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empty Posted February 2002
Rev. William H. Curtis
Rev. William H. Curtis
Why Not Me? 
Acts 1:21-26

By Reverend William H. Curtis
Senior Pastor, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church
Pittsburgh, PA

After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples overcame the temptation to live stuck gazing at the glory that transported the Savior from time into eternity. Those who witnessed the resurrected Lord decided it was time to get back to everyday life and get busy working for the kingdom.

First on their agenda was filling the void left in the apostle group when Judas killed himself for betraying the Lord to his enemies. Judasí death created an opening, and Godís desire was that the apostolic group would number twelve. This number symbolized the Old Testament tribes of Israel. John would later reveal in the Book of Revelation that heaven has twelve special positions awaiting those who worked in the apostolic band.
(Revelation 22:14)

There was work to be done, and before the coming of the Holy Spirit, this infant gathering, this spiritual remnant, this small band of believers that was the church, had to position herself in the order of God to prepare for what God was going to bring next.

To facilitate the process, Peter stood and took principal leadership and authority. He suggested that they ought to fill the void immediately. Everybody agreed, and in verse 21, Peter laid out the criteria for apostolic inclusion.  First, he said, the person has to be somebody who has been with us from the beginning until Jesus was taken up from us. Why? Because our witness must include the resurrection, and that leads us to the second criteria.

We need folks who can tell people more then just "Jesus lived and he died." That will not give hope to people.  What will give hope to people is an eyewitness account to the fact that he lived, he died, and he was resurrected from the grave.

Notice that this is what became an issue when, years later, Paul claimed apostleship, because he was far removed from being an authentic and actual witness to the resurrected Lord. Paul lay claim to apostleship because what the disciples saw in the physical, he had seen in the spiritual while he was on the road to Damascus. He used the new theological understanding to demand that they give him the right hand of fellowship as an apostle to the Gentiles.

When Peter had finished speaking to his fellow believers, the Bible reveals that two men who fit the criteria were identified:  Joseph (called Barsabas) and Matthias. The people went through a process, and when they finished Matthias was chosen to become part of the Twelve who would lead the kingdom project to evangelize the world.

When Matthias was chosen, you can see with your spiritual eyes that everybody was celebrating. I admit when I read it, I too said, "Good! Now they can get on with the work of the ministry and carry on the proclamation of the gospel." But my spirit would not let me rest there. I kept thinking, not about the one who was chosen, but the one who was not chosen. What about Joseph, the man God did not choose? How do you live with the fact that you are the one not chosen? What do you say to a person who was one of only two candidates? Everybody is celebrating with the one chosen, while the unchosen asks, "But what about me?"

How do you live with the fact that you are the one not chosen?

I will be honest:  I know more Josephs than Matthiases. The church is full of Josephs. They are in our families. They love the Lord, but things have not worked out for them like they have for you or others they know. Or maybe you are Joseph and you are saying "Amen" right now because you are wondering why other Christians can be less faithful and yet more blessed, while here you are trying to be more faithful. You are catching it from every corner, and you are tired of living as the one not selected. And the church--if it is to be the church--cannot just celebrate with Matthias. We also must minister to and embrace Joseph.

Joseph must feel comfortable that it is all right to be the one not chosen, not get the job, not make the engagement work, not have doors open, not make the marriage last, or not make decisions that work. Joseph could have asked, "Isnít it my turn yet?" Like everyone else, I have given my time, my talent, and my tenure. I have been focused, faithful, and following. When is it my turn to get some of what I want, to have things flow my way, to make things successful for me? When is it my turn to get a day up front rather than from the back? When is it my turn to be selected first or considered valuable? When is it my turn?

When is it my turn?

My friends, we need to minister to Joseph because at some point we are all Joseph--not picked, not selected, not included, without things going our way. What makes this kind of rejection so bad is that God did it. The one not chosen must acknowledge the fact that "God didnít pick me." The lesson is this--we must help people to understand that being the one not chosen does not mean "I am a failure," or a reject.

God wants me to celebrate me, not my selection, because there are a whole lot of folks selected who are not ready for what they have been selected to do. Both men were presented because they were ready. Joseph would not have been considered had he not been ready to be chosen. He had what it took to work among the Twelve.  He was able to handle the job. He could have been good at it, so not being selected did not mean he was not ready.

There are some things that I will not be selected for, but that I am ready for. Why does this happen? It happens because some things are affected by human error, and some things are affected by unclear and cloudy discernment, and some things God reserves the right to delay even though you are ready.

Joseph could leave saying, " I didnít get that position, but I was ready for it. " That is what God wants each of us to develop in our spirits. My not getting something does not mean I was not ready for it. I do not celebrate rejection but the readiness. 

            I didnít get the job, but I was ready for it.
            I didnít get the promotion, but I was ready for it.
            I didnít get selected, but I was able and ready for it.

That is the key in the kingdom--not selection, but the readiness. Donít ever get drunk on the cultureís need to measure success by selection. That is too results oriented. Your readiness is a sign that you have navigated your life in a way that would have caused others to give up, and yet you are still standing. When others were eliminated, you were still holding on. Selection is not always a sign of success, but readiness is.

The providence of God is not subject to our desires and wishes. God does not blindly obey us. God expects us to, in faith, be obedient. God is free to choose whom God wants, when God wants. That is a hard fact for the human mind and spirit to process because that means God can choose not to choose me, and I must trust that. I must remember that in spite of the fact that God may not choose me, God still loves me and takes care of me.  How do I do that?

We do this by trusting the integrity of the process. Those gathered in Jerusalem prayed that God would search their hearts. Joseph could find encouragement in that because after they prayed, the believers were still confused about which of the men should be included and which one should not, so they then cast lots.

Now this is interesting because Acts 1:26 is the only place in the New Testament where you read about the Lordís people casting lots to discern Godís will. In this instance, according to practice, they got two sticks and inscribed Matthiasí name on one stick and Josephís name on the other. They then placed the two sticks in a garment called a lap. Then someone shook the garment until one of the sticks fell out. They trusted that God would let only the name of the person chosen to fall out. So when Matthiasí name fell out, Joseph didnít complain, he didnít argue, and he didnít start confusion. He accepted the Lordís will and lived on. He understood providence.

If there is a hard lesson that the church must teach, it is this: You can pray, pay your tithes, and worship God in spirit and in truth, yet there still will be times when God will choose to do what you do not want God to do.  Sometimes God will not choose you, or your desires or wishes, to accomplish divine will.

Remember, Joseph already was doing what every other disciple was doing. He fit the criteria that Peter had laid out. Joseph was with Jesus from the beginning. He had seen Christ in resurrected splendor. He had everything necessary to be called an apostle, but what he did not get was the title.

...what he did not get was the title.

I am excited about this because I think that if I were there, and Joseph, Barsabas, or Justus--whichever name he might have used to introduce himself--came into my office and started complaining, I would have listened to him talk about how qualified he was: "How dare they overlook me! Why did God not think I could handle the work?" Then I would have counseled him this way: "Joseph, you are right. You have been working and witnessing just like the rest of the brothers. You have seen just what they saw and you know just what they know. So I too wondered why God would not choose you to be an apostle. And the Lord revealed this: Some folks need to be chosen because they need titles in order to do the work. But God knew that even if you were not selected to wear the title, you would still do the work."

Isnít it true that so many in the church need titles to be good Christians?  Donít ever get caught up thinking that you need to have a title in the church.

   You don't need to be called a missionary in order to witness and show
   hospitality to strangers.
   You don't have to be a trustee to care for the facility.
   You don't need to be a choir member to sing a new song.
   You don't need to be a preacher to tell somebody about how good
   the Lord is, and that God can save and deliver.
   You don't have to be an usher to welcome somebody into the house of God.
   You don't have to be in charge in order to take charge and
   bind on earth what shall be bound in heaven.

   I don't have to be the one to tell the story.

   Not for title or status.

   All that I ask is that you use me.

   Please, Lord, use me.

Rev. Dr. William H. Curtis is Senior Pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, PA. The Baltimore native possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Philosophy, a Master of Divinity Degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. Rev. Curtis has pastored Mt. Ararat since 1997. He is married to Christine Y. Curtis and they have one daughter.

This sermon is included in the book, Outstanding Black Sermons: Vol. 4 edited by Walter S. Thomas.  To order the book, send a check or money order payable to, "WHC Ministries" for $15.50 (includes shipping and handling costs) to: WHC Ministries, P.O. Box 266, Monroeville, PA 15146.
Copyright 2000, William H. Curtis, All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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