In the first chapter of Acts we see Jesus ascend into Heaven and his followers standing and staring into the sky. I always find this scene a little funny. I don’t know if Luke meant to convey comedy, but I laugh anyways. I imagine the disciples squinting their eyes towards the sky with their jaws dropped and possibly even some drool dripping. Suddenly out of nowhere, these two men in white robes appear. They say something like,
“Uh… why are you guys staring at the sky? You saw Jesus disappear. He’s not going to reappear anytime soon. He will someday… but that day isn’t today.”
That’s pretty much how I imagine this scene.
After Jesus goes into Heaven the disciples (now being called apostles) are left with a very big problem. Judas betrayed Jesus and is now dead. They can leave the spot empty or replace him. Peter makes it clear that the Scripture says to replace him. But how?
How would you go about it? How do you go about making any big decision in life? Do you just throw darts at random and go with whatever solution the dart lands on? Do you flip a coin? Do you draw straws?
The apostles cast lots to choose Matthias as a replacement. That seems very random for such a big decision. The truth is that it was anything but random. They approached this problem in a very specific way. We can learn from what the apostles did and put it into practice in our own lives.
Use Your Brain
Before the apostles ever thought about casting lots they used their brains. First, they set up some criteria. Whoever replaced Judas had to be just as qualified as they were. In Acts 1:21-22 Peter says that the replacement had to have been with Jesus during his entire ministry. From Baptism to Crucifixion, from Resurrection to Ascension. The man who replaced Judas had to have heard the same teaching the other apostles had heard. He had to have seen the same miracles the other apostles saw. He had to have walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, lived with Jesus.
That only makes sense. They wanted to make sure that whoever replaced Judas was just as qualified to speak about Jesus’ ministry as they were. They used logic and reason. They used the brains that God gave them to help them make the right decision.
We need to do the same thing. God gave us all the gift of a brain. That’s right; your brain is a gift from God. We tend to get in the most trouble when we fail to use that gift. However, God gave it to us for a reason. Sometimes we ask and pray and meditate without stopping to really think about our problems. We expect God to save the day so we don’t have to put in the effort. That’s not always what God does or how He works. More often than not, He wants us to take part in our lives and the lives around us. He wants us to us our brains and get involved in the process.
Pray For Guidance
Peter had found two qualified men who both met the criteria set up before, Joseph and Matthias. Here we can see that the apostles didn’t use only their brains. If they were only using their brains, they would’ve been at a standstill. They prayed. They prayed for God to show them the right answer.
If I asked 100 regular church attenders how they should approach solving problems, most of them would probably include prayer in their answer. However, according to a Pew Research study, less than 79% of Americans who claim to be Christians pray on a daily basis. Some admit to rarely praying. About 10% admit to never praying at all. That’s right. About 10% of self-proclaimed Christians say that they NEVER pray.
If we don’t find ourselves in prayer asking for God’s guidance, then we are living life like a roulette wheel just hoping that things work out and land in our favor. Unfortunately many of us are also quick to blame God when things fall apart, even though we never asked for His input to begin with.
Believe God Works
Casting lots seems like an odd way to make such a big decision. Casting lots is a way of randomly selecting. It’s gamble. It’s kind of like drawing straws. Why on earth would the apostles leave such an important decision up to chance?
They didn’t leave it up to chance. Right before they cast the lots they prayed for God show them the right choice. The apostles believed and expected God to be involved in the process. Without that belief none of the other steps mattered. In fact without that belief nothing at all matters. If we don’t begin with a strong belief and expectation that God is currently working in our lives for our good, then there’s no point to life at all and nothing we do matters. The fact that God is involved and does work in our lives is what adds value, purpose, and meaning to life.
When we believe that God is working all things together for our good, we can face big problems and difficult decisions without fear. Following the path that God puts before you may not always be the easiest thing, but it will always be what’s best. When we truly believe that it will impact not only how we see problems but also how we approach them.
The fact is that God wants to guide us. He wants us to make the best decisions and make it through difficult problems. The apostles modeled for us how to follow God’s plans for our lives and how to rely on Him. If we use this model of Believing, Thinking, and Praying we will be able to better follow God’s will for our lives and succeed through the difficult problems that life throws at us.