Availability. It’s not often mentioned in the list of important qualities of disciples of Jesus but in our strung out western world, it may well be the most important gift followers of Jesus have to offer a broken and hurting world.
Availability. It is what Moses had when God called him to lead the people of Israel out of captivity. He was not a gifted speaker. He made bad decisions. He wasn’t very brave. But he was available and in his going back to Egypt he allowed God to work through him to rescue slaves unto freedom and to move God’s redemptive story forward.
Availability is what Gideon had when God called him to lead an army. Granted, Gideon was hiding in a winepress when God found him, and he wasn’t exactly excited to jump on God’s bandwagon. Once Gideon’s fleece was wet however, he obeyed even as God reduced his regiment to a hilariously small number that gave all the glory to God in victory.
And Rahab was available too. She was a woman of ill repute, a foreigner and a prostitute who at the time we can assume knew nothing of the God of the Israelites except what she has overheard; that He had been victorious in recent skirmishes and miraculously parted the Red Sea. She steps into God’s redemptive story when two of Israel’s spies step into her room and she risks her life to hide them.
If we survey the prominent characters of the Biblical narrative, few are chosen because they are highly qualified leaders. A few were of course – King Saul, Judas, Saul of Tarsus, but most of these didn’t work out so well. It seems the highly qualified often lean a little to deeply into self reliance and self reliance usually leads to trusting in man rather than trusting in God.
Relying on his own gifts and abilities and education, Saul of Tarsus was hunting down followers of Jesus to have them arrested and thrown in prison. It was only when he left his highly qualified self behind that Saul became available to become Paul and the man whom God could use to build his church.
When we look through the hall of fame that is Hebrews eleven, the number one thing each of the faithful had to give to God was themselves.
They said yes. They were available.
And while Jesus is highly qualified in every way, he models the radical availability that allowed him to say, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
And that is why Jesus’ ministry looks so vastly different than the successful ministries of today. His is the ministry of availability, of responding to the interruptions of the masses, of walking miles out of his way to heal a leader’s son, of inviting the children to come to him.
Jesus’ model is not that of the best leadership style but of availability.
First and foremost, He models an availability to abide. Despite an incredibly full ministry, Jesus routinely makes time to be with the Father. He is part of the triune forever relationship of God and Son and Holy Spirit and this carries on into His 33 years on earth.
He is a master of scripture, a mastery that most certainly came from years of immersion in those same scriptures. He is a master as well of prayer, of interceding on behalf of the sick and the demon possessed and the lost. There is authority in his prayers. And Jesus is the master at communing with God, of walking in a living relationship with the Father. He is the master at abiding and he invites us first and foremost to do the same. And so while the immediate needs of the masses continually pressed in around him during his ministry on earth, we see the clear model that, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
When Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, the characteristic recorded for all posterity is not that of highly qualified leadership skills or a refined speaking ability. It was that they had been with Jesus. The Sanhedrin note that while they were “ordinary unschooled men”, they had been with Jesus. Peter and John had become masters of abiding with God because it is the model that Jesus gave them.
And so at the forefront of the discipleship journey, we as followers of Jesus must learn to be available to abide with him. Despite the chaos of our frenzied western existence, we must learn to set aside time to be with Jesus. It is our first act of availability.
It was from this first lifestyle of abiding availability that Jesus’ ministry flowed. And in his three years of ministry as recorded in the Gospel, He models again and again the servant heart that makes him available to engage hurting, lost people – even when they interrupt him.
It seems an almost regular occurrence that Jesus responds to a pleading father, a frightened and sick woman or a shouting blind man. He is regularly going one way and then – in response to a need – heads another way. It seems at times haphazard and yet it’s not. His ministry is focused. He went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. There was purpose in his journeys. He trained up twelve men who would go on to launch His movement. He gave his followers what they needed – himself – to spread the good news of His kingdom.
Like Jesus we must live strategic lives of engagement with a clear goal in mind. But the way to do that – as modeled by Jesus – is first and foremost to be with God. To make knowing God our first priority. We must set aside regular time to go away and sit at the feet of the Father. We must practice listening prayer. Immersion in the scriptures needs to be a central part of our daily routines.