2003 was a really tough year for me. I was working for a company that was not a good fit for me, and I was not a good fit for them. We both really needed a change, and I needed to make it before they did. I checked the “help wanted” listings every Sunday, and the web sites that were designed to help with a job search. Resumes were sent out, phone calls made, and leads checked out — without having a whole lot of luck. In the late summer, I went to a Springdale High School preseason football scrimmage; and while I was there I visited with Joe Kidd (my best man when Malia and I got married), and told him my situation. Three months later, he called me and told me of a sales job that was available at Arkansas Insulation, and the General Manager was his brother-in-law. I made the call, got an interview, was hired, and a starting date of right after the first of the year was agreed on. Three days after I agreed to take the job, the company I was working for called me in and told me that they were going to have to let me go. It was sure a good feeling to know that I had something lined up, and would not be without a job.
Arkansas Insulation hired me to be a sales representative, marketing the material (insulation, aluminum soffit and fascia, seamless aluminum gutter, and vinyl siding), and sub-contracting the installation, to residential home contractors for new houses. The manager told me, he wanted me to spend all my time working with the contractors — that there were enough new houses being built to keep me busy. If you remember 2004, Northwest Arkansas was in the middle of a housing boom — there was enough new homes being built to keep 3 salesman busy (and all of our competition). The problem was everyone was so busy, no one had the time to really train me, and I needed training. I did not know what walls you insulated in a house (I thought they were all insulated), didn’t know soffit from fascia, had no idea where to place downspouts for a gutter system, or how to figure the amount of siding that was needed for a project. On top of that, I had to learn to take the needed material, write it on a work order (so that the installer would know what to do), and write out directions so the job could be found. I met the corporate sales manager in late January, and he said that he would be down from Springfield soon to spend 3 or 4 days training me (I’m still waiting on that). The manager, and one of the other sales guys, managed to spend about a total of 3 or 4 days with me, but, basically, I was put out to sink or swim. Oh, I made stupid mistakes, and ran into things that I didn’t know what to do — but I made it, at least, good enough to last until I retired twelve years later. I am really glad that while I was struggling to learn, the manager and all the other guys, were there to answer questions, and help me with the really difficult situations.
There is a series of passages in Luke 9, that remind me of that experience. Look at what the text says:
One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes. Wherever you go, stay in the same house until you leave town. And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” (Luke 9:1-5, NLT)
After they returned from this preaching tour, several things happen to show that maybe they weren’t quite ready.
First, Jesus tries to slip away quietly with them to Bethsaida, but the crowds are too large, persistent, and demanding. Why did He try to get away quietly with them? It may be that He knew He needed more time with them, that they weren’t quite ready. Several things happen to illustrate that. For example — (1) not being to able to cast the demon out of the possessed boy (Luke 9:38-40), arguing about who was the greatest in the kingdom (Luke 9:46), telling those to stop using the name of Jesus to cast out demons, who were not part of their group (Luke 9:49-50), and wanting to call down fire on the Samaritan village, for not welcoming Jesus (Luke 9:51-56). All of these seem to be examples, that they have a lot more to learn to be able to manifest the spirit of Jesus, as they interact with the people that are so important to Jesus.
But, secondly, in Luke 9:57-62, Jesus explains in pretty graphic terms what it means to follow Him. Listen, as He explains to the disciples:
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nest, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then look back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
I don’t know that these all happened in the same conversation on the walk to Jerusalem, but I am convinced that Luke grouped altogether for a reason. I believe that Luke is wanting us to learn, that “following Jesus” is the most important thing that we can do with our life. That when we follow Jesus, we will be given the opportunity to serve the Lord — perhaps, even doing something that we are not ready to do. That in following Jesus, and serving in the opportunities we are given; we will make mistakes, and tackle things that we don’t understand — but that He will always be there for us. To pick us up, reassure us, and put us back on the way. We will not succeed in following, without His strength and encouragement along the way. Peace.