I was standing on the sidelines of the basketball court, waiting to be picked for next game.
I’m not the fastest with the ball, nor am I a skilled outside shooter, but my inside game is strong. Plus, I’m a big guy and my turn-around jump shots have been known to save many a game. I assumed I’d be a shoo-in, but by the time the two team captains were done selecting their teams, I was still standing courtside with two other guys who looked like they were accustomed to not getting picked.
I played it cool and declared, “I got next!” Internally, I was fuming. I wanted to punch a hole in the ball, get in my car and speed off! But I remembered that I represent Jesus wherever I go, so I swallowed my pride, rallied the two guys standing next to me and picked two more guys from the losing team to play the next game.
That narrative has played out a few times in my life in other important life decisions. I’ve had/hoped for romantic relationships where I was “looked over”, and I’ve had job opportunities that I thought were a great fit, but wasn’t selected for.
I know all too well the stinging pain of not getting picked.
For this reason, I immediately felt a certain camaraderie with a dude in the New Testament who didn’t get drafted to play on Jesus’ A-Team. His name is Joseph, he’s also called Barsabbas, sometimes known as Justus. (Now that I think about it, not being clear on what your first name is, doesn’t help your chances of getting picked to be on any team!).
His story is in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, but here’s the back-story: Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and has ascended to heaven. Judas, (the man who betrayed him) has committed a violent suicide. The 12 disciples are down to 11 men. Prophecy states that “another take his place of leadership”, so they need a 12th man.
Peter, (the team captain and lead disciple) explains the criteria for selecting the next draft pick and two potential candidates rise to the top:
Mathias and Joseph Barsabbas Justus.
On the surface, both men posses the exact same qualifications. Listen to their astounding credentials , “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” These are pretty awesome credentials.
The 11 disciples then earnestly seek God’s counsel through an Old Testament practice called, “casting lots” (a much much holier version of shooting dice) to determine which of the two men will step into Judas’ empty spot.
The lot falls on Matthias.
This is great news for him and we're certainly happy for him. Becoming the new 12th apostle was a lifetime opportunity that extended into eternity.
That means Matthias’ name is written on that wall.
Not Joseph Barsabbas Justus.
I wonder how Joseph Barsabbas Justus felt that afternoon.
Did he quietly “receive” God’s will through the apostles, but head home later that night and cry himself to sleep? Did he become bitter or resentful? Maybe even envious of Matthias? I wonder if he questioned the selection process or quietly asked the Lord in his own time, “Lord, what did I do wrong? Why didn’t you pick me?”
I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL, BRUH!
I wonder all these things because it’s exactly the range of emotions I would have gone through had I been in his shoes (and not been chosen).
The Bible does not reveal to us why Joseph Barsabbas Justus didn’t make the "Dream team", but here’s what I’m inclined to believe happened afterwards (or at least, what I’d like to believe happened).
I think Joseph Barsabbas Justus initially struggled with the decision. I think he grieved it for a while, but then got over it. I think he later marshaled himself back into being a team player and embraced the fact that being the “12th man” wasn’t the position His Father in heaven would have him play in the beginnings of the Church. As a result, he chose to faithfully remain in his role as one of the founding 120 disciples, serving wherever his help was needed, patiently waiting till his number was called.
I have some level of confidence in this speculation because though nothing* else is said about him in the New Testament, nothing negative is said about him either. I point that out because in Paul’s writings, at least two Church leaders are highlighted as having “shipwrecked their faith”, but no mention is made of Joseph Barsabbas Justus as having strayed from the faith.
*[There is mention of a disciple named “Judas (also called Barsabbas)”in Acts 15:22-23, and another man called “Jesus (the one we call Justus) in Colossians 4:11.” These two individuals may very well be the same Joseph Barsabbas Justus we’re talking about. If that’s the case, then my speculation becomes very plausible.
WHEN YOU'VE BEEN ON THE BENCH FOR A LONG TIME
Whatever the case may be, the bigger point I’m trying to draw out is the lesson of what to do when you don’t get selected to be on the “Dream Team.” To be clear, I’m a huge fan of persistence and relentless pursuit of our dreams and goals. I believe that “No” simply means, “Try again in 21 days.” So I’m not talking here about giving up. Rather, I have in mind those situations where it’s clear to us that God Himself has closed a door we felt certain was an entrance we were to walk through.
So, what are you to do in moments like those?
You are to remain faithful to the task entrusted to you.
In other words, maintain your present position and continue faithfully in whatever it is you were doing before you went seeking for what was next.
As you do, keep in mind that Jesus truly holds in His hands every door of opportunity in your life. Even better still, when He opens a door of opportunity in your life, no power of hell or scheme of man would dare close it shut. In the same manner, when He closes a door in your life, it is futile to try and force it open.
Rest in the plans of your Father in heaven. YOUR TIME WILL COME! If a door you’re seeking Him for is not opening, persist in prayer and be attentive to His Spirit’s leading. When the time is set, when He has fully prepared you and fully prepped the place He is taking you to, your number will be called and you will find your perfect spot on HIS DREAM TEAM (whatever that may be for you!).
Remember, your loving Father in heaven holds the keys!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.