politics, unfair investigations, unfair tax burdens and pressures. Right now is not a good time to be known as working for the Internal Revenue Service. And in Jesus’ time, the tax folk were even less popular… thought largely to be crooks who stole people’s hard-earned money, serving the enemy (Rome, in this case), they were shunned from the “good” people and castigated to the same level as, in modern times, drug dealers, prostitutes, petty thieves… you get the idea.
Jesus chose doubters (Thomas), cynics (Nathaniel), hypocritical traitors (Judas).
But he also chose people like Phillip and Jude/Bartholomew… quiet, everyday types. Warm-hearted, soft-spoken, reticent for attention, content with sitting at the back of the bus. People who were ok to remain outside of the notoriety that came with following this Teacher.
And then there’s Mary Magdalene, the woman who fell into sexual sin with a married man, caught in the act, freed from the punishment of being stoned to death by a few carefully chosen words spoken by Jesus, absolved from her sin by His forgiveness and grace.
Not one of these persons might have ever been known throughout history were it not for that singular calling that changed their lives forever. Why did Jesus call THESE PEOPLE?
Before we get to that, let’s talk about the people that Jesus DID NOT select. I’m not making any doctrinal statement with this, but it’s worthwhile to think about.
- Jesus didn’t choose any of the religious leaders of His day. The people that were supposed to know God the Father the best never made the short list.
- Jesus didn’t choose celebrities or wealthy socialites. Why not? They could use their position and fame to make a big deal out of Him, no?
- Jesus didn’t choose people high in political office. And think about it… He had access to them. Herod was greatly interested in Jesus. The Roman Centurion who begged Jesus to heal his servant believed Him to be sent by God with the power to save. Surely Jesus could have tapped into this very influential pool?
I don’t think it’s a great mystery to understand who it is whom God chooses to call for His purposes. They were people who were available, who’s hearts were soft and malleable, who were humble enough to be taught, selfless enough to serve, willing to be led by the Master Guide.
The bible actually talks about what God looks for quite often. Here are just a couple of verses:
1 Samuel 16:7
The Lord said to Samuel, “…the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go…”
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
So who does God choose and why?
Here’s what I think.
God prefers ordinary people. Ordinary people are, well, ordinary.
Jesus looks for people who are willing to find their life’s purpose in His plan. For people who recognize that in-and-of themselves, there’s not much there, but who recognize that because of Jesus and His great power, they CAN do all things through Him. People who recognize that their greatest life’s accomplishment is found in letting God direct their steps, big or small, famous or nondescript. People who understand the principle of decreasing so that Jesus can increase.
It’s not rocket science. Average, ordinary people showcase to the world an infinitely powerful God Who is without equal because, well… they let Him.
Sometimes our education blinds us to deeper truths. Our egos block us from listening for His quiet voice of direction. Our popularity and craving for attention supersede our need to take a back seat to His greatness. Our “religious” convictions hold us within the rigid walls of religion, blocking out the selfless love and service required by a servant of God Most High.
That should give just about anyone reading this blog a whole bunch of hope.
- You don’t need a college education to be used greatly by God.
- You don’t need to be pretty or handsome or popular.
- You don’t need to be able to quote half the bible by memory.
- You don’t need to be accepted by society in general.
- You don’t need a laundry list of accomplishments behind you.
Any of those things can be good. There’s nothing wrong with them. But the Lord knows that the more self that we have to promote, the harder it will be for us to let Him get the glory He’s due. So He chooses the average among us, those who desire His presence. Those who seek His justice. Those who patiently endure His discipline. Those who hope in His word. Those who cry out the honor due His Son Jesus. Those who serve, listen to, love the people around them.
God chooses people who’s greatest heart’s desire is to be like Jesus.
So where are you right now in life?
Single mom/dad struggling to get by? God can use you.
Retired and feeling set out to pasture? Nope, you’re still useful.
Broke and unemployed? That’s no barrier to Him.
Socially awkward and always outside the ‘friends groups’? No big deal.
It is God’s job to change you. It is His job to empower you. It is His plan, His agenda, His purpose, His timing, His discipline, His glory.
Do you want to be one of the people whom Jesus chooses? Let go of the control of your life, take Him at His word and let Him drive. Let Him lead when it’s comfortable and when it’s not. When it’s secure and when its scary. When things go well and when things look lost. Let your life’s purpose be to make the name of Jesus great in ANY capacity that He puts you in, from cleaning toilets to preaching to the nations, do it with humility understanding that any greatness He brings is His, any power is His, any opportunity is from His hand. Live in gratitude, in faith, and in submission… fulfill your purpose by letting God fulfill His purpose for you through you.
There’s nothing secretive about it.
Let Father God make the name of His Son great through your life, in the big and the small, and be willing to let Him do it His way, and in His chosen time, and you’ll be one of those people whom Jesus chooses for greater things of eternal significance.
Be blessed in the love of Jesus tonight.