Do you feel left behind? Are your friends and acquaintances accomplishing amazing things, while you feel you aren’t achieving much of anything? Perhaps they are taking college classes, getting graduate degrees, studying foreign languages, traveling to fascinating places, becoming online teachers, acquiring teaching certifications, winning competitions, or becoming recognized speakers, but whatever it is, you don’t see yourself doing the same, and even though it may be for a very good reason, maybe–just maybe–you feel a little left behind. Should you? Not if you’re being faithful to Jesus!
“Jesus answered, ‘If I want him [John] to live until I come back, that is not your business. You follow me.’ So a story spread among the followers that this one would not die. But Jesus did not say he would not die. He only said, ‘If I want him to live until I come back, that is not your business.’” (John 21:22-23 NCV)
Today’s passage follows right after Jesus revealed to Peter how he would be martyred: Peter turned and saw John and asked about him, and this was Jesus’ answer. John, of course, did die, because that wasn’t what Jesus was saying–but he was the only one of the twelve who died of natural causes. So what was the point of Jesus’ answer?
The point of what Jesus told Peter is basically, “Follow the path I have for you; don’t worry about the path of others who follow me (my paraphrase).” God has a path for each of His people, and it is not the same. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God has prepared good works beforehand for each of us to accomplish during our lifetimes.
Yet, just as we cannot choose the gifts His Spirit gives us, we cannot really choose our ministries. Granted, there does seem to be a lot of personal choice involved, but I believe this is another example of the free will of man and the sovereignty of God seamlessly meshing–we believe we are making our own decisions, yet it is God who steers everything in the right direction. My mother used to say, “Mensch denkt; Gott lenkt” (people plan; God steers). We are, perhaps, more cognizant of His influence when we actively seek His will in prayer, but He directs history regardless of whether the actors on its stage acknowledge Him:
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)
So–be faithful where He places you. There may be a good reason why you can’t do some of the things you see others doing–maybe that’s not your path, or maybe it’s not the right time yet–perhaps you need to be doing something else now. But whatever it is, rest in Jesus’ arms. Serve Him where you are–do whatever you ARE able to do for Him now, and wait on Him. If you have the opportunity to better yourself, do so, but remember that Jesus did not promise us fame, huge ministries, fascinating lives, or much education–even though some may get these. “If I want him [or her] to…that is not your business. You follow me.”
Look at the Biblical example of Joseph. He did exactly what he was supposed to be doing pretty much his entire life, and ended up seemingly punished for it–several times. Yet what appeared failure to advance–being forceably taken away from his home where his father valued and promoted him and sold into salvery, and later being wrongly accused and imprisoned away from the house he had risen to oversee–was actually God preparing him for what was to come. Think about his early days in Egypt, or his time in prison. From Joseph’s perspective, he must not have been able to see any good in either of these situations. Yet God was positioning him: He was preparing him for great influence–because Joseph did not despair or turn away from Him, and excelled when the opportunity arose.
It is the same with all who follow Jesus. We cannot see the future. All we know is today: the future we must trust to God. Today, we must seek His face. Today, we must faithfully do what He places before us to the best of our ability for His glory. Today, we must love Him with our whole being, and evidence it by obeying His commands. And as we do these today, we must trust that He is preparing us through our faithfulness for whatever He has in store for us to accomplish in the future. So, do you feel left behind? Should you? Not if you’re faithfully following Jesus!
Help me faithfully follow You today, and prepare me for what You want me to accomplish tomorrow! Amen.