The Most Unlikely to Succeed
By Scott MacGregor
“Disciple Making: Training Leaders to Make Disciples,” (© 1994 by Billy Graham Center Institute of Evangelism) cites an imaginary report to Jesus from the Jordan Management Consultant firm in Jerusalem, detailing its findings on the twelve men He had submitted for evaluation.
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. …
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in the background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. … We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John … place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and they both registered high on the manic depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.
Isn’t that just about right? I thought ironically, and then it occurred to me that a similar appraisal could have been made of a number of other Bible characters:
Look at the guy who was supposed to lead the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land! Moses was raised in the royal household with all the advantages that money and education could buy, but then he tossed it all down the drain, became a fugitive, and ended up as a sheepherder in the desert, where he resided until he was 80—an obvious has-been.
Then there’s David, the youngest brother in a large family—which in itself isn’t a great start. Even after being tipped by the prophet Samuel as Israel’s next king, he went right back to herding sheep, so it was a bit of an anticlimax. (See 1 Samuel 16) The next chapter sees him promoted to being a lunch delivery boy and getting caught up in a fight with a fellow who is about 10 feet tall—and heavily armed. David elects to toss rocks at him and lands a lucky one. (See 1 Samuel 17) But then he goes off to become an outlaw, heading up the biggest gang in the country (See 1 Samuel 22) and eventually selling his gang’s services as mercenaries to an aggressive neighboring nation. When that stops working out, he starts a civil war in his own country. (See 2 Samuel 3:1)
Time goes on, and eventually David does become king, but in the end one of his sons deposes him and he has to hare out of the capital until his nephew comes to his rescue. (See 2 Samuel 15–18)
David’s heir, Solomon, readily confesses he doesn’t even know how to speak in front of the people he’s supposed to rule. (See 1 Kings 3) God takes up the slack and gives Solomon the smarts, which helps him rule but doesn’t seem to extend to his family life. Solomon ends up with 1,000 wives and concubines, whom he is so preoccupied with keeping happy that the country starts going downhill. (See 1 Kings 11)
Imagine what the evaluators mentioned above would make of these characters. Would probably go something like this:
Moses: “Too long in the tooth to be of much use at this stage in his career. He had a lot going for him originally, but he got into criminal activity—severe midlife crisis?—and skipped town. Spent 40 years in his wife’s family business but doesn’t seem to have shown much leadership ability even there. We recommend someone younger.”
David: “Kid with an attitude. Puts more effort into his music than his career. Has already been a gang leader, traitor, and mercenary. We recommend someone less volatile.”
Solomon: “Young and inexperienced. Not a good communicator and shows a weakness for wild living. Likely to overspend and deplete resources on grandiose building projects. We recommend someone less inclined to vanity projects and with better self-control.”
So there you have it! The apostles weren’t alone in being unlikely to succeed. Of course, all the apostles with the exception of Judas succeeded wildly, whereas the managerial consultants’ favorite—Judas—turned out to be a bitter disappointment.
So what does this tell us? Well, for one, it’s encouraging to know that those who will end up the greatest successes are not necessarily the ones you might think. And for those of us who want to find success in our own ventures, God’s Word gives us the secret: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV)
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