Have you ever felt overlooked?
In a world where we are too often valued for our talent, our looks, our skills, our success, or our money, it’s easy to buy into the belief that we just don’t measure up. Too many of us see ourselves as second rate, as second class, as also-rans. We are the benchwarmers while the stars are getting all the attention. We are always the bridesmaid and never the bride. And if we were honest, many of us identify as the rejected, as the unloved, as the worthless.
The economy, in large part, is driven by dissatisfaction. Advertising is designed to make you feel like you’re missing something, something important, something critical. We often buy into it hook, link, and sinker, but we quickly find out that the product advertised falls short of its claims. Or even if it lives up to the hype, we still feel that level of discontent. We still feel incomplete. We still don’t like the image staring back at us when we look into the mirror.
I’ve shared before that I’ve wrestled with how I see myself. From a young age, I became convinced that I was somehow less than…
In a world where winners are only winners if there is a sea of losers in their wake, it’s no surprise that we have come to measure ourselves by these merits. If we make it, if we have the nice house with the two late-model cars, the beautiful, smart, successful spouse, and the 2.8 well behaved, popular, kids with a bright future, then we are the winners. Then we have reason to believe in ourselves.
But for the rest of us, for the ones who are only scraping by, for the ones who can only dream of a moment alone from our loud, relentless children, for the ones who work two or three jobs and still manage to make just enough to be broke, for the ones whose marriage is on the fritz, the one who feels tired and broken-down, and alone, for the rest of us, too often we see ourselves as worthless. We see ourselves as defeated. We see ourselves as less.
But Jesus has something to say to the less-thans, to the never-weres. He has something for the broken down and defeated.
In John 15, he is pouring out his heart to his disciples in the final days of his earthly ministry. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, particularly in these last chapters. Jesus, knowing what is to come soon enough, is taking this opportunity to impart his most essential teachings, reminding them of his core values- and their commands as his followers.
And as he does this, he reminds them of their past.
John 15:15-16 says “I don’t call you servants any longer; servants don’t know what the master is doing, but I have told you everything the Father has said to Me. I call you friends. 16 You did not choose Me. I chose you, and I orchestrated all of this so that you would be sent out and bear great and perpetual fruit.”
You didn’t choose me. I chose you.
Earlier in his ministry, he even remarks: “If the Father who sent Me does not draw you, then there’s no way you can come to Me.” (John 6:44).
Jesus’ disciples, the ones who Jesus called chosen, the ones who he reminded them wouldn’t have been following him had the Father not drawn them, were not the kind of people that you’d expect a leader like Jesus to call as his disciples.
In fact, they would have been seen as unqualified to follow Jesus. And yet Jesus chose them anyway.
They would have been considered poor choices for the risk-averse leader. And yet Jesus chose them anyway.
Consider Peter and his brother Andrew, or James and his brother John, for a moment- some of the more well-known of Jesus’ followers. In Matthew 4, Jesus sees them casting their nets into the lake. Verse 18 simply says they were doing this because they were fishermen.
For those of you not familiar with 1st-century Jewish culture, which my guess would be, most of us: Fisherman was not a career that a young boy aspired towards. You didn’t dream of one day being a fisherman. You pictured of transcending your station through study and hard work, setting yourself apart from the rest of society. For people in Jesus day, this meant becoming a rabbi- highly respected teachers and interpreters of the Scriptures.
Everything in Peter and Andrews lives was arranged from a young age with the hope of becoming a rabbi. They went to school; they memorized the Torah- the first five books of the Bible. They trained daily. They worked hard. All with the hope of someday having a rabbi invite them to follow him and be his disciple. But only the best of the best, a select few, would be the chosen ones.
And that wasn’t their story. It was never meant to be. Instead, these boys became fishermen. These boys were just not good enough.
Maybe you know what that’s like. Maybe you’ve dealt with the disappointment of being told that you weren’t enough.
Maybe it’s a former relationship that said you just didn’t measure up. Or it was a boss that said you were insufficient. Maybe it’s a broken friendship. Maybe it’s something inside you that makes you feel like you just aren’t good enough. You don’t measure up. You don’t make the cut.
Maybe you had dreams. Maybe you had aspirations. Maybe you had goals- visions of how you thought your life would turn out.
And now you’re a fisherman. And it’s time to set those dreams aside.
For many of us, reading the story of Jesus calling his disciples, his call to them seems foreign, odd, even ridiculous (if some random dude told you to leave everything and follow him, would you?), but when Jesus calls to them in Matthew 4 and says “Come, follow me,” what Peter and Andrew heard… what James and John heard… what Matthew heard… was “You…are…good…enough! I choose you.”
James and John are seen fishing with their father. It has been suggested that these boys could have been as young as fourteen or fifteen when Jesus calls them to follow. So these teenagers had been determined to be insufficient… unable to make the cut…
And Jesus calls them and tells them, “You… the ones who didn’t make the cut… you can know what I know… you can be…like…me…”
When Jesus chose these boys who didn’t cut it, he was saying something profound. You may not feel like you’re enough, you may not see yourself as extraordinary. But Jesus looks at you and recognizes somebody that can be like him, that can do what he does. It’s people like you that God used to change the course of human history.
Matthew presumably would have made some mistakes to get to the place where he was a hated tax collector. That wasn’t a career you were encouraged to apprentice towards. Even fishermen, who were not considered significant or particularly honorable, would have looked down on tax collectors.
While little is known about Simon the Zealot, Zealots were part of a radical militant movement that aimed at overthrowing the Roman rulers of Israel. Zealots would eventually be the catalyst for the uprising against Rome in the late 1st century, which ultimately led to the destruction of the temple. If nothing else, Simon would be too extreme for most rabbis. But not for Jesus…
In fact, Jesus centered his ministry on the truth that your past did not have to define your future. When he called Matthew as a disciple and went to eat with him, the Pharisees demanded to know why Jesus would dare to eat with “tax collectors and sinners."
Jesus replied in Matthew 9:12, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus consistently chooses the "wrong" people to further his mission. He consistently chooses the broken, the beaten, the rebel, the thief, the liar, the forlorn, the has-been, the never-was, the failure, and the loser. He does this on purpose. Because it declares over them and over you that this is not how God sees you. You are so much more than the distorted view you’ve developed. You are more than you ever imagined.
You are God’s chosen.
In Ephesians 1, Paul expands the words of Jesus to remind us that it’s not only his closest followers of whom this is true. Like Jesus’ rag-tag group of misfits, we too are chosen. We also have been drawn to Jesus and beckoned to become a part of Jesus mission.
Paul writes: “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, who grants us every spiritual blessing in these heavenly realms where we live in the Anointed—not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done for us. 4 God chose us to be in a relationship with Him even before He laid out plans for this world; He wanted us to live holy lives characterized by love, free from sin, and blameless before Him. 5 He destined us to be adopted as His children through the covenant Jesus the Anointed inaugurated in His sacrificial life. This was His pleasure and His will for us.”
He tells his readers in Colossians 3:12, and he’s telling you: “You are God’s chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved.”
You are God’s chosen.
This is how God wants you to see yourself.
You may be used to seeing yourself as useless…
But what God sees is someone holy and dearly loved.
What God sees is someone worth dying for.
And he’s calling you to embrace who you are really are, who He has called you to be.
Because when you embrace your true identity, it changes everything.
When you see how God sees, nothing will ever be the same.