I wonder whether you have ever thought about it, but it seems to me that when the Lord Jesus was here on earth, He had a most unlikely crowd of ‘apostles’ under his charge. Let us take a look at some of those whom we know fairly well.
Firstly, there is Simon Peter, who at all times walked about with a sword tucked under his belt – and ready to use it at any moment. Can you imagine that? A prominent apostle of Jesus willing and always prepared to make war in such a glaringly carnal manner, and from all appearances the Master allowed this man to move freely in that attitude without so much as a rebuke. Incredible!
Then there were James and John, the ‘sons of thunder’. That name itself speaks volumes about the character of these sons of Zebedee. It was them who wanted Jesus to call down fire on a certain town which would not welcome Him. They were a thunderous duo all right.
That attitude was compounded by their selfishness. To this end they were schemers of the worst kind. Apparently having followed Jesus’ recent movements and words so very carefully, they discerned that He was preparing to go up to Jerusalem – to be crowned king. So they got together and came up with the devious plan of using their mother to coerce Him to gave them a place of prominence in His ‘kingdom’. Jesus, unfazed, answered them in a strange language – “Are you able to partake of my cup…of my baptism?” – words they were not likely to understand under the heady atmosphere. Their eyes hungrily set upon the thrones they would soon be occupying in Jerusalem, they promptly answered, “Yes!”…. They would have been stunned had they known the implications of Jesus’ words to them: “Indeed, you will partake of my baptism and drink of the cup that I drink…”
Then there was Judas, whom we all know of. A thief and a traitor, this man carried a particularly evil heart. He was, without a doubt, the devil’s right hand man.
These were the sort of characters that comprised Jesus’ bosom friends. The Author of the Bible, in His infinite wisdom, saw it fit to spare us the agony of bringing up the murky details that must have characterized the lives of the rest of the pack: little, if any details are provided about the remaining apostles in the gospels, for good reason, I presume.
The amazing fact in all this is that Jesus was well aware of all these shortcomings that His apostles had. One is left wondering how the Lord Jesus could have put up with such a terribly carnal crowd. I mean, at the very least He should have spent a considerable portion of His time trying to straighten them out – this lot was way off-course as far as holiness was concerned!
But the Lord of all grace was patient. Not once do we see Him telling Peter to throw away his sword. Nor do we see him ranting at the sons of Zebedee for their spiritually ‘childish’ behavior.
The reason for Jesus’ apparent reluctance to do anything was because He knew a time would come when the grace of God would catch up with these men. And He knew that once God’s grace had changed a man, that man was changed for real. If anything was not of grace, then it was nothing. That is why when He was being taken up He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. He knew that grace would be poured upon them, and they would change for real. By faith He named them apostles, when they were not even fit to be church ushers.
How often we want to change people! How often we want to chisel people according to our own Godly (read selfish) standards. We are all prone to this. In fact many Christians are professional ‘Law-yers’ in this respect. We want to put law upon people in every area of their lives. We want to change people on our own accord and we want instant, visible change! But that will never work in the Spirit. We must be willing and ready to wait until God’s grace can work in men and women’s lives.
Unfortunately, the fruit sometimes takes a long time to show forth (for it is by the grace of God, not by our own will or strength) and for the majority of us patience is a hard commodity to come by.
I remember well the day I got saved. The instant those people prayed for me, so many things fell from my life. That very evening I stopped doing nearly all of the things I had been doing… in fact, I do remember clearly that all the ‘big’ sins were completely obliterated from my life, and I never went back to them again. With just one prayer I had been completely changed and had become a completely new creation (or creature).
I don’t recall anyone telling me to let go of these things; in fact, I was not aware of what was going on until I came to realize much later that I had left off doing those things.
Do we have the spiritual stamina to rely on God to change people and situations, instead of us imposing our own will on them? If people change because we put laws and exert pressure on them, that is not of the Spirit and it would not last.
True, lasting spiritual fruit and growth in people’s lives comes when we can bear with their weaknesses and pray and trust God to change them, because we are assured that only the hand of God is sufficient to bring true change in men’s hearts and lives. In the meantime, we should strive to show forth the love of God towards these people, with all patience.
That is the only way to bring true change to people’s lives. The Bible says that through faith and patience we obtain God’s promises (Heb. 6:12). Jesus had both these qualities. We, too, are called upon to have them, and have them in abundance. And that can only happen through a working of the Cross of Christ in our lives, whereby our lives are given, that others may live.