They [the disciples] proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. (Acts 1:23)
When the time came for someone to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot and bring the number of disciples back to twelve, there were two candidates who were well qualified for the position: Justus and Matthias. The Lord chose Matthias for this position and not Justus. Can your relate to this story? To be sure, there are times in this life when we all probably feel just like Justus.
Did you ever stand in one of those lines in gym class where the two top athletes were picking teams for a game and eventually there was only one player left . . . and that player was you? I had that experience as a boy, and I well remember the sting of hearing someone grumble, “I guess we’ll have to take Boland.” Talk about feeling like an outcast — both unwelcome and unwanted. Perhaps you remember sending your high school transcripts off to your top choice for college, only to be on the receiving end of a rejection letter. Perhaps you felt that sting later in life, when you were expecting a promotion at the office, only to find out that someone else, perhaps someone less qualified than you, was given the position. All of us have stories of being not chosen . . . just like Justus.
But we must not forget the most important message in this story: Even though he was not selected by God to be one of the Twelve, Justus was already on God’s team. He was picked. He was wanted. He was chosen . . . but he was not the one chosen to receive the honor of being added to the roster of disciples. That’s life, and that’s the life we all live at some level. All of us have “not chosen” stories that can reopen wounds from our past. I have often wondered how being the one who was not chosen for such an important position, one for which he was clearly qualified, might have affected Justus. The Scriptures do not tell us. Early Christian tradition recorded that he became the Bishop of Eleutheropolis (“City of the Free”), a village northwest of the city of Hebron.
The one thing I do know about Justus being not chosen is this: when we are on God’s team and we are not chosen for one position, that simply throws open the door to move into another position. This was true for Kim and me. I was not chosen as the pastor to succeed Dr. D. James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after he went home to be with the Lord in 2007. But in 2012, God did choose Kim and me to plant a church. Had I been chosen to fill Dr. Kennedy’s vacancy, I would never have been chosen, along with my wife and family, to plant Cross Community Church.
Remember, life is full of “Justus stories” for all of us. But never forget this biblical truth: It is not what happens to you that makes the greatest difference in how your life works out; it is what you do with what happens that does. What have you done with your “not chosen” story? Has a door recently closed in your life? Start looking for the door that God has opened for you! That new door will always open, a door God has opened up just for you . . . just like Justus.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!