It all started while I was reading through the names of the Twelve Apostles with my six-year-old. I tripped merrily along . . . until I came to Thaddaeus.
Thaddaeus? Who in the world is Thaddaeus? I did a keyword search in BibleGateway. The name “Thaddaeus” is only mentioned twice. I delved a bit deeper and found that he’s also referred to as “Judas son of James” and “Judas (not Iscariot).” In all of Scripture, he has a one-liner found in John 14:22.
Wow, I thought. One of THE Twelve. The Big Twelve. The Super-Important Twelve. And I didn’t even recognize his name.
Thaddaeus spent years in Christ’s company, just like the rest, privy to miracles and even performing them himself (Luke 9:1–2). And yet when we think of the Apostles, we grab ahold of Peter. We jump to John. We naturally gravitate to those with leading roles. Thaddaeus—personally called and empowered by Christ. And yet we know so little about him.
We do know that the Apostles were not immune to jockeying for position (Luke 22:24). I wonder . . . did Thaddaeus feel a twinge of envy watching Peter, James, and John follow Jesus up the Mount of Transfiguration? Did he wish he was the one who found the boy with the five loves and two fish instead of Andrew? There’s certainly no indication that Thaddaeus felt any of these things, but knowing my own wayward heart I can easily imagine the temptation.
Are you, perhaps, feeling a bit like a Thaddaeus these days? Called by Christ and empowered by His Spirit, do you nonetheless feel like the kid in the school play with the one-liner? Maybe the past year and a half has dealt you blow after blow and you’re feeling sidelined. Maybe you’ve had to put down things you love to take up things you weren’t planning on. Maybe loss, fear, and uncertainty have crowded you into a corner and you’re fighting to figure out your place again. Maybe friendships have changed, roles have changed, life has changed and you’re unsure of where or how you belong. You want to contribute but you don’t know how. You wonder if it even matters.
If you find yourself glancing around at the Peters and Johns with a huff of discouragement, remember these two truths:
Your calling is not about you.
This probably sounds oxymoronic, but track with me for a minute. We all have various callings via the roles God has given us and the work He’s put in our hands. It’s all too easy to twist our callings into a personal glory story. When we don’t receive the accolade, the appreciation, the attention, the desired result, our pride takes a hit. As called and beloved children of God, however, our calling is ultimately not about us but about Him.
“Follow me,” He told them,
“and I will make you fish for people”
We are called to someone for something. We follow Christ for the purpose of the Kingdom. If we get our sense of self worth all jumbled up in there, the lens slowly rotates from Christ to us. As Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne wrote: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” We’d do well to take this advice when we find the lens wobbling and our pride flickering. Take ten looks to Christ and let yourself be gloriously realigned.
There are no insignificant roles in God’s eyes—only important Kingdom work.
We know this in our heads but do we really let it inform our hearts when we find ourselves in the muck and mire of daily life? Our callings aren’t about us but about the One who does the calling, and what He asks of us is needed and important. We keep our hands open and we thank Him for what passes through. We thank Him for the mountaintop experience and we thank Him for the valley. We thank Him when a door opens and we thank Him when one closes. We learn with Paul to be content in every situation and with every at-hand task. How? Through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, for this is the power that resides in us, strengthening us to do all things through Him.
Hear this: You specifically, yes you, are needed.
Like Paul encouraged the Body of Christ: the hand needs the foot needs the mouth needs the belly button. It’s all the body. And it all works together for the good of the whole. You and me, we’re anointed with purpose, not for our own glory and not based on our own merit but based on the One who called and equipped us.
Jesus and His mission were the binding agent that caused twelve vastly different men to be supernaturally cohesive. Sure, they had their squabbles and their moments of bull-headedness. But make no mistake . . . they were unified. And God changed the world through them. He is still changing the world, friend. He is doing it one soul at a time. Whether you find yourself on the “frontlines” or the “sidelines,” you are important to Christ, and the work He has given to you is infinitely valuable. Don’t let the Devil rob your hands of their influence. Are you feeling like a Thaddaeus? Take heart. God rejoices to use such people.