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Planning Ahead

Luke 6:12-16
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 twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (NIVUK)

In business, teams are important.  It is said that everybody brings something special to the table and makes a unique contribution.  That simply recognises that God has made us all differently and there is a unique contribution we can all make.  But when Jesus selected His team of raw recruits it was not through applications and interviews.  He spent a night in prayer.  The Father and Son deliberately chose those with leadership skills, like Peter; journal writing skills, like Matthew; an evangelist, like Andrew; a man with a clear conscience, like Bartholomew otherwise called Nathaniel (John 1:47); and even a traitor.

Each had been specifically chosen to learn ('disciple' means learner or pupil) ... when they tried to be creative executives they failed (Luke 22:31-34).  However, apart from Judas, after their three years of training and then being filled with the Holy Spirit, they were sent out to be the leaders of the early church ('apostles' means 'sent ones').  They each had a part to play even though most of their ministries are largely unsung in history.  But all of their lives were known to God before they were called.  None was perfect but each who repented of their sins was forgiven.

Interestingly Jesus chose some men from the same family (James and John; Andrew and Peter) or the same business - fishing or civil service.  Some were good team players; others were individualists like Matthew.  But why choose the traitor?   Partly it was to fulfil prophecy (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12; John 6:64).  Partly it was essential leadership training to contend with false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:15), false brothers (2 Corinthians 11:26) and false prophets (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).  Partly to teach that God's purposes are fulfilled despite or even through opposition.  As disciples, they saw Jesus moving forward with the gospel; rigorously proclaiming and defending God's truth in the face of error.  As apostles, they had to do the same.  They learned to rely on what Jesus said, so that they would recognise how the Holy Spirit would use the Scriptures (John 16:12-15) and lead them into mission despite the difficulties (Luke 12:11-12).

Christians need good spiritual leaders.  Many will have learned competences in business.  Some will be team players; others have a special role in mobilising God's people.  But irrespective of personality type, spiritual leadership requires a prayerful inner conviction of God's call into what is humanly unknown.  All of us are in God's training camp (Ephesians 2:10).  He never wastes any of our past experiences; instead, He uses them to mould us into the right shape for His service.  We are not the foundational apostles, but God has chosen each of us to send into the situations for which He has trained us; but knowing we still cannot do anything without Him (John 15:5).  So, wise believers keep looking out for God's appointments at work, in church, at leisure, when travelling; even when we encounter opposition.  Those He calls, He intends to use!

Dear Lord. Thank You that You specially select Your people and then equip them for service proclaiming, confirming and defending the gospel in the face of hostility. Forgive me for doubting Your wisdom in choosing me to be in Your team. Whatever I think of myself, thank You for choosing me. Please stir my soul with Your Word and fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit, so that I will be able to recognise the work You have set for me each day, and do it with Your help. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams