The Runner

(Part Five in the Disciples Series. Scroll down to begin at the introduction called Different Strokes.)

He was just a kid. Hardly looked like a disciple. Peach fuzz where a full beard should be and his eyes held that impatient gleam that belongs to the young and energetic.

Philip, athletic star of Bethsaida. Fastest runner for three towns around. No one expected him to get caught up in the hubbub surrounding that Jewish rabbi from Galilee. Just didn't seem his style. He was destined for the games one day.

He had raced into town that day, the day it all changed. Face flushed with excitement, he had shouted to anyone who would listen: "The Messiah's come! The one the scriptures told about! It's Joseph's son, that Carpenter from Nazareth! Can you believe it?"

No, they couldn't believe it. The matrons wagged their heads, the scholars lifted disapproving brows, and they dismissed him. His running buddies laughed at him and then begged him to train with them for the next race.

But he couldn't. Something had happened to him when the Rabbi broke away from the crowds and zeroed in on him. "Come follow Me," He had said.

That was all. Such a simple request, it should have been easy to reject. But something tugged at Philip's heart. Until that moment, he'd scarcely given a thought to the Messiah. But what if the murmurs were right? What if this was the real deal? Maybe he should give it a shot.

So he did. Followed and watched and listened, still scarcely believing he'd been picked to be a part of this. Who was he? Just a kid from Bethsaida. Still puzzled, he took every chance to try to poke a hole in this fantasy.

"Show us the Father," he'd gotten the guts to demand of Jesus.

It was the worst thing he'd ever said and he regretted it the moment Jesus looked at him with a trace of disappointment. "Philip, you've been with me all this time. Don't you know who I am?"

Philip would forever remember the sweat that broke out on his brow and the knot that formed in his stomach. The thing was, he did know. Not in his mind. His mind was full of skepticism and doubt. But somewhere deep inside in heart, he knew.

It was scary. Sometimes he didn't want to know. Sometimes he wanted to leave it all and go back to running. Forget these miracles that couldn't be happening, the teachings that left him more confused than ever. He didn't have what the others seemed to have. Maybe he didn't belong with this group.

But he stayed. He'd cast his lot with this bunch and he would see it through, even if it all turned out to be a farce. If that was the case, he'd already decided he would pack up and move far away, rather than face the scorn back home. He'd chosen this and with a sheer act of his will, he stayed with it. Following the Teacher was not all fun and games and he stuck his foot in his mouth more times than he liked to remember. But he was in. For better or worse, he was in.

Does this sound like you at times?

You've given your heart to Jesus, but the fear and doubt remain:
Are you sure about this? What if it's not real?

The world pulls at you. Friends mock. Family lifts a skeptical brow and you quake. What have I done?

Jesus called the Philips of the world just as he called John and Simon Peter. He understood Philip's hesitation and he understands yours.

It might help to remember that the same curious boy who tagged along with the Rabbi's crowd went on to evangelize all of Samaria. God utilized his skill at running when the Lord sent him to chase down a chariot belonging to the queen of Ethiopia. The man on board received the Gospel and took the message back to his country, thus furthering the spread of God's message to another continent.

All because of Philip.

Don't despair if you find it a daily struggle to maintain your faith. God honors white-knuckle faithfulness just as He honors the loyalty of those to whom it comes easier.

Just don't give up. Don't let go of what your heart knows is real, simply because your mind cannot grasp it. When the Holy Spirit finally gets a hold of you, you will do mighty things as well. Set your heart toward God with no looking back.

You, like Philip, will be forever thankful that you did.

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