One of the things I talk with pastors about is spiritual growth and how to help people along the path. According to “Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth”, there are four places we find ourselves in when it comes to spiritual growth. They are: Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ and Christ Centered. There are different habits, behaviors and disciplines of people when they’re in each segment. The goal is to help people move from one segment to the next. The hardest segment to get people to move to is from Close to Christ into Christ Centered. One seeks God’s wisdom and direction for their life along with daily disciplines. The other is complete surrender to God allowing Him control over your life. It’s a hard jump for people to make.
In Mark 1, Jesus had just begun His earthly ministry. He had been baptized and was beginning to preach. As He did, people began to follow Him. There were some people though that He asked to be disciples instead of just followers. In Mark 1:17-18 Jesus saw Andrew and Simon Peter cleaning their nets and said, “‘Come follow me and I will transform you into fishers of men instead of fish!’ Immediately they dropped their nets and left everything behind to follow Jesus” (TPT). These two, along with the other 10 disciples, left everything to give themselves completely to Christ. Most people simply took off of work, listened to Him preach, and then went back to work. These guys dropped what they were doing in complete surrender to follow Him. They gave up everything.
I’m not suggesting that you quit your job to be a Christian and have a better relationship with Christ. I am asking you to examine the things that you’re holding onto that are keeping you from complete surrender to Christ. It could be control of your schedule, your money, your time, your talents, etc. The Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19 was called to move from Close to Christ into a Christ Centered life. He walked away sad because he wanted to hold onto things. It didn’t mean he wasn’t a Christian. It meant that he didn’t move to a Christ Centered life to experience all God had for him. Like him, we hold onto things that Christ is calling us to let go of. We need to be like Andrew and Simon Peter where we immediately drop those things, leave them behind and surrender to God’s will.
I was listening to Tullian Tchividjian speak about the disciples that Jesus chose. He mentioned that Jesus didn’t choose religious or wealthy men. He chose men who had nothing to bring to the table. He also said that God doesn’t need perfect vessels to carry out His will, He needs broken ones. There’s a lot in just those few statements that speaks to me. I think that the 12 men whom He chose to give His life changing message to says a lot about who God is and what He sees in people.
When Jesus chose the disciples, He pretty much walked up to them and said, “Come follow me.” They didn’t ask Him who He was. They didn’t say, “Let me finish doing this task.” They didn’t ask to go say goodbye to family and friends. They dropped what they were doing, left family and friends to follow Jesus. They were chosen because their attitudes were the type that was willing to do whatever God asked without worrying about everything else that typically stops us from doing His will.
These men were not perfect either. Peter had a big mouth. Thomas was a skeptic. Judas was self righteous. Matthew was a tax collector who had cheated people. The list goes on. God does not choose people to carry out His will based on what they offer. He chooses people based on their inabilities. If we could do everything He asked on our own, where would faith come in? If we were confident enough to say what He tells us to say, we would think we were doing it in our own strength. If we had the credentials and expertise, pride would swell up in us. Instead, He finds broken and chipped vessels to put together to do His will so He can get the glory.
Have you limited yourself in what you feel God has called you to do because you don’t have the skills or ability? Have you thought God wanted you to do something that was over your head but turned Him down because you couldn’t do that on your own? You don’t have to have a degree in Public Speaking to share what God has done for you. You don’t have to have a Masters in Anthropology to help the needy. You don’t have to have a Doctorate in Theology to discuss with others what you found in God’s Word. You simply have to be a vessel that’s been broken and ready to use by Him for His purpose and His glory. He will give you all you need to be successful in your calling.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One year in High School, each music class was tasked with writing a Christmas song for the school play. I remember sitting there thinking that every Christmas song had already been written. They continued to push us to write one every day. In my mind, I began to think, “What if we wrote a song that would become a Christmas Classic?” Of course it didn’t become one. In fact, it wasn’t even a Christmas song! We wrote a song based off the scripture that says, “For many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).” We titled it “Choose to be chosen”.
I haven’t thought about that song in nearly twenty years. This morning as I was reading in the first few chapters of John, I noticed something. Once John the Baptist baptized Jesus and announced Him as the Messiah, many people chose to follow Jesus. Soon even the ones who followed John the Baptist started following Him. As crowds chose to follow Jesus, He went around and chose 12 to follow Him. Out of thousands, only twelve had been chosen to follow.
That old song we wrote came back into my head as I chewed on that. I could imagine Nathaniel sitting under that fig tree when Philip ran up to him. Philip shouted, “We’ve found Him! We’ve found the Messiah!” Nathaniel pops up expectantly, “You found Him? You found the One?” “Yes! It’s Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth! Can you believe it?” I then imagine Nathaniel leaning back up against the tree, his expectant look gone and saying, “Nazareth!?! Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
After some convincing, Nathaniel chose to go see Jesus. When he got there, Jesus called out, “Now there’s a genuine son of Israel – a man of complete integrity.” After their conversation, Nathaniel chose to follow Jesus. He could have stayed under that fig tree. He could have blown off what Philip had told him. He was comfortable where he was. Remember, he was relaxing in the shade of a tree on a warm Spring day. He didn’t have to leave that place. He could have waited for Jesus to pass by and find him there. But he chose to go and see and his life was forever changed.
Maybe you’re comfortable where you are today. Your income has made you be able to relax at this point in life. Or maybe your walk with God has become so routine that you can follow Jesus without even trying. You’re like Nathaniel just chilling under a tree happy with where you are. All along, the One, Jesus, the Messiah, is passing by wondering if you’re going to choose to be chosen to do greater things. Are you going to give up life in the shade tree for a life of work in the vineyard? Jesus is looking for laborers today. Will you get up from your place of comfort and choose to be chosen for the work at hand?