At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples have been students and witnesses to the work of Jesus. They have listened to Him teach and seen firsthand and up close some incredible miracles performed by Him.
Now it’s their turn. It’s go time, boys.
Jesus instructs them to proclaim, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. Quite a job description…raise the dead! I wonder if they were excited? Nervous? Unsure of themselves? Fired up to go?
But unlike other commissions, on this first journey, Jesus commands them to go with basically nothing. No money. No bag. No extra clothes or shoes.
It is imperative that on this inaugural mission they learn to rely on God’s provision alone. Nothing in this journey will be about them, their power, or their possessions. God alone.
Jesus experienced countless perceived failures and rejection. He knows His followers will as well. Not only does Jesus prepare them for this, but He also instructs them how to handle it: ”And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”
I believe fear of failure and rejection are the greatest hindrances to us stepping into our calling. I can hear Jesus saying, “You’re afraid you might fail? I failed too. I can tell you that you WILL fail sometimes. Go even still. You think you might be rejected? I was rejected. You will be too sometimes. Go even still.”
So, what do we do when we muster up the courage and faith to go, and our words and deeds are not received?
We are obedient. We do what we know God has called us to do; everything we know to do to reach those we are called to reach. But if it is not received, with mourning and prayer, we must allow ourselves to shake the dust off our feet and step away, even if only for a season.
Mother Teresa said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”
The problem with failure is that it spills over into pride. We internalize it and think if we were only more educated, more charismatic, more eloquent, more resourced, more determined, a harder worker…then we would have succeeded. We lay the success or failure on us.
But success is not our charge or domain. We obey. God works. The Holy Spirit convicts.
Against earthy standards, when we step out in faith, we will sometimes fail and be rejected. Sometimes we are called to be seed planters, sometimes waterers, sometimes bloom watchers. There may be times when we drop the seed into the soil and then shake the dust off and walk away.
Here’s what we DON’T do: walk away angry, walk away judgmental, walk away taking it personally, walk away self-righteous.
Instead, we walk away in sorrow and with prayer and … ”being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God can still make something beautiful from the dust. He has done it from the beginning, and He isn’t finished yet… ”then Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)
Allow yourself to shake the dust off your feet and move on when God tells you it is time. You aren’t defeated. You aren’t giving up. You may just be called to move on to new soil.
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