Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It All Takes Time

August 30, 2016

Sometimes it pays to read between the lines. Reading Matthew's gospel, or Mark's, we get the impression that as Jesus was strolling along the shore of the Sea of Galilee he out of the blue called Peter, James, and John and they just up and followed him without any forethought. Luke tells a different story. Jesus had been preaching throughout the region, had already stirred up controversy in the Nazareth synagogue, cast out a demon in Capernaum, and stopped by Peter's house where he healed Peter's mother in law, whereupon people started bringing to him the sick and oppressed to be healed.

In other words, Peter, James, and John were no strangers to this preacher. He had already gathered a bit of notoriety, was somehow on close enough terms with Peter to have singled out his house for an after-synagogue dinner. These three had opportunity to observe Jesus up close for some period of time before Jesus called them to follow him. Even then, it was only after a sermon from Peter's boat, a command to launch out into deep water and cast the nets, and the resulting catch that Jesus called them. He spent time preparing them, grooming them for the call he knew he would offer.

Conversion rarely happens instantaneously. I've only seen it happen two or three times in over 40 years of ministry. Even in those cases, someone years before had sown gospel seeds that just happened to germinate and sprout before my eyes, seemingly without effort. It takes time to bring life into the world. Nine months for a baby human, a couple weeks for a squash or radish. Life doesn't happen instantaneously. So when we get discouraged with how long it takes to cultivate and grow a genuine disciple, it helps to remember that even Jesus didn't cold-call Peter, James, and John. He took his time, let them hear his preaching and watch as he healed people. And he showed them in one last catch of fish the possibilities that were ahead if they were willing to lay down what they knew in order to trust him with what they couldn't even imagine.

Linda asked me tonight how she could best pray for me. I asked her to pray for my integrity and for faithfulness in pursuing God's present call on my life. It's one thing for me to talk about "Men, Money, and Mission;" it's quite another to actually map things out and begin working on it. I'm grateful that Jesus takes his time; that he has given me time to sort things out so I could hear his call once more, and that he has given me Linda to help me keep faith with that calling.

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