One of the best parts about my role as Connections Pastor is leading Celebrate Recovery. When we set out to launch this 5 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into but now I'm sure glad I did. This ministry, which meets every week to help people through ANY type of habit, hang-up, or hurt, is so powerful because it is made up of a bunch of people who love and follow Jesus through steps of recovery and towards freedom that He offers us. Even though we don't deserve it, He saw us at our worst and still saved us and still calls us now to do great things for Him.
Last week, we had 8 men complete what we call a "Step Study" - where they work through questions to figure out why they behave/respond in a certain way in certain situations. This is where they examine why they turn to drinking or drugs or women or unhealthy boundaries with others when stressed. I am simplifying this process, but know that going through this set of four books to get to the bottom of why we are the way we are is HARD. Many have started, but few have finished. As these men stood up in our meeting and we acknowledged this accomplishment in their Christian journey, I thought about the time when Jesus chose 12 men to follow Him. There were all kinds of reasons why none of them should have made the cut, but Jesus sought them out and called them out...and they responded. The Gospel of Luke tells us how that happened and I think it teaches us some important truths about choosing people to move into leadership roles:
"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose 23, whom He also designated apostles: Simon (whom He named peter), his brother Andres, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simone who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor." (Luke 6:12-16)
If you took a look at the list more closely and then examined their resume skills, you'd notice four fishermen, a tax collector (who cheated people out of money), an assassin, and a traitor. This is hardly a list of worthy of recognition, and it certainly didn't strike the heart of the devil with fear. Given the choice, we might choose others who were more worthy, more powerful, more knowledgable, had a greater following, understood the times better, had more influence, and could lead people to rebel against the evil, wicked bullies in Rome. But Jesus took a different approach to choosing them: He prayed...in fact, He spent the night praying! I've been a Pastor for 24 years now, and I confess that I've never spent all night praying about which leaders to choose...but Jesus did! I wonder what a difference it might make if we followed Jesus' example more often!?!
As I watched these men stand up in front of us, I had to hold back tears. There's a story of pain and then Powerful Redemption behind each one of them. Each of them came in here broken, embarrassed, shameful, and guilty...but now they are loved, holy, redeemed, Christ-like! If Jesus only saved us based on our accomplishments, we would all still be lost. But He didn't do things like that. Instead, He spent the night praying...He knew what these men would become once they got ahold of what He was wanting from them. There used to be things that held them down, but now they could let those things go and become who He wanted them to become instead.
Ministry is hard work, no doubt about it. There are standards that the Bible gives us that we are to point people towards. Living for God requires us to leave the ways of this world and long for another World and to become more like Jesus until we arrive There. But until then, I want to challenge you to see people the way Jesus did. And once you do that, start asking Him what He wants them to do. I'm not talking about throwing a quick prayer and hoping it sticks to the wall. I'm talking about committing to praying for them to become the kind of men and women who will seek Him and who will do all they can to reach others for Him.
Who is it you are praying for like that right now? Who is it that keeps you up at night and leaves you wondering if they will EVER get it? Who is it that you see potential in but you want them to grow up in their faith a little more first? What are you doing to bring about the work of God in their life that will bring them to maturity? Perhaps we should start where Jesus did - by committing to pray for them..because someone else probably prayed like that for you.