I’m an actor, by training and by trade. And actors are taught to think…and SAY…that they can do anything! The Casting Director says, “Can you ride a horse?” “SURE I can ride a horse!” And if you get the role…you go out and learn how to ride a horse! Sometimes, the resume’ is a little thin!
When I was in college, the K-Mart Corporation opened a magic-themed restaurant chain called Abra-K-Dabra. I needed a job and they needed magicians. Great! But at that point in my life…I wasn’t a magician! But I went down to apply for the job anyway. The manager, who was interviewing, asked, “Are you a magician?” “SURE!” He then showed me a really basic card trick. And then came the words I was afraid to hear, “Show ME a trick!” “Uuummm…I didn’t bring anything with me!” And the amazing thing? He BOUGHT it! I got the job and worked there for two years during college. Sometimes, the resume’ is a little thin!
Jeremiah 29:10-14a- This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
Today, we near the end of our current Sunday morning journey- The End of Me, based on the book by Kyle Idleman. We’re unpacking several truths that seem to make no sense! Week One, we considered what it means to be Broken to be Whole. Week 2, we continued the journey as we looked at Mourn to be Happy. Three weeks ago, we took another step as we considered Humbled to be Exalted. Week 4, we looked at what it means to be Authentic to be Accepted. Week 5, we took another step as we considered how you can be Empty to be Filled. Last week, we drew closer to the conclusion as we looked at how you can be Helpless to be Empowered. Today, we draw within one week of completing this series as walk talk about being Disqualified to be Chosen. Today’s main Scripture is a very well-known passage- it even has a song written about it! Let’s look at a “wee little man” who was disqualified to be chosen.
Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Do you ever feel less than adequate? Here’s what you do the next time you feel like a talentless lump- read failed job applications. I saw one that included a cover letter…from his mom! Another, when asked why he wanted the job, said, “To keep my parole officer happy.” Another bragged that he graduated in the top 85 percent of his class! Another bragged that he was fluent in multiple foreign… accents. One said, “My twin sister has an accounting degree, so I know I’m good with numbers.” I interviewed a guy once who, when I asked what one thing he would change about himself, said, “Well, I’m late all the time.” Thank you…NEXT! Sometimes, the resume’s a little…thin.
So…Zacchaeus. He was a “chief tax collector”. In the Roman tax system, that translated to an officer who gained his income by extorting more money from the people than he had contracted to pay the Roman government. (Insert your U.S. Government joke HERE!) Jericho was a major customs center, which meant Zacchaeus was probably doing just fine financially. He was wealthy…and hated.
Zacchaeus climbs up a sycamore-fig tree- a sturdy tree that could be 30′ to 40′ tall. They have a short trunk and spreading branches that would be fully capable of holding a “wee little man” like Zacchaeus. He wanted to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus’s desire to see Jesus, though commendable, was surpassed by the fact that Jesus wanted to see him. Not only did he want to see Zacchaeus, Jesus had to stay with him…today. Jesus meets us at the end of ourselves and offers us a new beginning.
Verse 10 of the Zacchaeus story is arguably one of the THE most important verses in the Bible. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” It’s important to understand that salvation didn’t come to his house simply because he did a good deed. He experienced salvation because he was a believer- a spiritual descendant of Abraham. The heart of Jesus’ ministry is His quest for the lost. But that isn’t just HIS mission- He made it OUR mission as well. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”
We tend to feel God’s standards are a bit too high and a bit too rigid; We’d LOVE to serve, but we’re not qualified. And so, we give all sorts of reasons for not stepping up:
- “I missed my chance.” It’s a time disqualification. The clock ran out. The buzzer sounded. Gave over…and i missed my shot. That ship has sailed…maybe even sunk.
Are you leaning forward into a world of possibilities or are you leaning backward to grab the potato chip bag? You can’t be in the game if you’re content to sit in the grandstand. Unlike the milk in your fridge that is past its “use by” date and smells a little…ripe, God doesn’t put an “Use By” date on us.
- “God doesn’t want me.” It breaks my heart when people say, “God doesn’t want me. Not after what I’ve done.” That comment grows out the assumption that God is just like everybody else you know- that He writes us off, that He holds grudges, that we’ll never meet His standards. Look at Peter. Look at Moses. Matthew. David. Zacchaeus. Clearly, this one simply isn’t true. Coming to the end of me means letting Jesus put an end to the guilt and shame of the past. He deletes those files…permanently…and offers you something new instead.
- “People won’t forget.” We have a hard time letting people off the hook sometimes. As hard as it is to forgive, it’s even harder to forget. But God refuses to dwell on our past. That’s all been paid for. God forgets what was and focuses instead on what can be. But it’s not always that easy for us mere mortals. In the end, however. we simply can’t worry about how others see us. We have to instead keep moving forward. It’s God, and not people, Who determines your future. His plan and His will are all that matter.
Some people love to remind us of just how bad we are. Apparently it makes them feel better about their own failures if they can make us feel bad, too. Misery loves company. The problem comes when we actually listen to them- take what they say to heart.
What past burden do you thinks disqualifies you? Adultery? Lying? Deception? A sordid past? Anger and temper issues? Maybe you dropped the ball at the worst time possible? Maybe a string of bad relationship choices?
Maybe you’re feeling held back by one particular issue. Here’s the interesting thing about God- quite possibly it’s THAT issue that God wants to specifically use. That’s one of God’s favorite strategies- your “disqualifier” becomes His qualifier. Frankly, based on experience, what else would you expect Him to do?!
What’s your point of disqualification? How is God going to use it? We often want to disqualify ourselves for serving God because of our past. But the only qualification that matters is that God says, “I choose you.”
Often, our faith is built on God being glorified through what looks, to everybody else, a WHOLE lot like failure and defeat. Think about it- the cross, a central image in our faith, was a Roman symbol of shame and humiliation. But we use it as a symbol of God’s power. Why in the WORLD would anybody do that? Because everything we thought we knew was wrong. The end of me is where I encounter the power and redemption of God.
- “I’m Not Ready”. You hear all of this stuff. You know all of this stuff. It makes sense. And yet…you STILL have one more ace up your sleeve- “I’m just not ready.” It’s the classic Christian get-out-of-jail-free card. “I need to learn more first. I need to grow more. I want to be at my very best. I don’t want to jump into anything before I’ve done all my homework. I’m just…not…ready!”
It sounds downright logical and sensible, doesn’t it? Over the years, I’ve seen people with “Servant of God” written all over them. And they get ready and they get ready- and then they get ready some more. But they never seem to quite graduate from the School of Getting Ready. One more Bible study group. A little more time praying for God’s will. It’s like when you were a kid and you kept walking out on the high dive, looking down, and saying, “I need to work a little more on my form.” Jump! Jump already! Jump- even if you’re not ready to jump.
John 15:13-16a- Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.
God’s not terribly interested in our lack of knowledge- our what-ifs. Don’t have the courage? He’ll give it to you. Don’t have the words? He’ll provide them. When God chooses you, He equips you. Every time. Jesus changes your life by laying out your disqualifications- showing you all the reasons you should have failed. That’s how God works. He takes our messes and makes them His masterworks. How else can you explain a heart that is totally and completely transformed, except through the love and grace of Jesus Christ? The biggest reason you CAN’T do it is the exact reason He can- the reason He wants to.
It’s a fair question to ask- what is God trying to say when He deliberately chooses the least likely person on the planet for an important task? What’s your limitation? Whatever it is- it doesn’t matter. Surrender your disqualifications. Give them to God. Get to the end of yourself and you’ll find you are in the exact right place to be used significantly by God.