The life of Moses is intriguing to me. I think he had no idea what he was signing up for when he met God at the burning bush. In his leadership role he did what God asked him to do, with a few minor problems along the way, yet the nation of Israel was constantly grumbling at him, not pleased with his leadership. It even caused Moses to grumble to God a bit, but overall he continued on in faithfulness.
I also find Joseph’s life intriguing. When he had those wild dreams as a youth and told of them with such fascination to his family, I think he had no idea what he was signing up for. Again, this was a man who seemed to honor God in every detail of his life, yet disaster was brought on him repeatedly. In the end, he summarized his experiences as “you meant if for evil, but God meant if for good.” He continued on in faithfulness.
Both of these men were following God, yet they found themselves in unexpected places. Perhaps you find some connection with their lives, both their desire to follow God and the subsequent unexpected places, where life does not quite go as you anticipated or planned.
Recently in my sermon preparation for Mark 3, I pondered the calling of the twelve. What a moment! Jesus gathers all of his followers together and chooses twelve so that they could be with him and so that he could send them out to preach. Imagine the joy of being chosen for this ministry. There must have been chatter amongst the crowd as Jesus announced his decision. “Why him? He has no education at all.” “He certainly chose a peculiar bunch.” “This is not fair. I have sacrificed far more than any of them to follow Jesus.” And let’s face it, Judas Iscariot was not a good choice except that he fulfilled what Scripture had spoken. In the end, they all desert him. Maybe the murmuring crowd had it right.
I do think each one of the twelve must have felt special in that moment. I would have. I am certain their parents did. They were ready, but did they know what they were signing up for? I remember as a college freshmen looking at my professors or leaders in the church and longing to be one of them. I was eager, but did I know what I was signing up for?
I am certain that those twelve men had little idea how this call to be one of the twelve would transpire. In fact, they had little idea how it was going to turn out for Jesus. In my pondering the Lord led me to the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It had been awhile since I had flipped through these pages of “men of whom this world is not worthy.” The deaths of these first disciples are recorded in this book. Their stories are mostly based on tradition, but they are worth noting nonetheless. Consider the deaths of the twelve:
Simon Peter – crucified upside down (not worthy to be like Jesus)
James – executed by the sword
John – even though he died a natural death, he was sentenced to be boiled in oil, exiled to Patmos, and was forced to drink poison
Andrew – crucified
Philip – crucified and stoned
Bartholomew – flayed by whips and martyred upside down
Matthew – beheaded
Thomas – speared to death (in India)
James – stoned
Thaddeus/Judas – executed by arrows/javelin
Simon – sawn in half
Mark – dragged through cobblestone streets until his body was ripped
Matthias (the replacement for Judas in the book of Acts) – stoned.
Perhaps the murmuring crowd was wrong after all. These men continued on in faithfulness after Jesus died, was buried, rose again, and ascended. There were ambassadors who brought the message of the gospel that changed the world, including you and me. They may not have known what they were signing up for, but they knew who they were signing up for. Their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And they remained faithful.
So it is a good question to ask yourself: when you became a Christ-follower, did you have any idea what you were signing up for? As we follow Christ, we are often led to unexpected places. These places can be uncomfortable and stretching to our faith. These places can be full of difficulty and pain. And, if you were God for a day, it might not be the way you would lead. However, our God is to be trusted. Our experiences are “common to man.” Our God will provide “a way of escape.” His “grace is sufficient” for us. He has not only given us eternal life, he offers us abundant life daily. In the midst of all of our experiences, he gives us a “peace that passes all understanding.”
God has a plan. We do not know it. With the great crowd of witnesses looking on, we simply walk in faithfulness, day by day, until Jesus returns. Maybe we did not know what we were signing up for. But let’s do remember who we were signing up for. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.