The podcast at the end of this article is a ten-minute message called "The Pharisee Spirit." I've renamed the podcast "Secret Place" because it comes from my early-morning devotion time.
I saw a lot of old friends at a missionary conference last weekend. I use the word 'old” purposefully because honestly, it's kind of impressive to see how gray some of my (male) friends look. Fortunately, I haven't changed.
Twenty years ago I attended these conferences and I would see these 'not getting any younger” 50 plus geezers, and I would think, 'Those guys are gray and shriveling up. Their time is winding up fast. It's too bad they don't know how to do it like I do. Sad, really.” You know what makes me mad? Now that I'm 50 something I'll bet these 30-year olds are thinking the same thing about me! Grrrrrr!
They just don't know how young and dynamic I am (under all this gray and wrinkles). And I'm definitely not shriveling”"well, my skin may be, but my waistline isn't.
I have to confess to a little disappointment though. I've never accomplished a lot of those things that I dreamed I would back 25 years ago. In a world where we constantly hear sermons on 'excellence” and 'achievement” my life has been pretty average”"at least compared to excellent.
'Average” wasn't the goal but I suppose 90% of us hover around that level. Probably five percent lead and achieve great things and five percent blow it royally. The rest of us average out to 'average.”
That's not so bad, though (except for our ego). God doesn't need a lot of great leaders. If you've ever been in a group with too many leaders you know what I mean. Not a lot of people can preach humongous evangelistic rallies, or write best-sellers, or chair great corporations, or own prosperous businesses, or be stunningly beautiful or ”¦
Most of us average out to average. Quick now, name ten of Jesus' twelve apostles for me (Paul doesn't count). You probably got Peter, James, John, Judas, Andrew and some of the others who get quite a bit of ink in the New Testament. How many of you remembered James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus? (I looked them up).
They weren't really illustrious and didn't seem to do a whole lot to make themselves stand out. No great miracles recorded, no stupid proclamations like those for which Peter was famous, no treachery.
What were these guys doing anyway?
Well, they helped in the two miracles of multiplication of bread and fish by handing out the goodies and taking up what was left. The preached with the 70 and saw healings, fleeing demons, and repenting sinners. They spent lots of time sweating and rowing on the sea of Galilee.
Most likely they helped when it was time to give to the poor. I'm sure they provided crowd control for Jesus' revivals; listened for hours as he taught; and walked until they rubbed the bottoms of their sandals to a nubbin trying to keep up with the Lord.
I count at least 153 times that the New Testament mentions Peter. And Thaddeus? Let's see”¦my word search comes up with”¦two! Both mentions of him are in a list of the apostles.
So he was a failure, huh? Let's see what God says,
'The City shimmered like a precious gem, light-filled, pulsing light. She had a wall majestic and high with twelve gates. At each gate stood an Angel, and on the gates were inscribed the names of the Twelve Tribes of the sons of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, three gates on the west. The wall was set on twelve foundations, the names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb inscribed on them.” (Rev. 21:12-14, The Message).
If I've understand it right, then, we're going to see the name of 'Thaddeus” inscribed on one of the foundations of the walls of the Heavenly City. Old Thaddeus finally gets his name in lights!
There is a reward for faithfulness. Here's the goal, 'For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep”¦ (Acts 13:36, NIV). God doesn't sponsor mediocrity but a lot of people who do their best, are thought of as plodders by some of their contemporaries, and they never get to the 'top” down here. They still please the Lord, even though 'excellent” for them still looks average.
One of these days, those faithful Thaddeus are going to be rewarded just like the Peters.
So to my younger colleagues, who see only a gray, shriveling fellow in me, I want to say, 'MY DAY IS COMING!” And to those shriveled colleagues of twenty years ago, who are now even more shriveled and gray (or slick) I want to say, 'Fellows, now I understand.”