Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?”
Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” (John 21:20-22, MSG)
“Lord, I’d really like it if you…”
“Not this time.”
“But, Lord, I’m better qualified…”
“Not you. Not this time.”
“I’ve sacrificed and been faithful. Why, Lord? I’ve paid my dues!”
“It’s not going to be you.”
Boy, I sure have felt the sock to the gut of those words in my time. My story is the classic ‘picked last in kickball as a kid’ tale. That may be slightly exaggerated, however; if I wasn’t picked first, it felt to me like I was picked last. I’d look at the guy chosen ahead of me and I’d think ‘I’m every bit as good as him.’ That may or may not have been true, but it was, as they say, what it was.
It’s really really hard hearing, “Not you. I choose so-and-so.”
To be overlooked for a promotion when you’re the most qualified, or seconded for a task you know is right in your wheelhouse, is a bitter pill. It can lead to a ‘what’s the use?’ fatalism or a ‘take my ball and play elsewhere’ pettiness.
Yeah, overlooked is the worst.
I’ve heard more than a few friends lament, “When’s it going to be my time?” and in a few of those cases I’ve discerned ‘you’re not ready’ or ‘you’ve yet to come to truth about yourself.’ At present I’m still languishing – and learning, and trying to thrive – in a season where my gifts, talents, and (here’s the kicker) faithfulness through experience, aren’t turning a lot of heads. These’re apparently not enough, so I gallantly wait for when it will (maybe) be my turn again.
Obvs I’m either:
- Not ready for prime-time
- Not seeing something I need to see, or
- It’s quite possibly someone else’s time
Many years ago I wrote this down on a blank page in my Bible:
“God isn’t interested in your ability, but your availability, and when you prove your dependability, he’ll increase your capability.”
While that’s for the most part true, I know a lot of available, faithful saints who are still waiting. But for what? I guess that’s the question.
Shot? At what exactly?
The big time? To turn heads? Get noticed? Forgive all the questions, but the heart of many of us out here still waiting is the matter that we just want to matter. It’s not so much getting noticed or spearheading a global ministry so much as it is (here it comes) getting rewarded for quality time served. It’s noble, but it may reveal something we’re not quite ready to face.
Take Peter, who whined, “What about us? Haven’t we left everything?” and even later opined, “Why do I get picked for grunt labor and tough times? WHAT ABOUT JOHN?!?” He makes my case for me. Jesus told him not to worry himself with John. You and I can insert names that cause us puzzlement and consternation…you know, the ones who get the sweet deals and free passes, that fair-haired “golden child” we ‘think’ we can run dizzying circles around. Why does John always get to waltz into glory? Jesus was clear with Peter that He has another use for John.
What’s it to you, Peter, how I pick and choose?
Peter already had a litany of accomplishments in the kingdom. He preached the sermon that started the worldwide church. He was the guy whose passing shadow healed the sick. God arranged a jail-break where he passed through gates and doors and guards like they weren’t even there. His siesta turned into a tsunami of evangelism to the Gentiles, sending gospel power to the world in glorious, relentless waves.
I know, I know. You’re reading this and saying, “that doesn’t apply to me at all. See? Peter got his shot at ‘the show’, and I’ve never even had tickets to a single-A game!” Pardon the baseball lingo there but I do feel ya. However, there’s something you’ve gotta see in this, and it’s probably already dawning on you. Peter had been front-and-center, yes, but it isn’t about position or placement, as great and grand and kingdom-moving as these things can be. It’s about God’s greatness and how we can best shine the Light on Him.
It’s about: being who you are, where(ever) you are, for as long as you are, to as many as you are, and leaving the itinerary and timing to the great I AM.
➡️By all means DON’T …
…manipulate circumstances to get noticed.
…leverage your talents to get noticed. Don’t self-promote. Don’t do it.
There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
Luke 6:26 (The Message Bible)
➡️You’d do well to remember…
…in God’s economy, to be “passed over” is sometimes His protection. So give thanks that you were possibly spared some unknown, potential grief.
…to approach your right-now role with the dignity and spark it deserves for nothing is too small or insignificant to Jesus. Even if it’s just a sack lunch at a mass picnic.1
“If we believe in God only when he is doing great things for us, we are not really serving him; we are only using him.”
– Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus, June 22.
When will it be your time?
When God says you’re r-e-a-d-y. Period. Not a minute before, not a nanosecond after.
I wrote the word ‘ready’ that way in the previous paragraph to give you a head’s up for an acrostic alert, and, lo and behold, here it is. These five reminders are ‘can’t misses’ for God’s moving you from the linen closet to the great room.2
Recognition is not your primary or secondary pursuit, God’s glory is.
Enjoy and support the success of others when they get picked, even at your expense.
Approach even menial tasks with a grateful heart and exuberant spirit.
Delay usually points to correction, preparation, or further growth in humility and submission to spiritual authority, so embrace this time as necessary.
Yearn to know Christ in all His depths and beauty in this season, relishing intimacy with Christ more desirable than personal posterity.
Hard, hard, hard, hard, yes hard. Yet doable when you’re finished with the fretting3 and moving on to the letting (of Christ in you be Christ for you).
Abraham Lincoln famously intoned, “for now I will study and prepare myself, and someday my chance will come.” We all know how that worked out, yeah? So get ready, beloved, because your time’s coming.
Oh and don’t worry. Spoiler alert, Peter got his shot again in a big, big way (as did John)…but it got him crucified. Which is the other thing about getting your turn: while it might cost you everything, you’ll find the price tag well worth it – if you’re doing it for Him.