I Wanna Get Ahead

(Part Three in the Disciples Series. Scroll down to see the introduction called Different Strokes.)

It had been eating away at him all day. He had thought this out every possible way and it was right. It was good. This was as it should be. Surly the Rabbi would agree.

James cleared his throat and straightened as the object of his musings rounded a bend and started toward him.

His heart did a flip as it always did whenever
this amazing Teacher drew near. Some said he was the Messiah. Time would tell, but there was no doubt he was coming into some kind of kingdom any day now. He'd made that clear.

On his fingers, James
ticked off the five major reasons for this request. He squirmed at number one: Mother. Everyone said he got his ambitious streak from her side of the family. He couldn't argue with that. John had taken after Father: laid back, introspective, deep. Always thinking. Always writing.

But James was restless. He was destined for greater things than that fishing business. Fishing was just a time killer until his real life's work started. He still wasn't sure what the Teacher had meant by that "fishers of men" comment, but was too embarrassed to ask. Frankly, it didn't sound like what he had in mind for his future anyway. Why waste time with the little people when an exalted Rabbi like this could take over the world if he wanted to?

James would forever remember that moment his future changed. That moment when the Rabbi came strolling along the beach and called his name. No one had to tell James twice what an opportunity this was. He hadn't made the cut into Rabbinical school, but this was almost as good. He and John had talked this over for months now. This famous Rabbi was going places and they wanted to be right there with him. On the winning team.

He straightened his spine and tried to look confident. Why was it so hard to maintain your composure in the presence of this Nazarene?

The Master stopped before James and gave him a curious look. Before he could speak, he heard a familiar shriek.



A burly housewife shoved past her son without a look and eyed the tall Galilean. "Hail to you, and all that. What I came here to find out was if my boys can be your top aides when you come into your...your, uh, whatever it is you're bringing. They say you're inheriting some kind of kingdom. Now that's wonderful. Your mother must be so proud. Now, my boys would be perfect for slots two and three, right after you."

James shrank back, wincing at her audacity. As crass as it sounded from her lips, that was the question James was poised to ask. Didn't matter who it came from. Whatever he had to do, he would be first to make it to the kingdom.

It is lauded by the world,
but it doesn't work so well in the spiritual realm.

Do you identify with James? Are you driven to succeed? Do you find it frustrating to read Jesus' words: "The first shall be last and the last, first." Does something inside you want to argue that you can't get ahead that way?

Jesus didn't give up on James and his personal ambition. He simply granted it in the way that only God can. James was the first to enter the kingdom of Heaven---he was the first apostle martyred. (Acts 12:2)

God often uses our weaknesses and failings by transforming them through the power of the Holy Spirit. He takes out the selfish part and turns our weakness into strength to accomplish his purposes. What began as selfish ambition propelled the Apostle James into untiring ministry and eventual murder at the hands of King Herod. James' selfish ambition was transformed into a passion to glorify God.

What might you accomplish if you laid your ambition at the foot of the cross and allowed the Holy Spirit to transform it?

God can often do more with our weaknesses than our strengths
when we commit them all to him.


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