The Twelfth Man

Praying til Pentecost Day 44

"And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all me, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles." Acts 1:24-26

One of the most inspiring contributions to Texas football is the story of the Texas A & M "Twelfth Man." It is a healthy combination of truth and legend. The result has been the development of a fan base that is second to none. I'm glad you can't hear me choking as I write this, but it is still the truth. My personal athletic career reads much like a Greek tragedy, and my six decade long love affair with Baylor football has not given me much to cheer about. However, I can still recognize what an asset the "Twelfth Man" is to the eleven men who are on the field playing the game. The Aggie yell leaders are experts at whipping the spectators into a full-throated throng of active participants. They can be heard. They cannot be ignored. They make a difference.

I wish the same could be said of poor Matthias. He was chosen to be the "Twelfth Man" to round out the team roster of the eleven disciples. He got the position, but he never seems to have received the power to be a game changer. He was good man, and highly respected by his peers, but He just didn't happen to be God's man for the hour. Perhaps that is because, Jesus had already selected Paul to be the man who would take the place of the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.

Notice that the prayer offered up to the Lord gave proper deference to the Lord's prerogative to choose His own men. They prayed the right way, but they refused to wait for the right answer. They used a tried and true method for the selection of leadership, but it did not have the anointing of God on it. It was an early attempt of the church to put new wine in old wine skins. God was up to something new. The earnest but sincerely wrong disciples were using an old method to get a fresh movement. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is a form of insanity that has plagued the church for centuries.

Not to be too harsh on the disciples, their hearts were in the right place. They wanted to reach the world for Christ in obedience to the Great Commission they had received. They did the math and figured out that all they needed was one more man on the team to win the world. What they needed was the power and the Presence of the Holy Spirit. That is what they were put in the upper room to pray for and to wait for. In their impatience to get on with the work at hand, they turned a prayer room into a board room and a prayer meeting into a business meeting. Perhaps this is where we get the Landmark belief that the Baptist church can be traced all the way back to the first century. Talkin' and not prayin'! Just sayin' !

Some may disagree with my assessment, but Paul certainly believed he was the "Twelfth Man." He said, "And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet, not I , but the grace of God with me." (I Cor. 15:7-10)

When I was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1974-1978, they were proudly pronouncing their newly achieved status as the world's largest seminary. One of the speakers at chapel brought a new perspective to this unique honor. He said to us, "Preachers are a lot like manure. When you spread 'em around they do some good. But when you get 'em all crammed into one place for too long, it can be a real mess." The students in the audience responded with good natured laughter, while the administration squirmed uncomfortably in their platform seats.

When I shared this story with my pastor, Dr. W. Fred Swank, he laughed and responded wryly, "God has to call three thousand of them to get one good one." He went on to say, "In the last 42 years I have called a bunch of them, and God has called a bunch. His bunch has always seemed to do better than mine." It was one of the most insightful pieces of information I have ever received on the call of God. When God's grace is placed on a person for ministry, there is a huge difference in the quality of the ministry that is accomplished. When His grace is withheld, His results are impossible to produce. Man made substitutes for God's grace may make a name for a minister or a ministry, but they do not make a world of difference.

The daily temptation of the earnest Christ follower is to get on with the task without getting with God. Praying and waiting til Pentecost is a model for contemporary disciples to follow. God calls us to Himself first, and then He empowers us for ministry. Get with God before you try to get on with His work.