This past week, I was fortunate to be able to go see episodes 1 and 2 of the new season (season 3) of my favorite TV show, The Chosen, in a local theater. These episodes were as well done as the previous two seasons, so I’m glad to have been able to see them on the big screen.
One thing that really struck me was the portrayal in episode 2 of this passage from the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel:
I have to admit that as many times as I have read or listened to this brief passage, I had never really pondered the implications of this situation for the disciples. However, the way this was depicted in episode 2 was masterful. After Jesus told the disciples that he was sending them out, they were all very skeptical, as you’d expect they would be. They looked around the room at one another. their faces conveying what I think we all would be wondering: “How are we supposed we supposed to do that? What are we supposed to say? We’re not you, Jesus!”
I realized then how daunting it must have been for this band of 12 misfits, none of whom had any training as religious leaders (unless you count following Jesus around and listening to his sermons).
Anyone who has read my blogs over the last couple of years knows that I believe strongly that Jesus stands by us, closer than any other friend, willing to help us carry our burdens if we only ask him. This is the source of peace that surpasses all understanding, which he so willingly offers us. I still find comfort in that commitment from our Creator.
However, there is another aspect to following Jesus that is not quite so comforting: he may ask you to do something or go somewhere that completely disrupts your plans. He doesn’t seem to mind doing that at all.
Here’s the thing: he doesn’t care too much about your plans. He cares more about your eternity than he does about what you’re planning to do on Tuesday. Also, he cares more about other people’s eternity than he does about your lunch plans, so he may place a calling on your life that helps someone else but appears to do nothing for you.
What this translates to is that, like his calling to the disciples, Jesus may drag you, kicking and screaming, out of your comfort zone, for your own sake or for the good of others.
But that’s where growth happens–just beyond the edge of your comfort zone.
One such time in my life came when I felt called to leave my successful and comfortable IT career to transition into owning a landscaping business. After much prayer and consternation, I decided to follow that calling. This led to much more consternation since the decision was very unpopular with my wife (in retrospect, I did not handle it very well, as I should have involved her much more in the decision–God’s calling is obviously important, but so is the opinion of someone affected by a decision to follow it).
Anyway, following this calling shoved me way out of my comfort zone. I often felt overwhelmed, and many times regretted the decision. And as things played out, by worldly standards, it was not a good business decision–this was in 2008, when the US economy tanked. I had to close down the business after two landscaping seasons and return to my IT career.
It was hard to think why God had been calling me to do this. It was a miserable failure, right?
Well, not so fast.
For one thing, for me personally, God finally broke me of my misguided notion that I was self-sufficient. Up until that point, I’d enjoyed a successful IT career. I had, with help from our deceitful enemy, allowed myself to believe that I had earned my success on my own through hard work. In those days, while I believed in God and occasionally expressed half-hearted gratitude toward him for my accomplishments, in my heart, I felt I was the one primarily responsible for what I had achieved. But during the challenging times of running a business during a failing economy, I learned quickly to depend on God every single day, and all through the day. I learned that any success I’m able to achieve is only a result of God’s blessings, from the abilities and opportunities he has given me.
God probably tried to teach me this in other ways, but I missed them. Often the best lessons are the hardest ones.
Even more, there were things that happened within our family as a result of the decision to follow God down this unexpected path. Sparing you the boring details, we had the opportunity to have my in-laws live with us for what turned out to be the last summer before Jesus called my mother-in-law home. This afforded us some rich quality time to spend together. Further, we got to show my father-in-law that we could all live under the same roof without being at each other’s throats, which led to him agreeing to move back in with us about a year later–a blessing that continues to this day, especially since he has been and remains one of my very best friends.
So here’s one reason why I think Jesus doesn’t mind disrupting our well-laid plans: because he knows that ultimately, there is profound joy to be had when we reach the place in our lives where we recognize our complete dependence on him, where he breaks us of the “rugged independence” so prized in our culture and helps us to see that the plans he has for us far exceed any grand designs we had. As King David realized when he was in a pit of despair, there seems to be a connection between joy and having a willing spirit:
The joy of the Lord is available to us, to be our strength (as observed in Nehemiah 8:10) if we will but lean into him. If you’re anything like me, you may be afraid of failing or falling, but God’s strong hands wait beneath us, just out of sight, ready to catch us nonetheless. And sometimes–maybe a lot of times–God doesn’t care as much about the results of our efforts as much as he does about the posture of our hearts once we have reached that place of surrender and dependence.
He will take care of the results. His outcomes are better than ours anyway. Trust in him, and you will find joy. He’ll make sure of that.