This past week a good friend suggested a local quasi-governmental organization that has employed several of my fellow former residents of that lovely gated community in Hillsborough called Orange Correctional Center, telling me that perhaps with my background working as an ER nurse as well as a paramedic they would offer me a position as well. I contacted them, dropping off a resume packet when the director of Human Resources was out with a promise to have her call me once she was back in the office.
When I called the next day to speak with her about setting up an appointment for an interview, I was told by her secretary that she hadn’t had time to look through the material I’d dropped off, but would do so and call me back. Two days later I called again and when I identified myself to this same lady and asked to speak with her, was transferred to her voice mail. When this happened twice more I realized that this organization, while willing to hire someone as a counsellor who’d had drug offenses, they drew the line at someone with a murder conviction.
I love my wife and do enjoy serving her through being a house husband, but when I recall the hope I had at finding employment so that she could at least reduce her hours to part-time it seems the height of naiveté that anyone would favor me with full-time, permanent employment. Over and over I’ve had my application for employment either ignored or denied (once with a mocking response to my query) and as the list of those who refuse me grows, my discouragement grows.
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11 ESV
Now that is something to pad your résumé with, don’t you think; Jesus the Christ bragging that you are the best to come along in the race of Homo-sapiens! But John was probably more discouraged and bereft of hope than I’ve ever had to endure as he sat in a jail cell of some petty despot for speaking the truth as God’s prophet:
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” Matthew 11:2, 3 ESV
Did Jesus castigate this despondent man? Did he pull him up and shake him for the temerity by which he, John, questioned whether or not Jesus was truly the Expected One? No, Jesus brags on him to those present when John’s disciples came with John’s query! This prophet of God who was the one who introduced Jesus to Israel, who through obedience to God’s call opened the public ministry of Messiah the King, was even in his discouragement an example for all of us. Yes, John was discouraged, questioning perhaps his own life’s work and wondering perhaps if he’d been mistaken at God’s call on his life and saying what he’d said about Jesus, but rather than speaking condemnation Jesus speaks healing and assurance to John.
In any study of Scripture one of the most important aspects is application; as Chuck Swindoll once put it, “…paint doesn't do any good in the can, you have to apply it!” How do I apply this part of my daily reading in Scripture? Is there some magic formula that helps me suddenly be able to ‘name it and claim it’ as so many pseudo-preachers proclaim? Do I speak the ‘word of faith’ and have potential employers vying for my services? If that were true then how is it that John wound up losing his head to this same despot’s lust rather than being released to continue his ministry?
No, Jesus’ response was a soft reply to give courage (encourage) to His servant; a reassuring reply that let John know that God was holding onto him, not that John had to hold onto Him. Just so He speaks to my heart that He is holding onto me and no matter what does or doesn't happen, His love for me continues unabated by my failures or frustrations.
I can go on in that knowledge.